Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Driving in Canada, Eh?

Red Mittens - not just for hands any more!
Photo credit:

We were shopping.
I will admit, here, that shopping is not my favourite activity.
I need a really good excuse.
It was Christmas.
Okay, Christmas is a really good excuse . . .
My youngest two children and I were out to find a gift for Grant. 
Their Dad, my Sweetheart.
The hardest person to shop for.
After much wrinkle-browed thought, we had decided that whatever we were seeking would best be found at Lee Valley Tools.
My husband's favourite place on earth.
It is a long-standing family joke that he must go once a month to LVT to pay homage to Thor, the Tool God.
But I digress . . .
We set out.
It was December.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, winter equals snow.
Ask anyone.
But avoid those with chattering teeth.
Th-th-they c-c-c-can n-n-n-never be t-t-t-trusted.
Or understood.
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Winter. Shopping. Setting out.
At first, things went well.
A heavy, wet snow was falling thickly, but the window wipers were managing to keep the windshield clear – sort of.
We made it into the city.
And immediately slowed to a snail's pace.
Let me describe the scene for those of you not familiar with travel accompanied by snow: All roads are now white. And slippery. All surfaces have become heavily coated in ice. Nothing is recognizable. Little is even visible.
The windshield wipers are your best, and only, friends.
But even they, too, get clogged with snow and need the occasional boost.
This is accomplished by stopping. Getting out of the vehicle. And slapping said wiper against the window hard enough to remove any accumulated snow.
Or, if you are my husband, by opening the driver's window and catching the wiper when it is in its furthest upright position and giving it a quick snap while it is still in motion.
It's all about timing.
And coordination.
Neither of which I have.
And both of which were to be needed shortly.
Several times, I pulled out of the crawling traffic and performed the necessary operation to clear the windshield.
Then waited for a break in the traffic and pulled back in.
Total time wasted? Hours.
Okay, well, it seemed like hours.
There must be a better way.
I would try Grant's method!
It was genius!
When the traffic had stopped for yet another light, or stalled vehicle, I quickly rolled down the window. Then I reached out.
I waited for just the right moment, when the wipers were at their apex (neat word, right?)
Closer. Closer.
I reached out and caught the top of the wiper.
Okay, that didn't sound good.
As the wipers began their downward stroke, I realized what I had done.
The blade was still in my hand.
I had snapped the entire thing off it's arm.
Umm . . . oops?
The window quickly became covered in a blanket of white.
Well, half of it at any rate.
Unfortunately, it was the driver's half.
Rather necessary if you want to see where you are going.
And usually, the driver does.
Something needed to be done.
And there was no one but me to do it.
Quickly, I climbed out and switched my only remaining wiper blade to the driver's side.
Okay. Now I could see.
That's important.
But now, the other side of the windshield was suffering for the lack of wiper-age.
I looked around.
Our options were . . . limited.
“What about this?” My daughter's voice from the back seat.
She was holding up her red mitten.
I stared at it.
Huh. Might work.
I took it and, climbing out into the storm once more, proceed to tie it to the other wiper arm.
We switched on the wipers.
It worked!
Now we had a wiper and a . . . mitten.
I don't have to tell you how it looked.
In point of fact, we giggled every time that mitten came into sight.
But it worked.
We finished our trip.
Shopping done. Purchases made.
Van safely parked back on the driveway.
And Grant replaced the wiper that had so inconveniently decided to come off.
Stupid thing.
The wiper, not Grant.
I learned several things from this:
  1. Don't shop.
  2. Don't drive.
  3. Don't live in Canada
  4. Don't go anywhere without your red mittens.
Okay, you're right. I didn't learn anything because:
  1. I still shop.
  2. I still drive.
  3. I still live in Canada.
Pack your mittens!


  1. Well now we know what to use mittens on. It was an ingenious thing to do . I would have never thought of it.

    1. I wouldn't have either! Thank goodness for children!

  2. I'm going to have to try that in the future. We've had a lot of freezing rain this fall and in no time at all, the windshield is encrusted and so are the wipers. I'll have to try a mitten. One question: Does it have to be a red mitten or can it be another color?

    1. Hmmm . . . important question. I think red mittens just work that much better, but you could experiment! I guarantee the giggles in any colour, though . . .

  3. Part of your emergency preparedness on the road pair red mittens....and chocolate...don't forget the chocolate.

    1. Dang! Forgot the chocolate! How could I have done that???!

  4. Great Post Diane! Found myself "smiling" a few times. The good thing abut Calgary is the Chinooks - at least we get a little bit of respite from the bitter cold! I love the whole "timing" thing to snap the wiper blade (haven't we all done that at some time?). Need to add red mittens to my road side emergency kit!

    Stopping by for our informal Canadian group at BBN:) I will double check that I am following you everywhere possible!

    Take care, Sally

    1. I was raised in Southern Alberta with Chinooks. I loved them. Only in SA can you go from -40 to +20 in the course of about four hours! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hmmm I just posted a comment, but not sure it took?

    Sorry might double post here!

    I think your article is so funny - smiled a few times while reading! Calgary at least has the Chinooks to get respite from the cold! I will be adding red mittens to my road side emergency kit:)

    Just dropping by for our informal Canadian group bloggers at BBN:)

    Take care,

  6. I'm pretty resourceful, but that would never have occurred to me. But, I do have daughters who may have...

    1. My daughters are so much quicker than me . . .

  7. What a delightful story; I am smiling on this one. I do think your solution was rather brillant. I am so impressed that she had her mittens. Thanks for the smiles and blessings to you!

    1. Thanks LeAnn! I thought her solution was particularly clever! So nice when our kids outdo us!

  8. This is so funny, and so familiar! I live on the east coast of Canada, so I know what you're talking about. Sometimes kids have the best ideas because they aren't tied into old ways of thinking. Your daughter was so clever! Thanks for this great story.

    1. Thanks, Jenny! I LOVE the east coast. Members of my family live there and there are definitely times when I wish I did! Kids are so adaptable!

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  10. A veteran of many wiper-snapping moments, I loved the visual of your daughter's red mitten waving across the windshield, over and over...

    Ingenious group, you Canadians. :-)



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