I eyed the cyclist coming straight up the road at me. He had a bit of a harried, grumpy look on his face, and I could only think that he was peeved at the fact that an unenvironmentally-friendly vehicle was stealing the only relatively flat piece of road to drive on following a recent dump of snow.
I swerved my car off to the right side of the road, to give him some passing space — he swerved to the left and wiped out on his bike. I tried to move forward but my station wagon was now stuck.
It didn’t bother me, and neither did it bother the cyclist.
With a moan, a roll of the eyes and a big smile that let me know that he had experienced this before, during some other normal winter, he hopped up, and rounded the back of my car to give me a push. I realized that I could probably just back up a little, and get unstuck. I rolled down the window and yelled "thanks, I think I can get it" and proceeded to maneuver my vehicle until it was free of snow.
But it gave me a great feeling. For a moment, all the guards were down. It was OK that I drive a gas guzzler, ruining our precious environment. It was OK that he was driving the wrong way, on his bike, up the middle of the street. It was better than "service with a smile." It made my day.
It was that the old Winnipeg spirit, that was no doubt a part of the founding of our city and province.
The annual natural disaster, usually called winter, that dominates our lives eight months of each year has been a great equalizer, and surely, part of the reason that Manitobans support charities more than any other province in Canada. Usually we get more snow, and have the coldest temperatures of any city in the world with a population of over 150,000.
The speed by which we succumb to the effects of the cold is the subject of our world renowned literature. Its immediacy has meant, in our culture, that we open the door to strangers, and that we can rest supremely contented with just having made it indoors.
Survival has meant, in our culture, that all of our best laid plans may be put off. That whatever your stripes, they are secondary to the task at hand. And that we can all pitch in.
This year has been unusually balmy, and I confess to hoping that this may be a continuing trend.
But the last great hurrah of winter of which I speak brought me in touch with one of the great spiritual foundations of our city and province. That two people in their separate worlds would literally knock each other off course. That two strangers would both put themselves out of their way to let the other through. And in a great act of generosity, make sure that we were both alright.
Terese Taylor is a Wolseley-based writer.
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