The continuous line of traffic stretches from Toronto to Thunder Bay. Horns sound impatiently and people open car doors to crane their necks, trying to see what is coming between them and playing an arcane card game in a musty cabin in the middle of nowhere. That to be followed by a dip in water so cold local townships simply throw drowned persons back in the water to revive them, saving thousands on uneccesary defribilators.
Despite entering into an entirely new millennium, one that has ushered with it modern comforts such as airplanes to take you somewhere the water isn’t a lethal temperature, Canadians remain stubbornly fixated on spending as much time as possible in a torture chamber they mysteriously refer to as: The Cottage.
“Oh yeah it sure is the best,” says one man as he arrives at a remote shack in the dark on a Friday night after seven hours with six people in a five seater car. “I leave work early and dehydrate the kiddos just so we can make good time getting up here to the quaint little town of Mosquito Armageddon Leave While You Can You Complete Idiots. But mind you, we just call it Moss Arm for short.” He then makes a great show of drawing a long, deep breath that is equal parts fresh air and blood-sucking insects.
Nearby a family who has been coming north every summer for 27 years is busy dealing up the first hand of a card game that requires a board your grandfather whittled from your great-grandfather’s shoulder blade. And that isn’t the strangest rule.
“Ok, there’re your cards. Now give me two back.” The mother says, sharply assessing a visiting reporter for any sign of weakness, and threatening “peg for ya.”
In the next room, in front of a TV so old the CBC logo is permanently burnt into its cathode ray picture, the children gather to check each other for signs of frostbite. Luckily the sun came out midway through this afternoon’s swim, so the tally of necessary amputations stands at just two thumbs and a toe from each of the older kids, and a hand from the baby. “We’ll still have enough fingers to go tubing tomorrow!” they shout joyously, in their strange Canadian dialect.
A chant breaks out. “Cawtage! Cawtage! We love the cawtage!” Their shouts echo out over the kilometres separating us from the next group of self-flagellating vacationers. In the land of highways and hypothermia, summer is in full swing.