I spent the Blizzard of ’96 trapped in a house with six women. Four of them were twelve or under, but that’s a detail. It was the apartment of my girlfriend of the time. I had come to take her out to dinner at the Butchart Gardens for her Christmas present. The restaurant was closed for fear of the snow, and I decided to stay over at her place rather than go home in the storm. Come morning there was a lot of snow on the ground. My girlfriend lived in the basement suite of her sister’s house. When I opened the door in the morning, I could peep over the top of the drift. My shorter girlfriend could just see a wall of snow.
Upstairs were my girlfriend’s sister, her three daughters, and one daughter’s half-sister. The littlest girl—I think she was seven, and small for her age—wanted to go to the park at the end of the street and play in the snow. No one would take her. Not her mother, nor her sisters, nor even her aunt. I thought this was cruel of them, so I volunteered to take her. This turned out to be a mistake. The blizzard had finished off with a bit of freezing rain, so there was a crust of ice on top of the waist-deep snow. The little girl ran along the top singing happy little songs to herself. Her sisters, who had decided to come along anyway, worked out they could move around by rolling. I wasn’t so lucky. Every step I took I crashed through the icy crust and plunged so deep the ice rammed into my groin. I was in agony in short order, but I soldiered on. I had promised the little girl I would take her to the park. Also, I couldn’t think of any way to explain to four young girls that we had to go back because my balls were aching. The girls all had fun horsing around in the park, but it wasn’t really necessary to have fought our way there. All the playground equipment was buried. We could have horsed around just as well in the street by the house.
After an hour of so of frolicking (by the girls, I was more trudging) we all headed back to the house. Shoes were lost by various girls and recovered by me. Half sister ran out of gas and had to be piggy-backed home, which did not help the footprint to weight ratio or the consequent ice slamming into my groin with each and every step problem. I delivered the kids upstairs and took myself downstairs. My girlfriend helped me off with my coat and boots and told me it was very nice of me to take the kids playing in the snow. She started to massage my shoulders and suggested I must be very sore. I agreed. Oh, yes, I agreed. She kneaded a little harder, leaned forward, and whispered in my ear that she knew what would make me feel better. Not this time, she didn’t.
The city had just sold all its plows on the usually sound theory that it did not snow in Victoria. Nowadays the city has plow attachments for its various vehicles and you see all shapes and sizes of plow after a snowfall, but at the end of ’96 they had nothing and had to beg from other jurisdictions that were also under a meter of snow. After three days in the House Of Women, I thought I heard the sound of a plow going down the main street a couple of blocks away. My roommate at the time was a foreign student from Iran. I was worried how he was coping with the blizzard. I fought my way to the main street and found one plow-width clear along the main street. I joined a scattering of other refugees and started to walk home. When a rare vehicle came along, we pressed ourselves into the bank to allow it to pass. Other than service vehicles, I don’t know where these cars and trucks came from. The city was paralyzed. The radio was repeating that plows were beginning to get out and everyone should mark with flags where their cars were buried by the side of the road. I don’t think they explained where we were supposed to get all these flags. Was there some ordinance I didn’t know about that required all citizens to maintain a stock of flags in their homes at all times?
There were no tracks in our driveway when I arrived home. Our house was the second to last of the Hudson’s Bay Company farmhouses, since torn down along with the last. It was subdivided into four apartments; two up and two down. I fought my way to the back where the door to our basement suite was and found my roommate inside. He was coping quite well. It was dark in the apartment, all the windows being snowed under, but he had been enjoying a steady diet of women’s figure skating on TV. He was obsessed with women’s figure skating. I never knew there was so much of it on television until I lived with him for a term. Our TV had a fault and could only play for around two hours before the sound started getting louder and louder and LOUDER. Useful for university students as it minimized distractions from studying. My roommate wasn’t interested in the talking and had disabled the speakers by disconnecting the wiring I had exposed earlier for the purpose. I dragged him away from the thermal spandex to introduce him to the joys of snow shoveling.
Not only was the snow deep everywhere, but it had drifted in our backyard between the houses. I saw no sign of any cars in the drive next door even though I knew for certain there were at least three. The door to our apartment was in the carport. The roof of the carport was a deck for the upstairs back suite. The tenants were out of town, and I had noticed that the deck was full past the fence rails of snow. I didn’t want to think of the load that was putting on an elderly extension to an even older structure. Nor did I want to be under it when it started to melt. My roommate and I found a couple of garden spades in the carport and climbed the drift onto the upper floor deck. After a couple of hours shoveling, we climbed onto the fence rail and walked down the spoil. We celebrated our achievement by getting out the barbecue and grilling some steaks and veggies. Somewhere there is a photograph of me and an Iranian having a barbecue in a snowdrift.
That reminds me, I think I still owe that ex dinner out.