Friday, July 1, 2016

Saskatchewanderer

Paradoxically, there is something about a high-visibility vest that makes a person invisible. I think it lends an air of authority to whatever it is you're doing, so people's minds just slide off of you - I do not need any identification. I can go about my business. Works like a charm.

The only folks the visi-vest mind trick doesn't seem to work on are rural Saskatchewanites (Saskatchewaners? Saskatchewinigans?). Probably on account they don't see other humans all that often. And I can tell you they sure as hell don't see people out just walking around on the prairie. Like, with their feet. A person out walking around with their feet has an irresistible gravitational pull to Saskatchewanites - it's alarming to them, yet compelling. They don't know whether I've broke my quad or lost my horse. They want to help me. And then they want to have a nice long chat with me about what the heck I'm doing, plus the weather.

This urge to make contact with New Humans and learn all about Their Strange Ways is sometimes difficult for an introverted and socially awkward person like myself to deal with, but I do my best to be grateful. After all, this same friendly/curious/helpful disposition that magically magnets Saskatchewanites to someone just trying to have an honest pee in the grass also causes them to offer you a ride on their tractor or a tow out of a ditch without a moment's hesitation. Based on my experiences, I'm pretty sure there isn't a viable tow truck business in the province.

I'm actually not sure how there could be any viable businesses, period, because a by-product of the friendly/curious/helpful suite of traits seems to be a degree of trust in strangers that verges on the unhealthy. At gas stations, it means you will be laughed at if you try to "Pre-Pay ONLY" like the signage directs (one attendant was particularly delighted by the notion - "Hahaha, no one does that! How would that even work? No, you fill up first and then you pay. Hahaha!" She's probably still telling her friends about it.). In motel owners, this manifests as a general unwillingness to take my money - I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get people to let me pay for my rooms, and sometimes to even find someone to pay. I had the politest argument ever with an elderly motel owner just this week, trying to get him to let me pay for my room in advance of checking out. He was clearly offended: "That's not how we do things in the country, young lady." Like I'd asked him to tweak my nipples instead of swipe my Mastercard.

"Please let me pay now. I leave for work early in the morning."
"Well, I get up early too."
"Really. I have insomnia. I usually leave before the sun comes up."

That finally worked, but if it hadn't been so near the summer solstice I still don't think I would have convinced him. I set my alarm for 3:30am and snuck out in the dark so he couldn't feel vindicated in the morning if I accidentally slept in to a reasonable payment hour.

Back to the visi-vest mind trick: if it somehow has a reverse-psychological effect on Saskatchewanites, how does someone who has to wear one to work ever get any work done? I've developed a few techniques:

- Army crawl from your vehicle until you are sufficient distance away so as not to be visible from the road (not always possible - there are some flat parts).
- Steal out of town under cover of night.
- Really load up your schedule on Sundays when no one else is working (just one of the many perks of atheism!).
- If you see a branding, wedding, funeral, auction or nut-cut happening know that you can safely survey all surrounding lands within a 20-mile radius without fear of encountering anyone.
- For the love of Pete, do NOT mention that you or anyone you know was born in Saskatchewan, or you will have to play The Saskatchewan Game until you have established a kinship bond and gotten yourself at least invited for supper, and possibly also invited to marry some chronically single relative.
- As a last resort, if you just can't shake someone, plant ramble. People will literally back. away. slowly. from me if I go Full Ramble. Don't know anything about plants? Just pick a topic, man - even rural Saskatchewanites can be out-crazied, and the revelation frightens them.

Once you cross that border back into Alberta, though, you can forget all my handy hints - your visi-vest will be enough to spare you any human interactions whatsoever. You can walk around with your feet with utter impunity, but you'd best pick up an AMA membership just in case something ever actually does happen to your truck - based on my experiences, I'm pretty sure there are plenty of viable tow truck businesses in Alberta.

When I cross that border it is with a small twinge of sadness for all the friendly/curious/helpful oddballs I'm leaving behind. So long, Saskatchewan, and thanks for all the tows.