The Deep Freeze: 9-min Trek to Metro Station

Another visitor making an appearance in our lives on Henri-Julien, and everywhere else in Eastern Canada, is this freeze-da-bejeezus-outa-ya cold snap. We are in essence in deep freeze, or the victim of a "Siberian" cold front. Funny how globalization even seems to affect the language of weather. In the early nineties, this would have only been "an extreme cold front" probably coming down from somewhere like James Bay, or Baie James as it's known in these parts. But my guess is that Siberian makes it sound even colder and more dramatic.

"So how cold is it already?" you ask.
(Okay, I promise not to cheat. I will not give the actual temperatures or windchill factors, as Canadians are so annoyingly wont to do.)

What is most surprising is that you don't immediately notice the cold when you step out the door. You might notice the visual sharpness of objects, or how amazingly clear they look. If the sun is shining, which it was most of this week, your first reaction is to think that everyone has been exaggerating about the frigid temperatures. The colour of the sky is also a clue. This week, I saw some beautiful shades of pastel pink, purple, blue and orange, which you only see in winter. You might also notice the crunch of the snow under foot. This sound is also an indication that it's a very dry cold, which people from Winnipeg enjoy telling you isn't so bad. There is a crispness to the cold air that is both fresh and exhilarating. You quickly come down from this initial winter high after you've walked a 100 metres or so, when the discomfort of the cold settles in.

Your immediate reaction is to cover your nose with your scarf, as we know that the first things to freeze are those parts furthest from the warmth of our body. And tips of noses have been known to freeze. As a woman, I can't even imagine what the cold does to the...ah...masculine members. But as a child, I seem to remember a metaphor describing frigid temperatures and their effect on the parts of a brass monkey. And I have to admit, the expression was lost on me. After all, what's a brass monkey anyway? Okay, back to the weather.

At 200 metres, the cold feels as though it's burning all parts that are exposed, such as the teenie tiny space where the cuff of your coat meets your glove, and your exposed eyes and forehead. And remember you're no longer enjoying the crispness of the cold air because your mouth and nose are covered. This is also about the time you start to wish that you'd worn long underwear because the cold makes your pants feel pretty flimsy. Waiting for the light to change so you can cross the street becomes an eternity. Your eyes are already darting ahead to see if there is a powerful gust of wind coming. Because if there is one, even if you're wearing a one-piece snowmobile suit, you're going to freeze your booty off.

At 300 metres, the metro station is in sight, but out of focus because your eyes have started to tear up. You're past freezing now; you have parts that are burning from the cold. This doesn't mean you have frostbite. You've only been out for six minutes. It just means that your skin will stay red for awhile and be pretty dry. Would someone please pass the moisturizer and lip balm!? As you approach the doors of the metro, you're already getting set to take off some of your clothing, as the metro with its thousands of commuters can be a hot and stuffy place even on the coldest days. But as you step through the door, you follow the winter ritual. You let out an audible sigh of relief, dust off your clothes and stamp your feet to get the snow off your boots.

As you get out your ticket, you hear the loud whistle of the wind tunnel created by the frequently opening and closing doors. You feel the blast of warm and cold air, the cleanliness of which you refuse to ponder, as you walk by the person handing out newspapers. After you step through the turnstile, you unzip your coat. You remove your hat, gloves, and scarf, and put them in your bag on the escalator down to the subway platform.

You've done the 9-minute trek, and luckily the memory of fresh air is still with you.


Anonymous | January 17, 2009 at 3:21 PM

There I'm all caught up now - you snuck in a bunch of great writing when I wasn't looking!!
Hey great job on the Tim Horton's blaze of publicity as well!!


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