Don’t be fooled by the recent thaw: It’s still winter in Montreal. Lest we forget, somewhere between Halloween and finals, it got really cold. The trees lost their leaves, the birds headed south for warmer weather, and the squirrels took a break from chewing through our trash bags outside. Seasoned veterans know that the Montreal winter is a unique phenomenon that affects each and every one of us. For those who have not experienced Montreal winter yet, a few surprises still lie ahead.
If you are brave enough to walk outside, there is a good chance you will arrive at your destination with little-to-no feeling in your hands, feet, and face. Knowing this, it is wise to plan accordingly and show up to important meetings, social gatherings, and events with sufficient time to defrost. A time tested standard is five minutes defrosting for every twenty spent outside.
Winter also affects our social interactions. From Dec. 21 until March 19, approximately 73 per cent of all conversations amongst students will begin with a comment about how cold it is outside, how many centimetres of snow their bike was buried under, or how many times they almost slipped on ice getting down their apartment stairs. Scientists are still not sure why we discuss the season so frequently, but a widely accepted theory is that winter cannot stand when people are not talking about it, so it pulls stunts like these to remind everyone that it is here and demands full and undivided attention.
Besides physiological and social phenomena, winter has psychological effects on us as well. Studies suggest a perfectly negative correlation between temperature and creativity. They say necessity is the mother of innovation—when it is negative 25 degrees Celsius outside, and the only things in the fridge are tofu, cheddar cheese, pesto sauce, and an onion, you tend to get very creative with meals. It can be neither denied nor confirmed that winter is the reason fusion restaurants exist.
Winter also changes how we see everyday things in our environment. For instance, in the summer, a bus stop may be just a bus stop. In the winter, however, this shelter is astonishingly repurposed into a safe haven from the cold on a long walk at night. In the summer, a local dep may be a convenient place to buy snacks and drinks—in the winter, it too becomes a place of shelter from a snowstorm. And, of course, there is the McLennan library. In the spring and autumn, it is a place for students to focus on their schoolwork; however, come winter, it is miraculously transformed into a sanctuary to avoid the icy walk home. With its 24 hour accommodations, winter refugees never even have to leave. Simply stake out a seldom visited aisle on the sixth floor and sublet your room in your Plateau apartment.
One can go on for hours about what a Montreal winter actually is, and the ways it makes us feel, think, and act. It introduces a new dynamic into our lives, even if that dynamic means testing how long we can stay in our homes before going absolutely crazy. Whether through a frosty breeze off the Saint Lawrence river or a nice chunk of snow falling on your head on the walk to school, the Montreal winter builds an icy resolve in all who brave it.