Earlier this summer my cousin Douglas got in touch with me about escaping the disaster of Ontario (thanks Premier Wynne for wrecking my home province, by the way) and pursuing a fresh start here in Fort McMurray. I was keen to help him out, knowing that despite all the lofty rhetoric out there, it can be a bit of a challenge to get settled in here and get working if you just come out cold turkey. Yes, I've heard the stories too about guys getting off the plane and landing a job within hours of their arrival but for someone starting out here there can be a few challenges (finding an affordable place to rest your head being just one of them) so I was more than willing to lend a hand.
After a few weeks of making plans, my cousin arrived here earlier this evening. I originally planned to be off this weekend but since I was needed (and being a long weekend during which I'd make a lot of double time) it was hard to turn down the extra hours. I was a little leery as there is a taxi strike of sorts going on at the moment and the airport is a few kilometres outside of the city. Fortunately, my very awesome tenant of mine offered to take me out to meet Doug at the airport.
Now the airport is undergoing expansion and it had been at least a couple years since I had been out there but fears that I would get out there and not know where the hell I was going proved unfounded. To me, airports are huge and confusing but as Douglas had flown out of Pearson this afternoon he told me he found our airport rather small and easy to manage. Anyhow, my tenant dropped me off to go get him while he found a place to park. Luckily Doug was waiting outside so I didn't even have to go in. Now, my tenant drives a black pickup and he's been in my house for over a year so you would think I would know his truck by now. Apparently not, though. I took Doug's suitcase for him, scanned the curb side for our ride, saw a black truck and opened the door. I was in the process of putting Doug's suitcase in the backseat when a young dark-haired girl approached looking a bit confused. It was then that I heard a voice from inside the truck say "Wrong truck, bud," and realized my error. Apologizing, I retrieved the suitcase and then saw my tenant's truck parked on the other side of the lane.
As we crossed over I saw my tenant putting someone's bag in the back of his truck. Now, I know I had worked a long day but I was beginning to think I was losing my mind. How many black trucks could I mis-identify as our ride here? As it turned out I got it right this time. As my tenant was waiting for us, some random guy who had just got off the plane as well had asked him if he could get a ride with us into town. As I mentioned earlier, there is a taxi strike on the go here and this poor fellow was stuck. Luckily for him, he lived in the same part of the city as me so my tenant agreed to help him out.
I gave Douglas as much of a mini-tour of the city on the drive in as one can in the pitch dark and then had my tenant drop Doug and I off at Walmart (yeah, I know, Walmart) so I could pick up some bedding for Doug since I hadn't had the chance because of work. My tenant then left with his extra passenger to drop him off before coming back to pick us up. When I left the house earlier in the evening I joked to my tenant that I didn't know how busy the store would be. I wasn't sure how many people would shop here at Walmart on a Sunday evening but I guess I'd eventually find out.
I can answer that question now.....a lot. The line was long but it did move rather quickly. Poor Doug, I joked, just off the plane and the first thing he's doing in Fort McMurray is standing in a Walmart line up. I know there are lots of stereotypes out there about this city but I've lived here long enough now to take it all in stride. I did have to chuckle to myself just a little.
Having successfully navigated Walmart we waited outside for my tenant. Again, I approached yet another black truck that I mistook for that of my tenant. I was getting my Fords and my Dodge's seriously mixed up tonight as Douglas told me. So off we head for home, finally. By now, close to an hour had passed and I knew Doug would be looking forward to a meal and a chance to catch up on the jet lag.
Only one last bit of quirkiness remained for the evening. As we were stopped at the first set of lights at the top of Thickwood I noticed a small car pull up beside us. My tenant rolled down his window as we waited for a green light and I assumed it was just someone he knew from work that we had randomly bumped in to. But no, by some act of complete weirdness, it was the random guy we had picked up at the airport earlier.
Turns out he had left some bottles of water and a cooler of food in the bed of the truck and had been driving around on a rescue mission. By some miracle, our paths had intercepted again. It was at this point I told Doug that I really didn't think picking him up at the airport and driving him back to my house would be chocked full of strange drama. So we pulled over so the random airport guy could get his stuff back and FINALLY reached the house safe and sound if a little bewildered by the events of the drive....or at least I know I was bewildered.
So no worries, Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Brian, Doug is all settled in now and got a little taste of some of the quirkiness here along the way.