Friday, January 16, 2009


You know how if you're in, say, Australia, and you get into an elevator with someone, you might say "G'day mate" and slip into a little chit chat about the beach till you get to your floor? Well we in Canada have our own brand of small talk: mindless discussion with strangers about the weather. It's like a cultural sickness, actually, to which only a small subset are immune (you can recognize them by their meanie-faces).

For example:

Canadian A: Crazy weather we're having, no? I mean it's incredibly cold / hot / wet / humid / dry out there. Insane. I don't know how we're going to make it up north this weekend if this doesn't let up. I mean, the traffic is going to be impossible.

Canadian B: Oh, I know. But really, I think it's that much worse because of the strong wind / relative humidity / barometer/ high pressure system. You know, Regina is having the worst of it. I suggest, don't leave till Saturday morning because they're saying it's going to be better then.

Yes, we are a people of meteorologic buzzwords. A climatologically superior people. By which, I mean that if we're in an elevator in Canada with Canadians, see above for conversation we're going to have. However, if we're in your country, and you decide to talk about the weather... well, we'll just look at you smugly and give some wan, stock response. Unless you're Russian. Because, after all, we do know our place in the pantheon of bad weather.

All this is just the preamble to my real story. The story of how the power went off last night. And how it's still off. And it's January in Canada and it's minus 20 right now without a wind chill. And it was even colder last night. So when we woke up this morning it was 9 degrees in our house. You could see your breath, is what I'm saying. Oh, and how it might not be fixed till - well, they can't really confirm when. So we had to bleed the pipes before we left the house this morning. And I don't know if we're going home tonight.

I'm trying to look on the bright side: there was no wind chill in my bedroom / it won't cost me any money to fix this / I have friends I can stay with tonight / I don't have an infant to worry about. But really, last night, in the back of my mind all I could do was imagine death by freezing and frozen pipes and, for some compulsive reason, I really wanted to open the fridge. Just to make sure everything was still in there. Scott and M were all snuggly under the duvet, laughing, pretending they were winter camping and joking about how the glaciers can't get you if you stay cosy in the covers. I was contingency planning.

But make no mistake, as I write this - frozen fingers on the thaw (did I mention the power-requiring subways also weren't working and all the buses were too packed with peeps to stop so I ended up starting out from home merely cold and walking - I mean, jogging - to work) I am feeling superior.

Urban princess does scary power out and still manages to make it to work on time. Footage at 11. (If you have electricity, you can watch it.)


  1. OK, so here in MN? Same deal. I talk more about the weather here than I EVER have before. It's a disease.

    Additionally, OMFG YOU DON'T HAVE POWER?!?!?!?!?!???????!@@#$??? It's -23 here, too, and if I were power-free I would be FAR less calm. You poor guys ... hope they get their shit together soon and get the electricity flowing FAST.

  2. Sal made me laugh with her exclaimation but I'm with her - how cold and no heating I'd be crying!

    mind you the weather thing - that's what we do in the UK too!!

  3. You and the family are more than welcome to by come to ur house for the weekend. It's not much warmer here than it is there but we're supposed to get above freezing tomorrow.

  4. Stay warm, K! Hopefully the power is on at your workplace!

  5. Here on the West Coast, we're usually isolated from the really bad Canadian weather, and I note the smugness of my sister in Winnipeg when she talks about their most recent adventure in -42 with wind chill. Last week, though, my GF had to fly back from a sailing trip to get plumbers and carpenters in to repair damage from a frozen pipe. What I hate most here about the power going off is that we pump our sewage to the city system, so no power, no flushing! Hope you're soon back in heat, light, running water, and flushing toilets.

  6. Eek! I've been hating the cold here but at least we have heat inside.

  7. Oy! We have real cold here too--some -16 or so. Our "old" house is well air conditioned, though: even though the thermostat is turned up to 75 (which it *never* is), the internal reading of the house is 65!

  8. Hope the power comes back on soon!

    At least you guys (I hope) don't have to deal with pipes bursting all around the city.

    We haven't dealt with power outs yet (HydroQuebec sent out a warning this morning), so my bitching over the cold is mostly about my vanity. I don't like what this is doing for my face. My skin gets all irritated.

    And this only happens at work in our temp controlled building. My moisturizer is usually good enough, but when I get to work, the air is too dry.

  9. In Canada we like to prattle on about the weather, especially the cold. (Air Farce sketch does a great job of mocking that.)

    But no other country on earth takes inane, mindless weather talk on a walk like the British. At least Canadians have something extreme to prattle on about. The British can prattle for hours about nothing.
    They've raised it to an art form. A very boring art form.;)

  10. I'll think of you while I'm throwing another shrimp on the barbie and send you warm vibes. Thank the sweet baby Jesus you've got a cupboard full of fur.

    What does bleeding the pipes mean?

  11. OMG I didn't know about this TO black out!!!!
    Must know about "my people"...
    Hope everything is ok now, dear.

