Like It or Not (What I Have Noticed About Fort McMurray)

I am coming up to the two-month mark on my life in Fort McMurray. Sometimes, I think that being new in town, and knowing no one, offers that anonymity that allows one to observe. I am an outsider looking in and noticing some pretty interesting contrasts to my life back home in Calgary. As it turns out, Fort Mac is quite different from what I anticipated. Having been warned of the bugs, drugs, bad service and general roughness of the lifestyle here, I would like to share my view.

The Long Shadows of Fall

          Most people I have met are not from here. This town is much more culturally diverse than I expected. There are citizens who have transplanted themselves from all over Canada and the world in an attempt to make a better life for their families.  It makes for a culturally diverse population, which adds more character and interest to the area in the variety of food offered, as well as the art and clothing available. I have met one person who is from Fort McMurray and is also third generation. She was the guide on my oil sands tour and shared that her ancestors were involved in the fur trade and The Hudson’s Bay Company. How cool is that?

          The population is noticeably youthful. I feel like I am everyone’s Mom around here and I realize I am not far off now that I know that the statistic. Almost 50% of the population is under 31 years of age. I am often the oldest woman in the gym and some of the most interesting conversations I have had are with women half my age.

          At least one past mayor had better things something else to do with his time.  Need I say more?

Mayor for One Year

          The community values creative arts.  The interPLAY visual and performing arts festival in August is one the most anticipated and best attended events of the summer. Featured entertainment is linked to the arts in the form of theatre, street performers, music and visual art. A local high school has a designated fine art program and Keyano College offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts program. The recreation centre at McDonald Islands hosts a community art gallery to promote the visual artists of the region.

          In my experience, the service in Fort McMurray does not suck. Keep in mind that most of the customer service is coming from a younger crowd where, these days, I don’t tend to expect much, so I am pleased and don’t understand the bad rap Fort McMurray has for its service. I can only think of one instance where I received bad service in my time here and it was at Superstore. Every other service-oriented place has been a pleasant surprise. I have also grocery shopped at Safeway and Sobeys, clothes shopped at Reitmans and Drop Dead Darlings, and dined out at Montana’s, The Keg, Earls, Moxie’s, The Podollan Pub and Alexander’s Lounge (exception – on one occasion but it I’ll give them that one since it was extra busy). The perception of good or bad service is relative to previous experience. So, Calgary, here is your challenge is to step it up.

          Your Dollar Store (and So Much More) is not a bargain. Author’s Tip – Save money by walking across the parking lot to Walmart.

          It is hard to get used to the BYO Bag By-law.  This by-law has been in place for 1 year now and many of the locals still believe it doesn’t make much sense. Does it save the environment by making it illegal for a shop owner to give their customer a bag or do folks just go buy their garbage bags now, leaving the environmental issue untouched? The debate continues. I have wound up at the grocery store more than once, bag-less and with many reusable bags at home, I refuse to buy one more. So, awkwardly, I walk home with items stuffed in my purse and stacked precariously in my arms.

Which way should I go?

My car is always filthy.  With the entire town under construction is there any wonder? It is quite simply impossible to get from point A to point B without having to drive through some sort of construction site or detour.  I could wash my car every 3 days and at about $15.00 per wash, my car stays dirty longer than I’d like.

          This is Ford Country. I can’t count the number of Ford F150 trucks I see each day. Dodge is right in there with their Ram 1500. And those would be the smaller trucks. Instead of expensive, luxury cars, owners display their affluence with fancy, chrome tire rims and custom detailing on the trucks, many the deluxe edition. Which leads me to…..

          The parking spaces are HUGE. Unlike a certain city to the south, there is no large car prejudice in the parking lots up here. It is so nice to swing into a spot and not worry about anyone opening their car doors into mine nor mine into theirs.  There are no six point turns to back out of the spots either. Clearly, the planners seem to know the demographics on this one.

          No matter what I eat (or don’t eat), I am not losing weight. Do you think it has something to do with a change in altitude? How about latitude? (See Fort McMurray service does not suck above).

Disclaimer – This post expresses the views of the author only. Others are entitled to their own opinion.

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