Cane culture in Montreal can be daunting

Walk cautiously in the snow! An even better idea: Stay indoors.

by Rosemary Turpin

In the early years of the 20th century, almost every well-appointed gentleman strode around town with a cane.

Our family had an old wardrobe with a cane rack in its door. Nobody in their right mind would carry a cane today unless they really needed it. True, a cane can get you a seat on the bus, and usually does. But otherwise, it is an encumbrance unless it’s used to support walking!

You can’t usually manage an umbrella if you carry a cane unless your other hand is completely free. Usually your dominant hand is managing the cane, unless it is your body’s dominant side that needs the cane.

You could acquire a wardrobe of rain-hats or spring / fall jacket hoods. When getting into a car, a cane is just another object to be stowed.

They are not usually much use in either getting into or out of a car, but sometimes they are. It depends on how high the seats are. SUVs usually have very high seats that involve getting into a car rump first and swinging the feet in afterwards.

That goes vice versa for getting out of the car – feet first, rump to follow! It also depends on how close to the curb the driver has parked. Parking close is easier for SUVs, adding ease from the height of the sidewalk. Leaving some space between the car and the curb is easier for lower cars.

Shopping in large stores with good-sized shopping carts can be a wonderful occasion for much-needed exercise, especially in the winter. You can stow the cane on the front or side of the cart and lean on the cart handle for support!

I find I can walk as quickly as I used to, using the cart as a very stable walker! However, do be careful to reclaim your cane before somebody else charges off with your cart and you have to locate it by chasing after it, or as I had to do once in a VERY large store, ask the person with the mic to announce a lost cane!

Cane picks are another thing. I keep mine attached in the “up” position with an elastic band when not needed, and loose when needed. You find out early that they are of no use on indoor floors and you learn on which varieties of snow, ice and other wetness they are of any use! Engaging and disengaging the picks can be laborious for people with agility problems. Canes can be useful tools at times.

Today I used mine to knock a garland off a high hook in Dollarama. I have used it to clear snow off a bus bench after a light frosting, and have also used the picks to chip snow and ice off benches too if I anticipate a long wait. They can also knock quite large chunks of snow from the sidewalk to the road if you need to cross over a small snowbank.

Those occur frequently at bus stops too! And the STM does not clear them away soon enough for me! How grateful I am for those doors with automatic buttons and also, people who open or hold doors for cane users! I often travel around with a shopping wagon, and trying to get through doors, especially the ones that open toward you, can be awfully difficult.

When you’re at a store counter paying for your purchases, canes can be another bugbear. If your cane handle has a hook on its end, you have it made if it can hook over something.

Otherwise it is always falling off and clattering to the floor. I have done two things for my cane. One is to make the handle grip more comfortable with a piece of Pool Noodle hollowed out slightly to make it fit better, and then add a knob under the end for hanging it.

Once it fits, I use packing tape plentifully to hold it all in place. The other is to wrap the stick with fancy tape to make it more recognizable. Another is to put my name and phone number on very visibly. I hope this has been informative if you are new to using a cane, and if you observe people using canes and wonder what it’s like.

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