Real Winter finally came to Toronto with a blast of freezing rain and ice pellets last Monday morning. The temperatures have finally dropped below 0C, and it's "normal" Canadian weather.
Actually the late winter has been quite upsetting for Canadians - it seems many people here are dependent on the winter season for income. Blue Mountain resort (north of Toronto) had to send a whole bunch (about 1300 people) of their seasonal employees home because of the lack of snow and therefore business. Toronto City programs for ski and skating lessons were cancelled, snowblowers were not being sold...
Brendon and I went in to work late that Monday, although we did debate not going in at all. In my office, about 70% of people just sent out mail saying they were working from home. It was pretty scary being out on the roads on that morning. The first snowstorm of the season... Torontonians were out of practice and not prepared for the road conditions, especially since the Winter snow had arrived much later than usual. People had put off buying windscreen washer fluid (which instantly tripled in price at all petrol stations!), and putting on snow tires. The Ontario Provincial Police reported over 600 accidents that day, but mostly bumper bashings from cars skidding around. Pretty crazy.
The public transit systems were late and overcrowded - when there are bad weather conditions people opt to take public transit, as they don't want to risk it out on the roads. Ironic for me, since I'd rather drive when it's cold. I guess the point is that you can be really careful, but it's always the other idiot who isn't and smacks in to you. In summer we'll probably revert back to taking the bus and subway - I am definitely missing (and I can feel it physically) the daily walking.
I have to say - snow is overrated. When the snow first comes down, it's all pretty and white, but after the snowploughs, salters, de-icers and shovelers have been at work, and the cars have been driving on the roads, it looks really ugly out there with all the mud in the snow.
I passed my driver's test on Tuesday afternoon - thank goodness there wasn't another snowstorm to make the roads slippery and dangerous. The area I did my test in is the airport, and is pretty 'industrial'- not many people or traffic. The roads there are wide enough for two cars, but no lines on the road, so you can pretty much drive in the middle, which helps with the snow on the side. The test itself was very quick - just a drive around the block, one three point-turn and reversing in to the parking back at the test centre. Whew. I'll have to tackle the highway test in a year's time again, in order to become a G-class driver.
Lastly, a little personal anecdote regarding my first experience of this horrendous winter weather... Brendon tells me, "Some idiots pour water over their windscreens to clear it" and I'm thinking... "What's wrong with that?! Sounds perfectly logical to me." I guess when you've never lived in a place where water can freeze on contact with the windscreen, stuff like that just never occurs to you...