I was standing on a street corner with a friend of mine the other night, just getting some fresh air. (And to friends of mine who are able to break that code, let me say: "I know, I know, I'm trying, let it slide.")
We were shivering in the great outdoors. It was a brisk evening, bordering on what you might call "cold", with a fine drizzle falling. And suddenly, the fine drizzle was mixed with an occasional flake of snow.
Oh, Good Lord," my friend said. "Will you look at that? Can you believe it? It's ... snowing!"
He was frankly amazed. And so was I, but not by the snow. I was amazed that he was amazed.
"Yes," I said. "I can believe it. It's snow. We get it every year. We live in Canada. Have you not experienced this before?"
"Well, sure," he said. "But ... it shouldn't be snowing. It's still fall!"
I guess technically he was correct. But - now, correct me if I'm wrong - "Fall" is the time when we make the transition from "Summer" to "Winter". It's not a new thing. It happens every year. It gets colder and colder every day until finally you pretty much have to admit that you're in this for the duration, and it's not getting warmer till March or so.
My point is, how are so many people always so astounded when the seasons change? And when seasonal things - like, say, frost and snow - become part of our lives?
People, this is Canada. If you want a sure thing in Canada, you bet against the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup and you put a lot of money on the odds that at some point, there will be snow.
I could understand gazing slack-jawed into the sky on a hot July day as flakes begin to waft down. That would be an entirely unexpected event, worthy of remarking upon.
But a cold evening in November? What are you, new? Of course it could snow.
The weather people don't help. They say stuff like, "Overnight, the temperatures will dip towards the freezing mark, and we could be looking at a little of "the F-word" by morning."
You can say it, weather people. Frost. It happens. You don't have to sugar coat it. We live in Canada. By choice. We know there will be frost. Why do you have to treat it like a major event?
Frost in the late fall isn't a headline story. It's not "Man Bites Dog". It's Mother Nature biting us, right in our most tender region, as she does every year. It's unpleasant, it's the price we pay to live here, it's a lot of things. But is it a surprise? Not so much.
Look, I have a three year old grandson. He knows that sometime this winter, he will go out in the yard and build a snowman. Understand that this is a child who has only recently grasped the concept of "Don't poo in your pants". And even he knows there will be snow this winter.
I have two cats, neither one having a brain large than a walnut, and even they were unsurprised by the fact that there was snow. I opened the door, they rushed out, encountered a skiff of snow on the deck, skidded to a halt, sniffed it, then carried on with their day. There was no shaking of paws to the sky, no angry caterwauling, just a simple acceptance that yes, this is what happens this time of year.
And I want to give my friend the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe he was just surprised at the timing. But it's fall. It has been getting steadily colder. What did he think would fall from the sky, fairy dust?
Whatever he thought was going to happen, he got a dusting of snow that evening. And I hope by now he has recovered from the surprise. Because coming up, on December 25th, there's a bit of a celebration. We call it "Christmas".
And if he is surprised by snow in winter, he's going to be shocked by what happens on that day.
Don't shoot the messenger, but Christmas is coming! Nils Ling's book "Truths and Half Truths" is a collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns. Send a cheque or money order for $25.00 (taxes, postage and handling included) to RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3.