A tow truck comes by first. Its horn blares out a very distinctive pattern of blasts.
Designed to jar anyone who has forgotten to dig their vehicles out of the latest Montreal snow bank out of their deepest sleep, the cacophony heralds the imminent arrival of the snowplows.
Actually the drivers will make two or three passes before they get about their business and really start towing cars off the street.
Watching a Montreal snow removal campaign at full tilt can’t fail to impress a Yukoner. The only equivalent we might have would be something like the Shakwak project.
That highway reconstruction effort involves just a faction, though, of the vehicles needed to clear off the megatonnes of white stuff left after just one of the recent storms which have blanketed the island of Montreal.
First a grader clears the snow from the centre line of the street pushing it up into a pile near the curb. If a four-lane street is being cleared the snowplows work in echelon formation.
At the same time, one of a variety of different types of small, fast-tracked sidewalk plows add to the mound from the other side. The first of the large snowblowers then comes by churning the drift and throwing it into the back of high-sided trailers pulled by semis.
The march down the street will halt only for a second or two as a filled truck leaves for a growing snow mountain on some vacant municipal lot and the next truck moves up to take its place. Often four or five trucks will be queued to keep the operation running smoothly.
A trailing plow pushes the snow away from the curb well into the parking lane. A final snowblower and truck line will complete the one side of the street.
The whole snow removal process can take just a few well-orchestrated minutes. If only all our problems could be solved so easily and efficiently.
We could characterize the past year as another one of those pestering, harping, persistent and increasingly common inconvenient years — an Anno inconvenienti.
With an uncomfortable regularity we hear, see and at times actually feel the effects of a host of global problems that have come to define the current state of our world.
From climate change, resource depletion, war and ethnic strife to the on-going revelations as to the fragility of our economic systems we continue to be annoyingly pelted by a shrill, and growingly strident collective conscience.
What do we do? Ignoring the issues is out of the question.
Just like a Montreal snowfall, their results will eventually blanket everything.
And no matter what, their consequences will find chinks in even the most ardent shirker’s armour. We can no longer insulate ourselves from the world.
Whether we like it or not even this distant corner of the planet, which we inhabit is not immune from our common planetary ills.
We don’t lack opportunities to do our parts. Individual actions from more actively recycling to walking instead of driving lay an attitudinal foundation. But like the Montreal snow removers know, concerted action is needed.
To turn our Anno inconvenienti into an Anno de spes, a year of hope, we have to get involved.