This morning when I got to my car, I found it had been trapped in several feet of hard snow boulders by the city plow. Not exactly an unusual sight, and with a resigned sigh, I got to work shovelling it out.
But I had to get to work quickly, having many things to do today. Also, there was a lot of snow around the car, and my shovel was crap. So for the first time in several winters, I was almost decided to leave the car where it was and cab it to work.
And that’s when it happened. Three fifty-something Frenchmen came out of the restaurant on the other side of the street and caught sight of me with my crappy little plastic shovel, slowly working away at the mountain of ice.
“What are you doing?” one asked in a Marseilles accent. “You’ll never get out of there!”
I shot them the meanest possible look I could muster. On a morning where I need a shovel to go to work, that can get quite evil. I’m sure local TV sets registered a bit of static right at that moment.
I got back into the car and tried again to get out. No dice. I grimly resumed shovelling.
Another Marseilles man joined them from the restaurant. “Look at the crazy woman”, they said to him. “It’s hilarious. She thinks she’s going to get out of there!”
Now, you understand the taxi was no longer an option. This was a matter of national pride. There was more winter-busting fight in this Canadian chick than in all those fat, sun-kissed idiots combined. Did these golden Riviera-dwellers really think they knew more about winter than me? Oh no, the gloves were off. (And, as I became increasingly warmed up by the workout, the scarf and hat too).
I went through several cycles of shovelling then spinning the wheels, and the Frenchmen, whose numbers had now grown to around seven, went through several cycles of taunting and chuckling. With each cycle, I knew I inched closer to freedom, and they thought I inched closer to defeat.
When I was done shovelling, two Québécois guys walked by, witnessed the situation and immediately got to pushing, without even asking. I breezed out of the now-cleared snow. I was soaked in sweat, about 40 minutes late, completely dishevelled but God damn it, my country’s honor was safe.