Reporting from the Western Front

Hello again faithful visitors and newcomers to the YMMPodcast! It’s another segment from the YMMPodcast field reporter Arnie Pye (jkpynch). In this blog I will be bringing a story from my most recent travels around the province of Alberta with the views and conceptions of Fort McMurray from the everyday people of Alberta and other provinces in getting to see if the incorrect stereotyping of Fort McMurray is still occurring, to what extent, and if any of the the myths have been dispelled about the bustling town that more and more are calling home.

The perfect anecdote came from an experience I had in Edmonton only a few days ago; I had some time in between flights and decided to get a haircut. The woman cutting my hair I estimated from the ‘hair-dresser/client’ conversation we had was in her very early 20’s and is married to a gentleman who is finishing his trade in Mechanical Technology from The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton. She went on to tell me he is graduating in June and they are hoping to stay in Edmonton or move back to Red Deer, where they are from. He has already been offered a position at an unspecified oil camp location which he would be on a rotational basis, 21-on 7-off, which he has turned down.

As a gauge for her reaction, I mentioned that Fort McMurray was an option to look for employment not only for him but for herself as well; I was met immediately with disinterest.

(Actual conversation, not fabricated)
“Why not Fort McMurray?”.
“Oh, you know, it’s Fort McMurray”
“Could you elaborate?”
“I’ve heard there’s nothing to do and it’s just oil workers.”
“Have you been?”

At this point I felt it was my obligation not to judge this young lady on her misconceptions, but to educate her on what Fort McMurray has to offer a young couple; I immediately told her all about WinterPlay. The festival in YMM that, this year, is running from Feb 14-Mar 4, the events that are happening, and (from Ep. 31) Chicago at Keyano Theatre, all of which are in full swing. I went on to explain that this is not only a once a year event, interPLAY in the summer, the yearly programming at Keyano Theatre, the recreational facilities at MacDonald Island Park & Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre, Suncor Energy Centre for the Preforming Arts where a large portion of WinterPLAY events are happening, the Down with Webster concert, the KISS concert which was the only location in Alberta you could see KISS (which was the best birthday present ever, thank you Christine).

The very nice young lady was, in what appeared to be, a state of shock and/or confusion. This was not the conversation that she had anticipated she was getting herself into; some guy sits down in her styling chair, expecting to carry on the usual ‘salon small talk’. Yet here he sits, suggesting that the city which she perceived to be another northern town with nothing to do but “Hookers and Blow” (EP.27) may be a city in which to jump start not only her husband’s career but her own, a place to progress their family, raise their kids, and call home. After our conversation and I paid for my cut/wash I took one of the salon cards and wrote on it and told her to “Look beyond the guy who swears at every opportunity, his friend who followed him blindly into this ordeal, and the occasional drunken guest (myself)” because I believe that the best part of YMMPodcast are the guests that take the time to come on the show and who care about YMM and dispelling the myths about the city.

I doubt that I had a lasting impact on this young lady. I hope her and her husband find a nice place in any part of this country they can work and live their lives to the fullest, there certainly are many place in which to do so. All I can hope is that they don’t discount Fort McMurray as a place where they can fulfill their aspirations.

– AP

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