By William Thomas
That’s it – Polar Vortex, Arctic air, record lows, unforgiving wind chill factors, frostbite, a frozen water pipe under the house, frozen ground making it impossible to repair frozen water pipes – I’ve had it. I’m outta here like a one-man luge team with a busted emergency brake.
So I’m throwing my luggage into the car when a neighbour spots me.
“Geez,” he says, “I wish I could get outta here. Where ya goin? Florida?”
“No,” I said, perfectly serious. “Sudbury.”
He looked at me like I was the guy standing next to Rob Ford in the crack-smoking video.
But you know what they say about Sudbury – it’s a dry cold, eh?
When I left Niagara in the morning, it was minus 27 degrees Celsius. When I arrived at the Sudbury airport is was minus 40 degrees. Nice little airport at Sudbury which they built so far out of town, I believe North Bay’s responsible for the snow removal. Fortunately, I’m staying at the same hotel where I’m scheduled to speak that evening, so I don’t have to actually go outside.
How cold was it in Sudbury on January 21? It was so cold one of the Sudbury Wolves players suffered hypothermia and he was on a breakaway at the time.
It was so cold city workers had to pull a 20-foot long balaclava over the head of King George VI on Sudbury’s 30-foot high Canadian nickel.
It was so cold guests at the downtown inn where I stayed were playing pond hockey … on the indoor hotel pool.
It was so cold at Sudbury’s Solid Gold V.I.P. lounge the strippers would only peel down to their flannel pajamas.
They’re a tough bunch of northerners in Sudbury. The event – the Alzheimer’s Awareness Gala – was completely sold out and at temperatures so cold that Celsius and Fahrenheit intersect and share the same minus 40 – nobody with a ticket failed to show up. The dinner was good and the event went well except for a waiter who tried to outtalk the guest speaker.
“Ah, Mario, I work alone. Okay?”
And they’re nice people as well. After my presentation, I went to the bar for a glass of wine, but there were way too many TV sets on to have a quiet drink. When I asked the bartender if I could take the wine up to my room, she replied: “Like when I turn my back and can’t see you do it?”
In Niagara a bartender would just laugh and remind me how he or she would lose their job for such a violation of the liquor laws. But at 40 degrees below zero, with me the only person in the bar and this woman wanting to close and go home, it seemed like the practical and prudent thing to do.
And sweet? The next morning I asked if I could leave my bag near the front desk so I could go and get a coffee. The 20-year-old receptionist said: “I will guard it with my life, young man!” “Young man?” I gave her a $700 tip.
Early Wednesday morning, I had ice encrusting both my eyelids and I hadn’t gotten out of bed yet!
The DJ on the local radio station set the weather pattern for the day. “The good news is, the schools are staying open in Sudbury today.”
“The bad news is you’ll have to take your children to school yourself. At forty below, diesel fuel freezes up so the school buses won’t be running today.” Tough people in Sudbury. They ignore “snow days” for kids and instead celebrate “no bus days.”
Micha, my young chauffeur for the two-day trip, was one of those thoughtful and polite young men that make you want to present the parents with some sort of award.
We were talking hockey on the way to the airport. “The Leafs won again last night,” I said, hearing about their 4-2 triumph over Colorado.
“The Leafs gotta stop winning,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because look at it out there. Hell is freezing over!”
But of course there’s nothing to these extreme weather patterns and freak storms hitting us now in all four seasons. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right – it’s all normal, just cyclical. Yesterday’s newspapers announced that 2013 was one of the hottest years in history since record keeping began in 1880. And this coming summer better be hotter than the last one in order to melt all this ice and snow. Seriously, does the Polar Vortex sound normal to you?
For comments, ideas and copies of The True Story of Wainfleet, go to www.williamthomas.ca