A friend and I were expressing our wonder at the prodigious snowfall and wondering, too, how Toronto would cope. With Mel gone, would Mayor Miller be out sweeping sidewalks with his broom? Nighttime is the best time to go play in city snow while it's fresh and new. The other night I trudged through the unplowed streets to a local slope. There, I saw an incongruous-looking innovation - inflatable ski rafts. I asked a pair of youngsters poised on the edge of the incline to demonstrate the onland capabilities of their giant three-sided beach toy. They said they were waiting for a friend. I would gladly have held down the third corner, but such things just aren't done.
People have sex with strangers all the time, or so I hear. But sharing a roll in the snow is apparently just too intimate.
I did find a few pieces of cardboard, but they were already sodden from use. I pushed off and just stuck there. Finally, my friend very kindly offered me a downhill ride on top of his shiny skidoo suit, which was a whizzing success. Of course, he was inside the suit, which made for a very cushy trip. Naturally, I was all for going again and again, but my human toboggan expressed some back concerns.
Suddenly, my friend remembered a friend of his with a toboggan. And she lives right across the street! "Let's go get it!" I declared childishly. But, no, I was informed. That would not be possible. "Why not?" "Because, Sheila," and then he broke it to me, "we don't live in a 'drop-in society. '" We would have to call first, make arrangements.
"But we don't want them to come with us, just the toboggan." He repeated the drop-in society line. I asked where he'd read that. He said it was an observation made by someone who came to Canada from a drop-in society in some casual country where there's probably no tobogganing but nobody would care if you dropped by and asked for one anyway. Just my luck! A wet-blanket culture impeding my innocent downward slide.
So we don't drop in. Could we at least learn to hang out in public? And I don't mean calendar-planned events.
On cold nights in downtown Mexico City, if one is brave enough to venture out, one can find sellers of hot tamales and rice drink. People gather to get warm in the seedy mariachi square around a barrel of steaming punch with fruit and stuff floating in it and a spike available from an unmarked bottle.
What's holding us back? Licensing? Health regulations? Imagine frozen, sour faces melting over a cup of community cocoa. Oh, as if! I can just see the reaction of pinched Torontonians to a toddy merchant. Leery and suspicious . The cops would receive so many calls that a heavily armed task force would arrive to surround the terrorist threat. Or - maybe - chai carts would catch on at all-night rinks and after-bars.
Bring back hot chestnuts. If the rules and fees that became skewed toward hot dog vendors are too prohibitive, they should be changed. Somebody could even load up a brazier-equipped bike with some of that burnt corn they sell on the street in Indiatown and peddle it around. A barbecue in a shopping cart would be a rig. I'm not an entrepreneur. Strictly ideas. Go ahead. Use them and feed me a cheese-stuffed pepper on the house - well, outside the house.
How about public bonfires? Enough wood and cardboard is piled as waste on Spadina every night to fuel a winter-long pagan festival.
I'm sure there are micro drop-in societies in the GTA, like the artists' condos. Somalians sharing couches in Scarborough? There's Hippy's room. Just throw a stone up at the window and someone lets you into a tiny space packed with bong-smoking dreadheads getting out of doing their homework. Maybe I could induce a few of them to come outside and build an ice hotel in the park. Drop in any time before spring.