I’m standing in a nondescript motel room on Montreal’s South Shore. It’s mid-September, the sun is shining, and outside it’s a balmy 28 degrees. Inside, the air conditioner is set at a comfortable 20. Despite my host’s attempt to moderate the temperature, I’m still sweating buckets. This may have something to do with the fact that I’m wearing a pair of thick gloves, winter boots, a balaclava and a full snowmobile suit.
The scene had been laid out in advance. The gear was going to be left in the backseat of his car, which I would find in the parking lot. I would text him when I arrived, dress quickly, and then come up to his room. He had initially asked me to kick the door in, which I presumed wouldn’t be physically possible and would also be bad for his motel bill. Instead, we agreed he would leave the door slightly ajar, I would kick it open, and then close it behind me.
Since it’s a nice day, I’ve opted to bike. The combination of the weather and the effort has left me sweaty when I arrive. I lock up a few blocks away and proceed to the motel parking lot. It’s not difficult to find his car. He told me the model and colour (a burgundy mid ’90s Corolla). But that information wasn’t necessary. It’s the only car in the lot.
I’ve intentionally parked my bike a ways from the motel because I don’t want to be seen locking it up and then going to fiddle with the doors of a parked car. I text him before I start walking over to alert him that I’m on my way. He responds almost immediately. “Cool.” I’m holding my house keys in my hand, hoping it will suggest to any passersby that the car I’m approaching is in fact mine.
As I come up to the driver’s side, I notice a cardboard box on the passenger side in the back that seems to contain the required gear. I do another quick glance around and there’s still no one, so I gingerly try the door handle on the driver’s side. It’s locked. Now what?
It occurs to me that perhaps he left the door unlocked on the side where the box actually is, so I walk slowly around the car, pretending that I’m looking at it for damage until I get to the passenger side back door.
It’s also locked, as is the front passenger door. At this point I notice some teenagers cutting through the lot, so I flip my phone open and press it to my ear, trying to make it seem like this is definitely my car but I’ve just received a very important call that’s delaying me from getting in. They don’t seem to notice me and just continue on their way. Once they’re gone, I walk back around to the driver’s side rear door. Thankfully it clicks open.
As I get in, the waft of heat hits me. I don’t know how long the car had been parked, but the windows are sealed tight. It’s well over 40 degrees inside.
My next task is to get into the gear that he’s left for me. I can see the balaclava and the gloves sitting on top. The suit is underneath and the boots are on the floor. The heat in the backseat is already overpowering. Should I get out to dress so that I don’t faint? But maybe if I do it fast enough, it’ll be fine.
Fast proves to be a bit of a challenge. Getting into a one-piece snowsuit is already an ordeal. Doing it in the cramped back seat of a Toyota is something else. The suit is an older model, the kind with one of those super thick industrial zippers up the front. Although he’s laid out everything neatly, he hasn’t thought to leave the suit open. I spend a few minutes fumbling with the stuck zipper, but finally manage to get it undone. I debate whether I should strip off my T-shirt and shorts, but decide that will just make things more complicated later.
I doff my shoes and then stretch my legs out across the backseat to manoeuvre my way into the suit. Fortunately, it’s a few sizes too large, which mean it’s easier to get into. Once I’m inside, I grab the boots off the floor and put them on. I don’t bother lacing them up completely; I just do a quick bow then pull the legs of the suit down over them. I’m supposed to be wearing the balaclava, the gloves and the hood when I enter the room but I’m already starting to feel woozy from the heat in the backseat, so I wait until I’m outside his door to finish dressing.
Stepping out into the air is a relief, even though it’s not exactly cool outside. The parking lot is still deserted so I close the car door behind me and make my way to his room. From the outside, I can see that the door is slightly open. I glance quickly around me and, seeing no one, the pull the balaclava over my head, put the hood of the suit up, thrust my hands into the gloves, and then step forward, kicking the door open with my right foot . . .