Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fear and loathing at Wiarton Foodland

I used to work with a guy at the Sandvik plant in Guelph, back when Sandvik had a plant in Guelph. The pre-NAFTA era. He hailed from a small town in the foothills of Alberta, right in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

I'd lived in Alberta for a spell, and I loved the mountains and I loved knowing those snow-capped peaks were on the western horizon even on the hottest days of summer. I couldn't imagine anyone turning their back on that geography if they didn't have to.

One day I asked Buddy if he ever misses the mountains.

No. They're just background. Don't ever give them a thought.

That's the sort of attitude the folks in Wiarton had when they built a concrete block supermarket on the shore of Colpoy Bay. Facing away from the bay, of course. The God-given geographical bounty was not just taken for granted; it was willfully ignored.

Wiarton was at one time, before the arrival of the sea lamprey, one of the top commercial fishing hubs in North America. Her population was more one hundred years ago than it is today.

Today it's a struggling small town that owes most of its existence to the fact that it's the last place to shop for all the seasonal folks who have summer homes on the Bruce Peninsula.

They pop into Wiarton Foodland to stock up and pop into the liquor store across the street to stock up before heading on up to the cottage.

Absent the tourists, the lion's share of commerce comes courtesy of locals from Georgian Bluffs, the town itself, and the native population at the reservation twenty minutes up the road.

As small town grocers go, Wiarton Foodland is exceptional. It's got a decent in-store bakery. It's got a selection of cheeses and sandwich meats that would do a big city grocer proud. Overall, it's a happy place to shop.

Or it was, until the Farm Manager began to monopolize my Saturday morning trips to Wiarton.

It started out innocently enough. I'd be heading into town on a Saturday morning to pick up my Saturday Globe and Mail and she'd be "oh I just want to pick up a couple of things at Foodland."

The thin edge of the wedge...

You give in to that, and pretty soon that Saturday morning trip isn't about your Globe and Mail; it's about her trip to Foodland.

It eventually leads to the disaster I experienced today.

We've been well and properly snowed in around here lately. It's been one blizzard after another. You barely get shoveled out from one before the next one hits.

I'd plugged the old Ford diesel tractor in bright and early this morning, with a view to getting the drive cleared before noon, so I could fetch my Saturday Globe.

Per expectations, the Farm manager was hot for the trip so she could "pick up a few things."

Fine! I'm good with that. After all, I can sit in the Foodland parking lot and read my Globe and Mail while she shops...

Get the drive cleared, get to Wiarton... and there's NO GLOBE!!!

The roads between here and Toronto were closed all night on account of the blizzard...

I'm trapped in the Foodland parking lot, with no Globe and Mail to distract me, while the Farm Manager is "picking up a few things."

I sit. I sit some more. I sit watching. Pondering...

Cars come and go. Toyota RAVs seem to be popular. A guy in grimy orange work coveralls steps out of a new Land Rover. Somebody else waiting for someone picking up a few things is playing rap too loud on their stereo.

Every vehicle has their license plates obscured by snow. There's actually a law about that. Around here everybody goes weeks at a time in winter with the plates buried. Never heard of anyone getting a ticket.

I watch as one vehicle after another pulls in and pulls out. Their occupants enter Foodland fifteen minutes after the Farm Manager and come out fifteen minutes before. It happens again and again and again.

I am oh-so-tempted to wander in and help things along.

Luckily I have the maturity to realize that's a really bad idea.

Murder in the frozen food aisle.

I stay put. I count the cars and vans and 4X4s  coming and going. I sit. I watch...

I doze off.

I awake to the Farm Manager pounding on the back of the car, signalling me to pop open the trunk.

She comes round to the window.

"You'll never guess what the cashier told me!..."

She's right. I'd never guess. Not only that, but I don't care. I'm just glad she got out of Foodland alive.

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