Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A White Christmas and its Deneigement

Though I have managed to post a few blog essays under unprepossessing circumstances, I must acknowledge defeat when it is staring me straight in the face.  I lack the leisure to explain, even in the most cursory terms, how I came to find myself celebrating the Feast of the Nativity in Montreal, where it is the bleak midwinter (despite the fact that the season has not yet completed its first week).   Nor can I give any account of my state of digital deprivation.   The circumstances allow me, at best, a meteorological anecdote.   A Bing Crosby song of my youth, still soupily revived on AM stations throughout the Season, seriously oversold the idea of the white Christmas to at least three generations of my compatriots.  I can remember a few other white Christmases, but none so ferocious as this.

Snow has indeed fallen, snow on snow.  There are mountains of it.  It is also colder than the proverbial well-digger in Montana.  But the Canadians take this stuff to an altogether new threat level.  Rather remarkably, the ordinary locals seem to pay the snow no mind, aside from devoting a couple of hours a day to digging out their buried vehicles.  But there is also a professional corps of de-snowers.  That's my rough-and-ready English translation of what they call the practitioners of deneigement around here.

Deneigement is a very serious business in these parts, and it has been going on, rather ferociously, since Christmas Eve.  It is mainly a nocturnal event, partly because vehicular traffic is marginally subdued after nightfall, but mainly because Canada in the wintertime seems to be a night sport.  The services de deneigement have at their disposal various mechanical aids--ranging in size from feather-light plastic shovels to major earth-moving equipment designed to aid in the construction of hydro-electric dams.  The preferred machine appears to be the largest size of road-grader manufactured by the Caterpillar Corporation, equipped with blinding flashing lights and, quite literally, bells and whistles, in addition to the more conventional horn.  If you are having to get somewhere in the deneigement zones of the darkened city--as we were having to do last night--it is really pretty scary: loud metallic scraping noises, blinding lights shining out of the freezing void, the blaring of mechanical blarers.  If they could only manage to work in a few snarling German shepherds, you would have nearly the full aesthetic of a transport arriving at Sobibor.

In any event, out of this cold Qu├ębecois night we send our friends and readers our very best wishes for the inception of the New Year, when I shall hope to be able to return to the blog entirely deneiged.