It is, as I sit here and write this, pitch black outside and snowing like crazy. The thermometer outside reads -12 Celsius, which, when converted into Fahrenheit is approximately: really cold. So I have just one thing to say to all you readers out there that live in tropical climates:
No, actually I rather like winter. Most of us who live in the northern hemisphere do, because it makes us feel tough. While you southern softies get up with the gentle, warming sun, us hearties get up three hours before dawn (or about 2 a.m.) so we have extra time to drive on the ice rinks we call highways.
While you stand in front of the air conditioner to freshen up, we chip the ice out of our bathtubs for a bracing shower. As you take a few minutes to roll back the top on your convertible, we take about an hour to pry open the front door, shovel the veranda, salt the sidewalk, de-ice the gate lock and poke about in snow drifts to find out where the car is buried.
After a harrowing drive involving no less than three side trips into the ditch and two fender benders, there isn’t a northerner alive who won’t arrive at work and proudly say: I’m only at this job so I can retire someplace WARM!
Seriously, I really do like winter, and I wouldn’t trade my wool toque for a worsted tube top for any reason. I love living in a snowy country for a variety of very important, social, economic and political reasons which can be summed up in one word: bugs.
Yes, bugs. Don’t get me wrong, there are bugs in the north. The mosquito, for example, is Canada’s unofficial national bird, legendary for its ability to carry off small dogs and unattended children. Mosquitos are quite fond of me, but luckily I get a running start because they can’t resist yelling “Smorgasbord!” when I appear outside wearing shorts.
Generally though, there are very few bugs here and they are mostly harmless. This compares to say, South America, where spiders are the size of basketballs and one can wrestle you to the ground with seven legs tied behind its back. Or Australia, where you don’t want to tick off a tick, because they’re just one of several thousand poisonous creatures in your back yard.
This lack of bugs is the primary advantage of living north of the equator. For example, if I found a bit of frost on my boots, I’d just stamp my feet on account of the cold. If I found an Indian stag beetle on my boots (which is about 3.5 inches long with pinchers the size of your big toe), I’d have to stamp my feet on account of a major case of the heebie jeebies. Then I’d look for a really big rock.
Sure, we might look funny in our thermal underwear. Go ahead and laugh at our red noses and blue fingertips. But just remember there’s nothing here that can’t be cured with a good space heater and a cup of hot cocoa. In fact, we can go weeks without worrying about things like itching, swelling, throwing up and death by violent convulsion.
Snow is also much more considerate than bugs. Snow stays outside, whereas bugs are quite happy to make themselves at home inside. You never discover that your breakfast cereal has been infested with snow, and no one has ever been quoted as saying “don’t let the bed snow bite.” Snow will eventually melt; bugs tend to breed more bugs. In fact, when God said, “go forth and multiply,” bugs said “yahoo!” and invented exponential mathematics.
Why are countries in the upper latitudes naturally debugged? Perhaps it’s a complex combination of factors like evolution, migratory patterns and ecological pressures. Or maybe it’s just because they’d freeze their little bug bottoms off.
Whatever the reason, I’m quite happy that the little critters bug off when the temperature drops. So the next time you are relaxing on the beach and find a humongous insecticus in your margarita, imagine me laughing.
And getting a little more in touch with my inner snowman.
To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.