Thursday, January 11, 2007

Leslie Nielson is Coming to Tulita!

Leslie Nielson is coming to Tulita!

What more needs to be said?

(Okay, he used to live here when he was a kid and his father was in the RCMP)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ice Caps

I will admit that at many times I have been an ignorant country bumpkin when it comes to matters of food and culture. I’m still not sure which fork I should use first when I’m given the choice of more than one. But there are times when I am reminded just how far away from civilization I really am up here.

We have, at the entrance to our store, a counter that offers coffee, cappuccino, and kool-aid slushies. Of course it isn’t real cappuccino. It’s the same stuff you get at Tim Hortons: a form of glorified hot chocolate that is 98% sugar and 2% water. The slushies are even worse. They are so sweet that the kids in town complain if we don’t water down the mix.

Just before Christmas, the company sent us iced cappuccino mix. Once again, coffee flavored sugar, only this one was designed to go in our slushie machine. Now here is a tip for all you future entrepreneurs reading this blog. There is no worse time to launch an iced drink product than when the temperature is 20 below. Sales were sluggish to say the least.

One night, just before close, a woman approached me while I was working at the till.

“How much are your ice caps?”

I told her the price and she paid for a large. Five minutes later she came back to the till with two large paper coffee cups in hand.

“I wanted to get one for my husband too. I’ll pay for another.”

“Are we out of slushie cups?” I asked. Most people get slushies in clear plastic cups. The woman looked confused.

“No, I just want to pay for another large.”

I smiled politely and reached for her paper cup. It was warm.

“Those are cappuccinos,” I said. “They’re cheaper.”

“Yes, Ice cappuccinos. That’s another large.”

“No, what I mean is… ice caps are cold. Ice. They come from that machine over there. These are hot cappuccinos.”

I was trying to be polite as possible. Ice caps cost twice as much as regular cappuccinos, and she had already paid for one. But the woman was loosing her patience.

“Oh whatever!” She snapped. “Just ring it in.”

So I bit my tongue and rang in her drink.

The next day she came in again with some other people. I was on till again. I watched as she dispensed two “hot” cappuccinos from the machine. She came to the till. I smiled and said hello. She smiled back.

“Two hot ice caps please.”

“Anything else with that?”

“No, that’s everything.”

I wish I could say I took this one, but it was taken by Nicole through our living room window. Those are trucks driving southward along the winter road on the Mackenzie.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Do Bears....?

This story took place in July, although I’m only now getting around to writing about it. It was when Nicole was home in St. John’s, and I was living the messy life of a bachelor. I left work for lunch that day, and as I went out the loading doors at the back of the store, I noticed some tracks in the mud. Tracks I hadn't noticed when I had been out these doors earlier in the morning.

They were huge, and I instantly assumed they were bear tracks. I studied them more closely, trying to make sure they weren’t wolf tracks. Certain prints almost looked like the paw pads of a large dog, but there were too many toes. Some of the prints were a different shape, suggesting front and hind tracks. I made a note to myself to show these to the boss when I got back to work.

I don’t remember what I ate for lunch that day, but I definitely put Mackey out on her leash, as I always do when I’m home for lunch. After about a half hour, I brought the dog in and headed down my front steps and back towards work.

There have been a few select times in my life when, upon seeing something for the first time, I have instantly known what it was. The first time I saw a Picasso painting in Montreal, for instance. I had never seen that particular painting, but I knew from the style that it had to be Picasso.

What I saw that day was, in a word, breathtaking. I was filled with curiosity, amazement, and, in the more primal reaches of my brain, a sense of fear. It was a pile of S#!^ unlike any I had ever seen before. And as soon as I saw it, my brain told me in no uncertain terms, “That could only have come from a bear.”

The logic of this thought followed behind it, like the passenger cars of a train slamming into the derailed engine. You’ve just seen bear tracks over there. It's too big to have come from anywhere else. It's not from a moose. It's not from a wolf.

As I stood there, lost in all these thoughts and emotions, a possibly more profound thought came over me. “How did I miss this on the way home for lunch?” The pile was so huge, it had stopped me dead in my tracks. It was nearly as wide as the two tire ruts from our company’s half-ton. For that question, I had no immediate answer.

I went in the store and found my boss, who was putting something the shelf at the time.

“Do you know what bear s#!^ looks like?”

He grinned in a knowing sort of way (dare I say a s#!^-eating grin?) and confirmed that he did know of the subject. I took him outside to show him the tracks and the pile of feces between the houses. He confirmed what I already knew. He was so impressed that he got his wife and brought her outside to see the tracks as well. I don’t think he showed her the poop.

For the next few days, I was still at a loss to explain how I had passed “the pile” on my way home for lunch. Every time I passed it (I left it there for a few days until Macky tried to eat the remnants of the bear's undigested lunch), I knew it was too big to have been missed on my way home. My answer came one night as I was getting ready to go home. I was in the staff room talking to Darren, our produce guy. He works days for the town and evenings at our store. Occasionally he also works night in the drunk tank. He’s also the only justice of the peace in town. In other words, the man never stops.

“Did you hear about the bear that was in town the other day?” he asked me.

“No, but I think I saw its tracks.”

“Yeah, Ron (the RCMP officer) called me from work to help him chase it out of town.”

“Where was it?”

“Right here by the store. We chased it down by the river. Didn’t have to shoot it thought.”

“What time was this?”

“Right around lunchtime”