Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A word to the winter wise

Today was Toronto's first legit snowfall of the year.

I suppose it being late-early December and all, I should be thankful that we've managed to avoid snow all this time. Furthermore, this raises the possibility of a white Christmas, which is a key component in acquiring the proper level of seasonal festivity. Even better, nobody called the army.

But as for me, the pitiable commuter from the suburbs, today was a disaster. I got out the door at my usual time. My parents usually give me a lift to the subway, which I take down to UofT's St. George campus. As it turned out, the day before my Mom had brought her van in to the dealer in order to fix the ABS braking system for the umpteenth time (the mechanics have no idea what the problem is - apparently the ABS system has 16 parts, 4 of which they've changed so far) and ended up with a Toyota Corolla in the meantime. That's a great car right there, and in fact it's basically the same car as the one I usually drive (the Toyota Matrix). Built on the same wheelbase with virtually identical interiors, the Corolla and the Matrix are set apart merely by their name (and that sexy hatchback).

However, given the several inches of snow littering the as of yet unplowed street, the 4-cylinder Corolla failed to even make it past the driveway. In the end, my Dad drove me to the subway in his van (yes, we have two vans, and I think it's disgusting... but I guess in this case, it worked out). Traffic was abysmal, and a 15 minute drive took 30.

Somehow, bad weather also makes the subway go slowly. This meant that every subway car was jam packed. I was left standing (therefore without my much needed 30 minute nap) in a very claustrophobic and damp space for... over an hour. This morning also marked the first time I was actually present on a train when someone hit the passenger assistance alarm, which makes an annoying whine throughout the train. A special constable came by looking for who triggered the alarm, and as the train resumed its course I saw him talking to an old lady sitting on a bench who looked like she was about ready to throw up. That said, I was impressed with the speed at which our train got back on it's feet - find the person in distress, get them off the train, and get going. That's the way it should always be, and having witnessed it firsthand, I don't see why it doesn't usually work.

I got off at College instead of taking the loop around to Queen's Park and walked the rest of the way. By this point in the morning, it was raining, leaving a puddle-laden, slushy mess. My feet got wet. I was not happy. Somehow, my commute had morphed into a two hour beast, and I missed my first class entirely.

On the bright side, the entire kerfuffle had brought two words to the forefront of my Mom's consciousness: snow tires. I was somewhat keen to switch over to these seasonal behemoths of traction, well aware of their ability to reduce skidding and decrease braking distance by two to six car lengths. Last year, I had garnered my first serious experiences with winter driving and there had been a near miss early on, skidding down the off ramp of Highway 407. It scared the life out of me and taught me to drive with respect for the winter, but it also highlighted the limitations my light and nimble Matrix.

My parents, on the other hand, have never been impressed with the idea of snow tires. They were unenthusiastic about the additional cost and required storage space. Besides, they argued, I don't drive that much anyways - not like my brother in Quebec.

There are, of course, a number of flaws with this argument. First of all, I may not drive every day, but I would hardly say I drive seldom. I certainly plan on getting out there and enjoying my Christmas break (twice as hard as Brutus, because he gets twice as long, lucky guy). Besides, it's not about the frequency of driving - even driving once in snowy conditions would benefit from snow tires. It's a safety issue. There's a reason they bothered to pass a law making it illegal not to have snow tires in Quebec.

Of course, with the added traction, that poor Corolla probably would have made it off the driveway this morning (though I still would have been late). The conclusion of the matter is this: I'm getting snow tires on Saturday.


As an aside, I have a tendency to fall asleep when I'm a passenger in a car (i.e. not driving). I've decided this must be a defence mechanism because riding in a car that my Mom or Dad is driving actually makes me really agitated with my eyes open. I mean, in the end, I always arrive alive, so might as well just doze off and not have a heart attack.

My Mom is a classic soccer mom (minus the soccer), and she refuses to drive anything smaller than a minivan. It makes her feel more secure to look down on everyone, I guess. Riding in the Corolla with her today was a veritable gong show. For some reason, little cars freak her out (she never touches the Matrix) and she got flustered at everything from how to turn on the wipers, how to open the windows, how to get the key out of the ignition, and how to open the gas flap. "Where is it? Where is it?!!! AAAAH!!!" /freakout

I couldn't help but smirk every time she reached for the wipers when she wanted to change gears. I'm bad, I know.


Jerry said...

Despite all the similarities between the corolla and matrix, I still prefer the matrix for both the look and the hatchback.

Now that you have a matrix and corolla, at least temporarily, you should race them against each other :D

a_ndy said...

Yeah sure, and die. The Corolla couldn't even make it off the driveway. It's moot anyways, since it's gone now.