It’s Not All Mary Poppins


This is my street.

The signs went in our snowbanks yesterday, bringing joy to the hearts of the householders. Ours is “one of the worst streets in the city.” I have this on good authority: a cabbie (who would know better?). His jaw dropped when he turned onto my block. His quiet “fuuuuck” was tinged with awe. He proceeded gamely, though, wincing as the belly of his car scraaaaped along the crusted snow.

Our “street” consists these days of two narrow, ice-lined tenches. You don’t really need to steer: the trenches grab your tires and you go.

You go slowly, because a bump could remove something from the bottom of the car, or at least pierce it. With the belly of your car no more than a couple of centimetres off the icy surface between the two trenches, and often actually scraping it, there is not much room for error.

But the signs went up yesterday: “No parking on the street from 0700 to 1900”. Not that we’ve been able to park in the street for a month now. The street is one lane. Two ruts in the snow. You “park” on the street, you block the entire thing.

Two cars meet, someone has to pull into a drive to let the other guy pass. And getting out of the drive, with the street so narrowed by enormous snowbanks, means that there isn’t sufficient turning radius simply to back out your car. It always involves at least a three-point back-and-forth, and sometimes more, manoeuvring your way out.

The clear area outside my house is about six square feet. Oh, so if some anal-retentive stickler for accuracy came with a tape measure, you’d probably find it was marginally bigger — but it feels like six feet! The driveway has been full of a neighbour’s car. The sidewalk has been ploughed, but insufficient to the demands, and most people’s houses have little more than a narrow footpath between looming banks. (Mine is better. I am originally from Toronto, where householders are expected to shovel their own walk.) The road is, as I’ve said, two icy ruts in the rock-hard snow.


There is nowhere to play! The snowbanks have been carved into walls by the passing sidewalk plows, and offer no purchase for scaling. I’ve taken them out, but with six square feet of snowy cage to play in, I’m not about to arm them with the ever-thrilling snow shovels (aka the “let-me-poke-your-eye-out” sticks). In six square feet there isn’t much room to get the blood flowing to keep their little selves warm, and within five minutes they’re bored and complaining of the cold. Twenty minutes dressing five little bodies for five minutes of standing-around-in-the-cold-being-bored hardly seems worth the effort.

Makes for a quiet street.

But the signs went up yesterday!! I’ve described the procedure before. (NB. If you don’t know what “procedure” I’m talking about, you MUST go follow that link. Particularly if you or your child loves heavy machinery.) It’s noisy, it makes the street impassible while it’s happening … but at the end of it, we will go from two ruts between snowbanks to a street wide enough for two cars! At the same time! And sidewalks, too!!! The sense of glorious SPACE you get after they’ve been through is indescribable to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Or lived for a month in a six-by-ten box.

The signs went up yesterday. The signs went up yesterday, and they are still there, jutting out from the enormous snow banks. The machines did not come. Our hearts are in our Thinsulate-lined, yak-trakked boots. And now? Now, outside my office window I hear the delicate glittery tinkle of freezing rain.

I think we will be staying inside again today…

March 19, 2008 - Posted by | Canada, Ottawa, outings


  1. Sigh…us too unfortunately. I woke up in the wee hours in the morning to pull the blanket from Hubby when I heard it the tappity tap against my window.

    I poked him and mumbled, “You can have to car today. I’m pretty sure we’re not going anywhere.”

    We sure didn’t. It didn’t stop raining once, all day. BUT! The snow removal equipment DID come, and that made for a very interesting half-hour.

    Comment by Zayna | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. Ugg. Too bad the machines didn’t come. The kids must LOVE watching the removal process. I know my son would be amazed and enthralled!

    They came after I posted, in fact!! Woo-hoo! And yes, the kids were enthralled!

    Comment by Dani | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  3. I suddenly feel so much better about the weather here in Massachusetts! I’ve actually been seeing grass lately…until today, a bit of snow is falling along with some rain. Your spring will come, too!!!

    Grass? Lucky you. Nothing like that in these parts, yet. But I know that we’ll be seeing ours, too, and in less than a month. Kind of astonishing how quickly it clears once it starts.

    Comment by Patti | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. I’m looking at our move into cold rain and freezing rain as a victory because it means that hey! It’s not snowing today! And it in facts help batter down the mountains of accumulated snow a bit, which is very heartening. I am so, so done with winter.

    Have you heard in Toronto about what’s going on in Quebec? Schools have been closed because, with the rain falling into the sponge-like snow, roofs (rooves? no, roofs. meh. they both look weird) ANYway… They’ve been collapsing! But only in Quebec, which has people wondering about building standards. There was one school in which they found they couldn’t open the doors, but once the roof had been shovelled off, the doors would open! Yes, indeedy.

    We were hearing about roofs collapsing under the weight, and how the rain would only make it worse, and I was getting nervous for our poor old house with it Mansard (read, flat on top) roof. Even though I now know it’s specific to a certain region, I’m still going to be happiest when it’s gone!

    Comment by kittenpie | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  5. I’m with Patti. Even better here in the midwest, we’ve had rain for 3 days and floods all ’round, but the daffodils are peeking their green blades up through the dead leaves in my backyard. It must be on its way. It must.

    At this stage of the game, I go by the calendar. The latest snowfall we’ve ever received is April 16. So my personal “start-of-spring” day is April 17. Of course, that April 16 snowfall was LAST YEAR! Before that, my personal SOS (sos, heh) date was April 12! Booo… Let’s hope we don’t set ANOTHER record this year.

    Comment by Bridgett | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  6. Oh.My.God. I have never seen anything like it. I’ll stay in Atlanta, thank you.

    And I wish upon you crocus and daffodils. Very soon.

    Crocus and daffodils will come! In mid – late April. But thanks for the good wishes!

    Comment by Jill | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  7. Ha, I don’t feel bad about our Michigan winters anymore. I’ve never seen snow removal like that! (I read your other post describing the process – how neat! I can NEVER imagine the gov’t paying for that around here though.)

    Isn’t it just so cool? My husband took those pictures, realizing that there were lots of people who’d never have seen anything like it!

    If your gov. won’t pay for it, it’s because they have a choice. Here, if we didn’t do this periodically, the streets would be quite literally impassible. That top pic, of my street — it was completely cleared of snow less than a month earlier. Can you imagine if it hadn’t been cleared since the first snowfall in December?? There would be no street. At all.

    This isn’t exactly a “Canadian thing”. I’ve lived in several Canadian cities. Ottawa is the first I’ve lived in that needed to do it on any but the expressways.

    Comment by BookMama | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  8. Wow, it doesn’t snow here. The coldest it’s ever been here was 0 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s like -17 Celsius.

    Of course, the hottest it’s ever been was 111 degrees (43 Celsius?) And it is often 101.

    You are so lucky.

    -17C is certainly cold enough for snow, even if it’s just a one-time thing. Guess you just didn’t get the temperature with the right combination of other factors.

    I sure wouldn’t want to suffer heat like that — any more than I enjoy the snowbound winters here, though. I have the snow, you have the heat. I don’t think that makes either of us lucky… but isn’t it cool the way the weather gives total strangers something to talk about??

    Comment by Unlucky | August 6, 2008 | Reply

  9. […] to the side, making snowbanks. But eventually, those snowbanks get so large that the road becomes a mere track for a single car. So every so often the city sends out ALL THE TRUCKS! (So that we can go from the picture in that […]

    Pingback by Something exciting this way comes… « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | February 8, 2012 | Reply

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