Temperatures fell to near minus 40 with the wind chill last week – typical winter conditions for Cochrane, but virtually unheard of in Southern Ontario.
The smaller of our two dogs, a 50-pound short haired mutt named Stella, had issues with how cold the ground was on her paws, so we had to limit our walks to 10 to 15 minutes. (The larger dog, an 80-pound mutt named Comet, who is a bit… uhh… bulkier and has longer hair, seemed to have no such problem.)
I understand a small non-acclimatized living thing being unable to cope with the conditions, but the cold intolerance didn’t stop there.
The cold got to inanimate objects, too.
The first day of the cold snap, I was getting read to head to an appointment. Unfortunately for me, my car ha other ideas. I opened the driver’s side door – well, I tried. I pulled on the handle, but the door wouldn’t budge. Neither did the passenger side, nor either of the back doors.
I went inside to get a bucket of warm water to pour on the driver’s door, but refrained from doing so when I realized the water would freeze again once I was inside and possible trap me forever. Or something like that.
I went back into the house and tried to figure out Plan B.
‘Aha! I’ll pour water over one of the back doors, then kick open the driver’s door from the inside! And I’ll kick the second door open before I close the first in case it freezes shut and traps me forever!’
Although it was a little awkward to navigate the inside of the car in six full layers of clothing, Plan B worked beautifully.
After all that, I was only going to be a few minutes late.
Oh wait, my car had other ideas.
I put the key into the ignition, but that was as far as I got. Even with the brunt of my impressive might, I could not get the key to budge. I twisted my steering wheel, fiddled with my gear box, tried the spare key, but the ignition was just not interested in doing what I wanted.
I stayed home that night, and my car stayed in its resting place for nearly a full week.
The following morning, everything went further down the pooper when exactly nothing went down the pooper. It turns out the pipe that goes to our toilet runs inside an uninsulated wall and, being made of metal, is a reasonably good conductor of cold. The water inside the pipe apparently froze, effectively freezing all toilet-related activity until I figured out how to operate the toilet with a bucket.
(To be clear, that’s different form operating a bucket as a toilet.)
Once the temperature soared back onto the positive side of zero, that problem fixed itself.
I would love to say that I learned something about dogs or cars or toilets from this new experience with what I would consider the extreme cold – that I am now prepared to prevent similar situations in the extreme cold (read: perfectly normal Northern Ontario cold) in Cochrane. However, that would not be true.
What I did learn, I think, is that no matter how much preparing you do – I left taps running and propped my wind shield wipers up, for example – things will probably go wrong, and that best you’ll be able to do is to adapt, and hopefully laugh.
And that’s the cold truth.