The street where I live...

The street where I live...

Friday, 20 January 2012

ABC Snap

Ass-breaking cold. 

I just made up that term.  Because I needed some words to describe what we've just been through, and are only JUST emerging from.  

A few days ago I was preparing to go to the nearest city of "size" for a meeting.  I was going all by myself, which is a treat as I have rarely slept in a bed without couple of kids in it for three years.  I have always been a person who recharges via solitude, and me time has been an elusive bitch since I became "Mumma." So I was really excited to go, stay in a hotel, and watch TV!!! (We have decided not to get cable in an attempt to shield our daughters from the crap, and this has not been easy for me or my husband J., as we are both unapologetic screen addicts - we still watch DVDs all the time, but we are spared commercials and reality TV).  

As my day of departure drew near I began consulting weather network dot com and was just thrilled to see that one of the worst cold snaps in years was predicted for the entire time I was away, with the most severe drop happening overnight ...on my hotel night!

I have already mentioned I am a neurotic.

We have recently purchased two 75 year old heritage buildings, and this was to be the first ass-breaking cold snap of our residency.  So, as my day away drew closer my paranoia about what was going to become of my house and family in my absence grew and grew.

As the ABC snap was in its infant stages I was already walking around the house looking for cracks in walls as I had convinced myself that the cold was going to somehow freeze, twist and explode the building (which, as I mentioned, has endured ABC winters for over seven decades, AND was renovated from top to bottom by the previous owners, AND was thoroughly inspected prior to purchase).  When it comes to our new house, I ascribe to the Mad Eye Moody school of thought: CONSTANT VIGILANCE!  I was also obsessing about the fact that my somewhat forgetful mom-in-law would be watching the twins while I was away and J. was at work, and I had talked myself into believing that she would somehow forget that we were in the midst of an ABC snap and take them outside.  I continued to believe this in spite of the fact that the mere act of opening the door at minus 40 is like being hit in the face by a frying pan. But I pressed on, and drove the two hours to the “city”, leaving a list of directives for my long suffering husband: “Turn on the hallway heater and keep the bedroom door open.  Leave taps running overnight.  Check the temperature in the crawlspace before bed, etc. etc. etc.”

When I checked in at the hotel the ABC snap had begun in earnest.  As I attempted to sign the guest registry my hand was like a frozen claw and I accidentally threw the pen at the desk clerk. 

Once I was all registered I left the hotel lobby and headed out to park my car.  I drove up the ramp to the recommended parking lot and noticed that each spot was equipped with a plug in.  Ugh.  Not only had I not thought to bring a cord, I’d never even checked to see if there was a block heater in this new-to-us vehicle.  I decided not to stand out in the danger zone and start searching under the hood for a block heater when I lacked a cord and it would just make me feel bad either way. I resigned myself to the fact that I would most likely have a dead vehicle by morning, and parked my car.  But, as I was walking toward the hotel door, I heard a whirring noise.  I turned and noticed that a few spaces over was a large, monolithic block of metal with a large fan facing one of the parking spots.  I walked toward the metal block and when I reached it was hit with the unmistakable smell of generic restaurant grease.  I put my hand in front of the fan and thought: JACK POT! Out of the vent was pouring hot air from the café two floors down!  I jumped back in my car and moved it over to the space corresponding to the grease fan.  My car would smell like hamburgers in the morning, but at least it would be warm(ish)!  I skipped into the hotel feeling like the only person in the history of the world to figure out the hamburger fan car park trick.

I made it to my room I immediately called J. to check on the girls.  No answer.  Voice mail.  Instant panic!  What could be wrong?  Something, obviously, or he would have picked up.  I redialed and redialed and redialed.  It is minus 35, for the love of Pete, he can’t be out!  Clearly the house has exploded. Why is he not answering! As I was busy inventing tragic scenarios the cell phone rang in my hand.  It was my J.

“Why do you keep calling over and over!?”

“Why aren’t you answering!?”

“Because I’m on the other line…on a business call!!!”


The other line.

There is an other line.

“Everything is FINE! I will call you back later.”

I sheepishly hung up and decided to watch TV to calm myself down.  Now, here is something I know now that I have been without cable television for two and a half years: television is, at its essence, alarmist.  Every news channel was shouting at me: “It’s so cold out there you will get frost bite in UNDER FOUR SECONDS!” “Don’t go out unless you are bleeding from a massive head wound!” “Don’t try to start your car if it dips below minus forty because IT WILL BLOW UP!” 

My “relaxing getaway” quickly morphed into an evening of repeatedly calling reassure me that the house hadn’t exploded while I watched “Betty White’s 90th Birthday Celebration.” (The other thing I know for sure about TV after a two and a half year absence is that there is never anything good on, ever, and I always end up watching something soul sucking, like a reality show about the Judds.)

I did manage to get through my meeting and get back home just before the temperature dropped to the most inhumane levels of this ABC snap, and stayed there for three days. 

This kind of cold is serious business.  This is the kind of cold that can kill, and even a neurotic like me cannot be too careful.  This kind of cold reminds everyone in this little mountain town that your neighbours should be looked in on, and contingency plans in case of power outages are a matter of life and death. And this kind of cold reminds us that our town may look quaint and gentle on the surface, but we live high in the mountains an hour's drive (in good conditions) from the nearest hospital. We live in a place where the weather, when it decides to be, is huger than all of us combined.

This afternoon the thermometer croaked its way back up to minus 13C and it feels positively balmy. Neighbours ventured out for the first time in days and compared stories of frozen water pipes and stalled cars and wood heat adventures.  J. and I even took the kids out for a nice walk in the snow.  Although, part way through our walk I started to get really worried as I just read somewhere that, although the danger of frost bite in under four seconds has passed, there is still the possibility of the less damaging but equally sinister “frost nip.” CONSTANT VIGILANCE! 

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