The roar of the winds escalated until the chairman yelled to us that he was afraid we were in hair-raising times, and the high-ceilinged boardroom at the CRA Office in Montreal offered no reprieve from the howling sounds of air escaping at high velocities from the nooks and crannies of the old Lamborghini sales room. As it was a Friday, we wished to leave as soon as our meeting was over and head on back home. The mandatory “I’ll call you Monday” wishes were replaced by an empty office sound, the sound of a Friday afternoon.
Back at the hotel where the working Cree stay, we watched with smirks at the number of hats flying around and at how everyone seemed to be going only where it was allowed by nature, downwind. Then the reports came in: a train derailment, two 80-car pile-ups, the tunnel closed, traffic at a standstill, zero visibility and 100-kilometre-an-hour wind gusts. Wow, I’m going out there just to say I did, I proclaimed, and rushed outside. Two seconds later, I ran back to the room to pull on long johns, a sweater, gloves and the trusty old fur hat. The lobby of the hotel, meanwhile, filled up with two busloads of teenagers in angst over the weather. I battled my way out of the blowing hairdos and onto the street, where another 30 or so youngsters fought back their tears and vowed never to return to Quebec.
I thought the reports were rather exaggerated and smiled, typical winter weather. Then I turned on to Ste-Catherine and was quickly brought down to an extreme crouch, where I literally crawled to a dry spot of cement. The roads and sidewalks were slick with ice and everywhere, people were struggling to get by. With the breath sucked out of my lungs, I gathered momentum and tried to walk to the nearest shopping centre. A 15-minute struggle later, I had made two blocks.
I seem to remember watching a doom-and-gloom movie in which the weather acted up all of a sudden, leaving North America in a long-term deep freeze. I hoped we weren’t coming to this and again wondered if this were included in the Cree pension plan.
Later, after gabbing all day about the weather and its surprises, I turned on the TV to watch some educational stuff, and learned that Greenland’s glaciers were receding at the unprecedented rate of 150 kilometres a year. It used to increase or decrease at a rate that only a lover of glaciers could appreciate, but at the current rate, we should be expecting a rise in ocean water levels of seven metres. Wow, and I think, should we really be building on sand or on mountains? Will we have to grow gills, will fish be our friends? With all this forever ingrained in my mind, I drifted off in a fitful sleep.
Leaving for the airport all bleary-eyed the next morning, a weary taxi driver recounted his hair-raising tale of how he swerved and nearly collided into another car in a parking lot, and he cursed the day he left Haiti. I reminded him that his weather patterns turn into hurricanes, so this kind of weather should be just a cold tropical storm to him. He snorted, then quickly turned back to his cell phone.
Again, I think, who can carry on a conversation at 5 am? The daily paper reveals the consequence of nature gone wild with pictures of elders hanging in there and mangled vehicles of all sorts. I was glad I didn’t drive down as the plane lifted off. The city quickly disappeared and I readied myself for the minus-36 climate of Whapmagoostui. This kind of weather I can appreciate in its cold comfort and dependable outcomes. But when the time comes that cold air fights with hot southern air around the 55th parallel, the weather will soon become even more unpredictable and our lives will become more and more complicated.