Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And it only took 8 years...

Ottawa residents have some particular quirks that I've been observing since moving here in 2000. For one, just about everybody and their dog carries a backpack. I used to marvel at this and wonder what they could find to stow inside besides a lunch and the odd book. I would routinely see people getting onboard the bus, loaded down as though they were about to set up base camp at the foot of Everest. Were they running away from home, I found myself wondering? Were they moving but couldn't afford to rent a van, and therefore had to transport all their worldly possessions, one backpackful at a time...?

Students, I completely got... With all the books, change of clothes your folks wouldn't let you wear out of the house, life support system (makeup, gel, hair dryer, the list is endless...), I could understand their being loaded down like pack mules. I weathered a couple of Ottawa winters before deciding I could use a packpack to carry a couple of 'severe weather' items, just in case the weather should turn between the time I got to work and the time I left for home. You know... heavier gloves, scarf, balaclava... For a while, I actually lugged a pair of 'office shoes' along with me, so I could doff my winter boots when I got to work. Then the light came on and I simply left a pair of shoes at my work desk.

Another quirk (or fashion statement) which seems nigh-on traditional that I've noticed about Ottawans, was their predilection for wearing these sherpa-type winter hats. Okay, I'll be honest with you and admit that my initial reaction to this type of headwear was less than receptive. Frankly, I thought they looked gay... There are a number of 'traditions' that I can readily get onboard with, when it comes to living in Ottawa. Sherpa hats was never one of them. Skating on the Rideau Canal in the wintertime? Sure. Gorging onesself on beaver tails and hot chocolate to ward off the chill? Absolutely. Taking in the beauty of the Tulip Festival? Why not... Taking one of Paul's Boat Tours on the Canal in mid-summer? Loved it... But for some reason, I could never see myself wearing one of those sherpa caps.

This morning I made my way into work, through our first 'official' snowfall for the city. I was dressed warmly enough, but this ballcap from good ol' Cape Breton did nothing to keep the wind off the back of my neck. As I strode through the Rideau Centre, passing through the ground floor level, I noticed that right outside the Tim Horton's they had set up a 'Wild Winter' sales booth. These folks specialize in hats, gloves, mitts, scarves, etc... They also carry those infernal sherpa hats. I stopped to examine some of them and noted how far down they came in the neck area and how well lined they were. Hmmm... If anything would keep you warm in an Ottawa winter, these probably would. Well to make a long story short, after resisting the urge for eight years, I finally broke down and bought one.

In my defense, I tried to pick the least offensive of all of them colour-wise, and don't believe I made out too badly. And hey, it's hand-woven in Nepal, so how gay can it really be? I'll perhaps try it out on the bus ride home this evening. So I guess it's official, I'm just another one of the regular schmoes that out-of-towners will point at and say: "Hey, Doofus...nice hat! Bwahahahaha!!!". Then again, I don't give a rat's ass. Winter time in these parts is so-oooo not about looking stylish. It's all about being warm and cozy as you go out and brave the elements. Well, at least it is in my book... :)

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