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The daily domino effect

BY Sonny Orr Feb 26, 2024

I liked the mist of hoar frost air as it touched my windshield and immediately turned into a beautiful mosaic of ice crystals, making me smile instead of frown on this cold winter morning. The icy windshield made me think of times when this type of weather didn’t bother anyone. But today, the cold is either an enemy or a friend depending on if you must stay home from work or not. I like to call days like this the domino effect times. 

The domino effect is based on the number of cascading dominos that fall when you tip the first one over, so that you cause a chain reaction. This morning, it’s the domino effect in full force. It starts with sipping your coffee, then social media kicks in and then a few hours slip by unnoticed, until it’s time to put on your booties and go outside. This being, of course, if you get up early in the morning to afford two hours reviewing what happened overnight, before heading off to work or school. This is the start of the dominos falling, the moment you step out that door.

The unusually frigid morning put a damper on some people’s plans to get to work on time. The waiting for someone to unlock a door or show up to do a job or even just check in at work slows down every step of the way. So, take this scenario: start the vehicle, then warm it up, then warm it up more by driving around for a few minutes, then pick up kids for school and daycare, then drop them off, then head off to work. 

On a normal day, all this would take about 10 minutes. But on super-freezing days, like this morning, multiply that time by a factor of three, making it a good half hour just to arrive at your destination a mere 200 metres away. This takes longer when a blizzard is involved, but for today, it’s just simple cold, clear blue-sky weather. 

It’s a scenario that gets repeated three more times. It takes time and patience to get this weather down to an outdoor activity of 30 seconds per episode of opening and slamming car and house doors, to keep the heat loss to a minimum.

Finally, the day draws to a close and the evening sets in. The moon rises in all its full glory, bathing the winter land in a shimmering crystal reflective light that sparkles. I always wonder why such raw cold can have so much peace and beauty attached to it. 

As I slowly retreat to the safety of my porch, I hear a new snowmobile glide quietly by on the street, accompanied by the faraway drone of a two-stroke engine. It makes me realize that time and technology doesn’t wait for anyone. Soon, the active winter sounds will return to quiet as someone figures out how to keep batteries warm long enough for the new generation of transportation to arrive, fueled by just electricity. 

I’m hoping those days come soon, as I’m tired of supporting some distant rich country that keeps us in a petroleum headlock. I would rather help our own little rich country use our own resources to power my vehicle or heat my home.

On a little lighter note, my surprise little award for having a skimpy or barely there Christmas decoration was called the Charlie Brown award. It’s the other side of the scale of the Griswald’s Christmas decoration, the one that shut down the local nuclear reactor for a few moments, before it could kick in the 10,000 megawatts that the Griswald display needed to glow bright enough so that the international space station could enjoy some good will and cheer in their lofty space nest. I understand that the space station travels around the earth quite a few times a day, so their Christmas must have been repeated several times before it got tedious seeing how many times you could pull little gifts out of that space boot. 

Back here on earth, north of the 55th, every day is a snow day and one day it will return to its dusty summer clime. Up here, you’re either brushing snow off your boots, or brushing dust out of your hair. Now that January has left us, we can enjoy February’s romantic lifestyle – the only way to warm up here.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.