    Take care


  12. I have to admit to being Australian and never having talked about the beach in a lift (elevator), or much of anywhere else either.

    We do talk weather - but it's more of the how can it have been 40 degrees (40 celcius = 104farenheit) yesterday and today it's only 20C (68F).

    We can talk weather here in Melbourne. But we don't get those kinds of extremes of temperature you guys in Canada do - that's why we're called The Lucky Country.

    Hope your power comes back on SOOOOOONNNNN

  13. going to San Diego in 15 days...cannot wait! Although I wish I could bring you with me!

  14. Gee whiz. I hope the power comes back soon, KK. I can't have you turning into a Quiescent Canadian!

  15. Sal: It's been a tricky couple of days, to be honest. Power back on now but we were out at friends' (very nice friends) last night. Terrible timing for a flooded substation. And our area was the last in the city to get power again.

    Kate: Now that it's fixed I'm considering the nervous breakdown option!

    Monkey: What neighbourliness! Next time, I may just take you up on it :-)

    D.: Work is seriously busy right now so no choice about staying away. And, work had heat - which made it much more desirable than home, to be honest!

    Y: Power was on at work. Thanks for asking.

    Materf: Oh, you west coasters have it good (except for this winter!). And so sorry to hear about your friend. That is so stressful!

    Wendy: Stay warm. Don't go out.

    Miss C: Glad to know I'm not the only one living in a sieve! The temp dropped about a degree an hour over night.

    Raven: Pipes have been bursting, sadly. But ours have been fine - happily. We bled them when this happened so they wouldn't freeze.

    GT: Kate (from London) agrees with you - see her comment above. Who knew?! :-)

    Mattie: You braggy pain. :-) Bleeding pipes is when you shut off the water main to the house and open all the taps so that there's no water in them to freeze.

    Seeker: Hope your sister is fine. It would probably have affected her.

    Imogen: I assumed someone would tell me I'm stupid for thinking Aussies talk about the beach and say G'Day mate! I was trying to work the stereotype angle, to give my CDN stereotype some ballast! You all really do have a beautiful climate. Very lucky indeed!

    Tanya: No one wishes you could bring me along more than me! You lucky girl.

    E: This 30 day period has been a bit of a misery. I'm ready for some peace and ease. And I won't go quietly, I assure you :-)

  16. Oh bleddy hell! I don't function well in cold myself and I think I would simply hibernate if we had a blackout for that long. We have builders in doing the attic so all our heat is going straight through the tiles at the moment, but it isnt as cold as your place!
    Irish people go on about the weather all the time. I wont entertain it when they complain about rain (my sisters have 3 weeks of tank water left in Aus) but I will share in the bounty of talk about a fine day, or a "soft day - thank god"
    Hope you are up and burning through the carbon credits again soon K!

  17. I thought the weather talk was some kind of 'love talk'. Well I was watching a UK comedy show by an Iranian guy. He was making fun of the Brits talk weather all the time so he figured it's all 'sex' talk. I was funny as.

    Hope the power is back on. I'd have quite the opposite problem. It was so hot last week.. over 100F.

  18. Oh suck! Losing the power is terrible, especially in winter...which is usually when it happens. I hope you get it back soon. But hey, you will have the best weather stories to tell next time you're in an elevator.

  19. Having a gas stove was a bonus in the power outage. Have match or lighter, will make coffee, food, get warm, have eggs etc.
    Sadly, it candles just don't give enough light to read by.

    Glad things are back to normal now. Did you do a "personal best" on your run to work?

  20. We had a terrible ice storm a few years ago and the power went out for the entire region. We (re)discovered that if you put the candle in front of a reflective surface then the light output is doubled. We used the shiny side of some aluminum foil.

  21. For some reason her in Aus the only people you talk to about the weather are your grandparents and job interviewers in awkward moments. Lifts constitute a no talk zone and every man is an island.
    Hope you had loads of blankets, candles and chocolate in your emergency kit.

  22. Hammie: Thanks for your well wishes. All power restored. But I'm home today feeling blah. Hope it's just a momentary thing because I don't want to succumb to sickness after forestalling it for so long!

    Songy: That's hilarious! I didn't realize the Brits were such offenders on this account. Maybe we get it from them :-) And stop bragging about your hundred degrees! But stay in the shade.

    D. That's great info. I am keeping that in mind should this ever happen again. But here's hoping it doesn't.

    SKM: Thanks for that update. I didn't know! And all was well in the end. Chocolate abounded.

  23. Actually, you should hear Americans blab on about the weather when it gets semi-cold, at least here in New York state. I guess it's all relative, as my friends and family in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon laugh when the weatherman says it's "very cold" in Toronto.


  24. Anon: You have a serious point there. We in TO are pathetic compared to those in Sask. Do you remember when our former TO mayor, Mel Lastman, called out the National Guard to deal with a foot of snow. Pathetic.