Nothing is finer than waking up to the sounds of early summer: a whole mess of birds chirping and calling, squirrels shouting at each other, the occasional cat howling, early morning dog walkers greeting each other. The lilt of the breeze through windows that are wide-open as the air-conditioner, which has been installed, is not yet required for a good night’s sleep as will be the case in a few short weeks when Montreal’s humidity sinks in. But there is also a nocturnal racket that is most puzzling, at least the first time it is experienced.
I recall several years ago being awakened at about 2:00 AM by the sound of an idling vehicle outside. As I live at a corner with traffic lights it isn’t all that unusual to hear cars waiting for the light to turn green, even at that time. But this was different; it lasted much longer than a red light. I slowly opened one myopic eye to check for the telltale intermittent blue and red lights flashing across my bedroom ceiling that would indicate an emergency vehicle down below. Nope, no dance-floor strobe light, red, blue or otherwise. Satisfied that there was no emergency, I nodded off to a half-sleep once again.
But before you can say Rip Van Winkle I am once again roused by what sounds like a chain saw. Yep, 2:15 AM and there’s a chain saw screaming away outside my building, with the idling vehicle hum in the background. Wait! Is that the compressor for the Jaws-of-Life I’m hearing? No, it couldn’t be, surly I’d have been thrown from my bed by the sound of an accident the impact of which required that life-saving device. Besides, once again opening said myopic eye, I am reassured by a lack of flashing lights above my bed. Back to sleep with a mental note to canvass neighbours’ trees for fresh pruning marks come morning.
A few moments later the mystery deepens as the chain saw stops, the vehicle continues to idle, and now a rhythmic hissing sound joins the cacophony. SSSSSSS … SSSSSSS … SSSSSS. What in the name of thundering Jesus is that? Is it a huge serpent or snake that has been loosed on the city, an exotic pet lizard that has escaped, or perhaps a group of vandals flattening tires? Should I be concerned?
And then, after a few moments it’s all over and peace once again descends on my little corner of the world. Back into the arms of Morpheus I slip and stay within that grip until the radio comes on in the morning.
It is only at 6:30 the next morning when I emerge from my building for my daily attempt to stave-off, by running, the ravages on my waistline of a few daily cold beers, that it all fits. For there it is, right in front of me: a freshly painted, bright reflective yellow, cross walk – a zebra crossing. The annual repainting of road markings that have been eroded by a winter of rock salt and snowplows always sneaks up on me. They do this under cover of darkness so as not to cause more traffic havoc during the day. Although it all made sense but one aspect: who, in their right mind, would, at 2:00 AM use a leaf blower to clear an area they are going to paint? What’s wrong with a good old broom?