The Care and Feeding of Canadian Driveways

Congratulations! You’ve met a beautiful Canadian person, you got married, your immigration status is no longer iffy, you’ve found a sweet little house tucked back in the woods, and your mortgage application has been approved. It’s all the romance of country living, combined with the benefits of being within town limits. Now is the time to introduce you to one of the most exciting and dramatic features of life in Canada: the Canadian driveway.

Let’s take a moment to get to know your driveway, shall we? This is not your childhood suburban concrete car pad. Your driveway is so long it shows up on maps as a street. It’s so long that taking out the garbage can be a half-hour odyssey. It’s so long it practically boasts its own ecosystem. You might even say it has its own personality: mutable, moody, sometimes downright mean. Don’t expect any sympathy from your friends in the States, especially those who are in the South. “You chose to live up there,” they’ll say. Ignore them. They’re just jealous of your health care.

The first thing you need to know about your driveway is that it’s made of dirt. What’s that you say? You want to pave it? Why, certainly! Got an extra ten grand lying around? No? Well, dirt has lots of wonderful qualities too. The world is made of it, after all. A driveway like this brings you closer to nature, so that’s something else you can feel smug about.

Most of the time, your driveway will not require any special attention. You will merely need to have a couple truck loads of additional dirt dumped on top of it every other year or so. Then a nice man will need to come with his grader and bevel it for you. Isn’t bevel a great word? It might come in handy in a Scrabble game someday. The thousand or so dollars you’ll spend is going straight into the local economy, which means you’re a job creator. So that’s something else you’ve got going for you.

Now, let’s talk about winter. In winter, which by the way begins in November and has been known to run right into April, your driveway will transform from an innocuous country lane into a glacier. This is especially true of the last fifty yards or so, which are rather steep. As we all know, glaciers are imperiled these days, so by providing glacier habitat right here on your own property, you are doing your bit to stave off global warming. Al Gore should give you a medal or something. How many of your friends down South get to say things like “I need a four-wheel-drive vehicle just so I can get my groceries within hiking distance of my house?” Statements like this command respect. You’re practically Pa Ingalls, or maybe Grizzly Adams.

Here’s another thing about Canada: snowstorms. We have big ones. By big, we mean snowfall so heavy you actually panic sometimes. You will watch it pile up against the door and wonder what you’ll do if your wife goes into labour with your second child. Luckily, you have a guy with a snowplow who makes you part of his regular route. You are one of only several hundred people whose driveway he plows, so you should feel really special and honoured. Oh, and by “regular”, we mean that if it snows on Monday, you can be sure he will appear sometime in the next seventy-two hours, without fail—-unless he fails, in which case you can be sure he will arrive by Friday at the latest. And here’s a little-known fact: all Canadian snowplow operators are also certified midwives, so he can deliver that baby for you, no problem. Just tell your wife to ignore her contractions until then. She won’t mind.

This might be a good time to mention that the snowplow can’t actually make it up the last half of your driveway. He doesn’t even try any more, since his last few attempts were rather embarrassing for all concerned. There’s nothing more ironic than a snowplow operator having to call another snowplow operator to tow him out of your ditch, which by the way is so deep and sheer that it could probably protect you from an invasion of knights on horseback. So, it’s up to you to do that part of your driveway by hand. Think of all the money you’re saving on gym memberships! Well, you already have a gym membership. So think of it as extra exercise. You’ve added ten years to your life. You can thank your Canadian driveway for that.

Your Canadian driveway will make you lots of new friends. Late at night, you will wake to the sound of wheels spinning fruitlessly, and you will wander outside in your rubber boots and bathrobe, high-powered flashlight in hand, to meet them. “I thought this was a street,” they’ll say sheepishly. “Google Maps says it is.” You will give a knowing, Pa Ingalls-like laugh, then stand around chatting until the tow truck arrives, and you will feel blessed because you never would have gotten to meet these new people otherwise. You might even realize that the tow truck is going to be a while, and you should probably invite them in. So you will spend a happy hour chatting with that lovely gay couple who owns an art gallery and who are trying to stave off panic attacks at the thought of having to live with you forever, or the family from Toronto who have never been away from street lights before and who after a cup of tea will begin to seem guardedly hopeful that you will not turn out to be like that guy from Deliverance after all. Your Canadian driveway will make you friends with these people for life. They will never forget it, or you.

So, now it’s February. All winter, you’ve been diligent with shovel, scoop, and salt, scraping away the last inch of ice so that you can get up your driveway again and your loved ones don’t break any bones trying to make it up the hill on foot. This year, you swear, is going to be different. Then it snows again. This snow is followed by rain, which you might think would melt the snow, except instead it freezes, so you’ve got a glacier again.

At this point you will feel a number of emotions. Think of it as a great opportunity for you to practice your meditation skills. You are far more spiritually advanced than some guy in the suburbs who doesn’t have to deal with any of this stuff. For this, and for many other gifts besides, you can thank your Canadian driveway.

You shall not pass!
You shall not pass!

1 thought on “The Care and Feeding of Canadian Driveways”

  1. You know I have a complicated relationship with your driveway, so I had to read this post. Made me laugh out loud. But, Pa, that picture doesn’t begin to capture how steep your driveway actually gets at the top. And when you’re looking at this view as you slide backwards…and sideways…while still accelerating…and very pregnant…in the dark…SHUDDERS! ;–)

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