Friday, January 21, 2005

Snow Job

It was pretty exciting watching El Niño in the fall, wasn’t it?
I, and every other house-owner I know, watched the development of the El Niño with special interest because, along with everything else this peculiar weather pattern does, it is supposed to cut down on the amount of snow that falls in my part of The Great White North.
According to the people who know about these things, El Niño is an oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean along the western coast of Ecuador and Peru which causes climatic disturbances of varying severity around the world. El Niño comes along every three to seven years, which is, coincidentally, about how often I contemplate purchasing a snow-blower. But I didn’t this year because, once again, El Niño’s promise of a mild winter with minimal snowfall lulled me into a false sense of frugality.
The problem is that winter only lasts four, maybe five months in my part of the country, with only about three months of heavy snowfall. So the only time I really want a snow-blower is on February the 15th at 6:30 in the morning, when the world is as dead, dark and frozen as the inside of my car’s battery, and I am standing in three feet of freshly fallen slush, my house coat flapping around my knees, try to calculate how much weight I can shift with my bent, 10-pound aluminum snow shovel before I can expect getting either frostbite or some kind of nasty lower back injury.
It doesn’t help any that two doors away, my neighbour waves cheerfully at me, hot cup of coffee in hand, as he surges through the cement-like snow at the helm of his brand-new, self-propelled, fully automatic, self-starting SnowMeister which is effortlessly launching the frozen, gray-white slurry clogging his driveway in a graceful arch onto some other hapless neighbour’s driveway. In the time it takes me to clear a little space around my soggy feet, he has cleared his driveway and the sidewalk in front of three houses.
I bought the euphemistically named snow shovel at a yard sale in June for a buck and a half. Here is how my thinking went when I saw the thing: shoveling snow is good exercise. I really remember thinking those words. Standing there in my shorts and T-shirt under a brilliant summer sun, I actually felt that shoveling freezing rain out of my driveway in February would be something I should ENJOY! It would be an invigorating start to my day, and it would provide me with a good cardio-vascular workout without my having to join a health club, I thought, exhibiting the same short-term memory problem that causes me to plan summer canoe-trips involving me having to carry the canoe over portages.
Besides, I said to myself as I handed over my money to a disbelieving yard-sales person, we don’t really get that much snow, so why spend all that money on a snow-blower which will just wind up rusting in my garage anyway? And everybody knows how noisy they are, and how much they pollute. This, of course, is the same line of logic which, if followed, would lead me to forego buying a lawn mower in favor of cutting the grass with scissors.
By now I am possibly the only person on the street without a SnowMeister, and I can feel as morally and environmentally superior as I like while I scoop spoon-sized chunks of ice and snow out of the mountain of slag the snowplow just deposited in my driveway. The fact remains that starting with the very first yard sale in the spring - El Niño or no - I am going to be on the look-out for a good, used, SnowMeister of my very own!
I do have a pretty good snow shovel to trade, though, if anyone is interested. It is a lot cheaper than joining a health club!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Modern Appliances


I was wandering through a kitchen appliance store in a mall the other day, when a very enthusiastic young salesperson asked me if I would be interested in having a look at their new Cappuccinotoasterbroiler-as-seen-on-TV. “It mounts right up under your kitchen cabinets,” he said with the same excitement he might have displayed had he been announcing a cure for a major disease. “That way your kitchen countertop won’t be cluttered!” What was more, this fabulous device came in a dozen designer colours, with more attachments than the Columbia space shuttle. It was self-cleaning, odour-free, ran quietly, had a remote control, and I could pay for it in several years’ worth of easy monthly payments.
“What does it do?” I asked the earnest young man.
“Yes. If I am going install one of these Cappuccinotoasterbroiler-as-seen-on-TV in my kitchen, I’d like to know what it actually will do for me.”
Well, the explanation that followed is far too long and complicated to repeat here, but clearly the impression I was intended to get was that this extraordinary device would make me a huge success in the kitchen, more popular with my friends and family, healthier, and possibly even younger – I think there was a separate attachment for that.
I did not buy the Cappuccinotoasterbroiler as-seen-on-TV. I don’t need an appliance that will turn me in to a younger, more popular, kitchen whiz. What I do need are some appliances that have practicable applications. A self-cleaning refrigerator, for instance, would be nice. The kids have a tendency to store science projects in the fridge and then forgetting about them, just as I seem to have a talent for not remembering bags of spinach I had every intention of making the kids eat, and which turn to slurry in the back of the “crisper.” Whoever comes up with a fridge that will sort out and dispose of my collection of liquid cucumbers, moldy yogurts and brittle ham slices will have my undying gratitude – and my money.
A few years ago, I could also have used some sort of diaper changing device – with a long-range remote control. Although I did manage to become something of an expert in the art of the rapid-fire diaper change, while at the same time learning how to hold my breath for several minutes, these are skills I could have done without; there are many ways for a parent to bond with his child, but I don’t believe this particular avenue is essential. Some sort of changing, disposing, cleaning and powdering appliance which would deliver my smiling, sweet-smelling child into my waiting arms would have been worth any number of Cappuccinotoasterbroiler-as-seen-on-TV.
I would also like to see the following appliances created: a machine that will bring a mug of hot coffee to my bedroom every morning, while at the same time waking me as gently as a summer breeze through an open window; a vacuum cleaner that will get the hair of my cat, Paws for Thought, out of my wool rug and then empty itself; something – anything, that will sort out the content of my garage and find my box of router bits which I haven’t seen since Kim Campbell was Prime Minister, but which I am certain is still in there somewhere; and finally some sort of extremely sturdy mobile unit I can send into my teenage son’s room to A: find him and bring him out before noon on Saturdays, and B: clean the place up, by which I mean returning the household plates and glasses to the kitchen, putting the lizard back in its cage, taking the melted wax out of the carpet and locating the three English assignments which have, apparently, been completed but have gone missing.
And oh yes, a dog washer would also be very much appreciated; some kind of machine that would be set up in the back yard, and which would lure Dimbulb into it, wash, dry and de-flea him all in one fell swoop, all without the bathroom having to be re-decorated, which is what tends to happen now.
Free Cappuccinotoasterbroiler as-seen-on-TV will be awarded to those who create any of these appliances.
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