Hump Day: Shovelling up a snowily poignant, ultra-Canadian moment

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

When my front doorbell rang in the middle of a snowstorm one night last week, I assumed there’d been in accident in front of my house or that something else was wrong. It definitely wasn’t proper weather for door-to-door canvassing for charity or churches.

When I opened the door, I found two teenage boys about 13 or 14 years old. They were both wearing skates. I live across from a city park with an outdoor skating rink that’s being maintained by a very nice neighbour for the winter. The rink has been a beehive of activity since the weather finally turned colder.

I’ve had my door knocked on before by someone in trouble – notably Andrew, a boy who fell and hurt himself badly in the park when playing with his friends a few summers ago. In fact, I wrote a column about it.

By the time I got outside to find out what was going on, Andrew was being cared for by my next-door neighbour who was pouring water over his hands to clean the dirt out of his wounds. After falling off his bicycle in the park, let’s just say that most of the skin on his hands stayed on the pavement and he was in quite a mess. I drove him to his grandmother’s house afterwards so they could take over from there.

Last week, however, I’m happy to report that my door was knocked on for a much happier reason.

‘Could we borrow a shovel to take the snow off the rink? We want to play hockey.’ The kids were polite and clean-cut. During the conversation, I noticed that one of them was clearly in the middle of the ‘voice change’ because his voice seemed to change octaves on every syllable he spoke. I could barely understand him because he was squeaking so much. Ah, the joys of puberty!

Now, when they asked me if they could borrow a shovel, I certainly didn’t hesitate in agreeing to it.

They asked nicely and were polite – and they promised to return the shovel when they were done.

I went out to the garage to get the shovel and passed it to them. They thanked me sincerely and took off excitedly across the street running on their skates (they were wearing blade guards) yelling, ‘We got a shovel! We got a shovel!’ Their friends made various exclamations of happiness and I watched them through the heavy snow as they hopped onto the rink to start the task of clearing it for their game.

I have to say, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside after that. I felt like I was in a Tim Hortons commercial.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I looked around for a film crew perhaps secretly recording the entire exchange. I smiled as I saw them eagerly clear the snow with the borrowed shovel. It was just so . . . so Canadian!

The only thing I didn’t do was put on a heavy hand-knitted wool sweater, get a big cup of coffee and hold it with two hands, stare out the frost-covered window and take a sip with big tears rolling down my sooky-baby face as I contemplated my Canadian identity. I’m telling you, the entire episode could have been a coffee commercial.

And if anyone from Tim Hortons reads this, feel free to steal the idea. Just make sure you add the squeaky-voiced kid, though! He’d be the Peter Brady-type comic foible in the ad. For those who don’t remember, there’s a classic 1972 Brady Bunch episode where middle son Peter’s voice changes as the kids are about to record a song for an album. ‘When it’s time to change, it’s time to rearrange!’ Back to my story. So, despite the kids being polite and tugging at the heartstrings by wanting to borrow a shovel to play hockey, I still somehow thought they might forget to return the shovel and it would buried in the snow until spring.

When I saw them leaving the park, I checked my back door and there it was – my trusty shovel right there where it belonged. The only thing missing was a hot cup of coffee sitting next to it.

I’m pretty sure I looked up at the moon right at that moment and saw the Canadian flag emblazoned on it.

A Canuck miracle during a snowstorm!

Actually, I believe that refusing assistance to kids who want to play hockey on an outdoor rink in Canada in the winter should be a Criminal Code of Canada violation.

What kind of heartless Canadian would ever say ‘No!’ to lending kids a shovel to play hockey in an outdoor rink. I mean, c’mon!

Have you ever seen the TV commercial where the boy asks the store clerk if he has any parttime jobs open? The gruff old clerk admonishes him for wanting to work when he’s so young. He suggests that he should be out playing hockey with his friends.

It’s then that the young boy replies sadly that he’s trying to make money so he can play hockey. In other words, he can’t afford to play.

Well, I’m telling you, you might as well just stab me in the forehead with a fork every time I see that. I get teary-eyed and start throwing money at the TV. ‘He can’t play hockey! What is this world coming to? Give him money to play hockey!’ Then I throw more money at the TV. Then I cry some more because a toonie broke my TV screen.

My illustrious nine-year minor hockey career wasn’t exactly a game-changer, so I’m not sure why I’m so sentimental about it. Must be part of my Canadian DNA. I got three goals in nine years – one of them on my own net. Maybe someone should have paid me to work in that store so that I could pay for that kid in the commercial to play hockey instead of me.

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