Saturday, December 7, 2013

Surviving Alberta

 Posted by Scot

2013-12-06 15.42.38
Red Deer in the deep freeze.

As I walk out of the hotel, the cold blasts me in the face like a wall, trying to push me back indoors.  Instantly I start to cough, as the water vapour in my nose and airways freezes, irritating my lungs.  The rental car takes a while to turn over, but when it does, the thermometer confirms how bitter it is.  -31 degrees Celsius.  The radio weatherman makes it out even worse, saying it is -37, but feels like -49 with the windchill!  This is serious cold.  The kind of cold that makes people leave their cars running in the parking lot when they go into the mall for a couple of hours.  The kind of cold that can be deadly, if your car happens to break down or run out of gas on a lonely road.  Knowing I have an hour and a half drive back to Calgary with no really warm clothing or emergency equipment makes me a bit nervous.

2013-12-07 08.17.23
OK, I know this picture shows that the car was in drive, but I was going really slowly.  Really.

The relatively warm temperatures that greeted me when I landed in Calgary a week ago didn't last long.  They were soon replaced with central Alberta's first blizzard of the year.  More than 30 cm of snow fell over two days, and the winds were up to 80 km/h.  Schools were closed, and people were warned to stay home if they didn't have to go out.  There were  more than 200 car accidents in Calgary in the space of 48 hours.  I was surprised that Alberta wasn't that prepared to deal with this weather.  Even 5 days later, the parking lot surrounding my hotel has not been cleared of snow.  It is now a rutted, icy mess, making it an adventure to get in and out.  Fortunately, the drive to the hospital is only 5 minutes.  My rental RAV 4 starts every time, and motors through the snow without much trouble.

Driving back to Calgary, I stop at Tim Horton's on the way out of town, grabbing my last Timmy's coffee and bagel for a while.  En route, I listen to CBC Radio 2, enjoying the unapologetic schmaltz of Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe, which gets me every time.  It is his Christmas show, and is predictably sappy, but the Christmas stories and Christmas carols are perfect for the wintry roads.  I revel in the Canadiana of it all - it will be a while before I see any of this again.  Christmas in the Caribbean will be as big a contrast as I can imagine.
2013-12-07 09.05.50
Canadiana on the highway.

I have been Skyping with Sara and the kids every day - sometimes twice per day.  I make Sara show me around the boat, inside and out, to remind me of what it all looks like.  Given my current surroundings, it doesn't seem real.  I can't shake the feeling that our whole trip up to this point has been something I imagined, or dreamed.  I doesn't seem possible that I'll be in Miami tonight, and back on the boat by lunch time tomorrow.  
It has been good to get back to work for a bit, not only to top up our bank account, but also to stretch my mental muscles, and make sure I remember how to "ICU".  Other than the usual awkwardness that always accompanies the first few days of an ICU week, as I get to know the patients, things have gone well.  I feel like I am pretty much up to speed.  It's good to know my knowledge and skills have some staying power.  It has been 3 months since my last ICU week.  This is the longest I have gone without stepping in an ICU for almost 15 years.

2013-12-07 09.09.46
Goodbye for now, Alberta.  See you again in the spring (when you are warmer!)

I can't wait to get back to the boat.  I surprise myself by thinking of it as home, now.  I can't wait to get back home.

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