April 06, 2010

Northern getaway

"Where I come from, this would never happen."

She was loud. She was gesturing. I wanted to smack her.

The Easter weekend shoppers unfortunate enough to be ahead of her in the lineup - which stretched beyond the checkout counter, past the Chex boxes in the cereal aisle, and beneath her wagging finger - wore sympathetic half-smiles and looked down at the tiled floor in an exhibition of the kind of "be the bigger person" tolerance that keeps people like me from telling a stranger to shut the eff up.

This loud, gesturing, finger-wagging young woman was saying, to anyone within earshot, that she'd only been in Inuvik a week and already she couldn't wait to leave. I mean, come on. There's only one grocery store open on Good Friday and I have to wait? I've been standing here for, like, two minutes already. This shit is not OK.

An older lady in front of her turned around as they inched closer to the cashier, who was keeping up a no doubt self-preservatory appearance of oblivion, and softly tried to explain, probably not wanting a brand new resident to base her opinions of the town on some less than speedy service at the Northern store.

"They've been really understaffed here lately," she said with another well-meaning half-smile. "And it is a holiday."

But the other woman was shaking her head, plunking her pile of loosely held groceries on the floor in front of her, crossing her arms. Excuses, excuses. This is just a symptom of the general laissez-faire philosophy around these parts.

"No one cares," she sneers. "It's like in South America, except with the opposite climate. Here, it's slow and cold. It's so weird!" she guffaws, as if trying to fill an obnoxiousness quota.

She didn't mention where she was from, that magical place where nobody ever has to wait in line and where everything is done right right when you want it, but she did make clear that she fully intended to go back there very soon. A heads up to start planning a going away party, I guess.

"I'm only staying long enough to collect my Northern residents' deduction," she said, presumably to the lady in front of her, who by now had turned her back. "And then I'm gonna take the government's money and run."

Though I've never heard it put so callously, I know that "take the money and run" attitude is almost inescapable in "southern adventurer" working circles. I've lived here less than a year and I've seen it happen over and over and over again. Even though I'm still a Northern newbie, Ms. Finger Wag's comments hurt my feelings.

This place is becoming more a part of me than I realized it would.

1 comment: