Wilderness survival courses teach people how to maximize the safety and enjoyment of their camping trips.
I think teaching bush people how to survive in Whitehorse might also be needed.
Of course, we manage to live through the dreaded town trips, scurrying from one appointment and store to the next like agitated pygmy shrews until, finally, our vehicle’s load capacity is reached and — sweat stained and with popping eyes — we can bolt back out onto the highway.
But shouldn‘t it be possible to glean a few nuggets of enjoyment from it somehow and make coming into town a less scary proposition?
I gave it a try on my last Whitehorse trip — hopefully the last trip out for the next six months. Spending a few days in the lap of luxury, at my friends Dick and Reenie‘s place in Riverdale seemed like a good way to inject some fun and relaxation into this excursion.
Their house, about five times the size of our cabin, features such creature comforts as running water, carpets, a washing machine and many different rooms.
Each room had a clock in it, even the bathroom — although there it was incorporated into the thermostat.
The plethora of door locks, electrical outlets and switches left me slightly befuddled, particularly when I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the kitchen light.
Then again, we always have to show our visitors in the bush how the kerosene lamps work. When I sheepishly asked Dick where the light switch was, it turned out to be a round knob with numbers on it that I had been eyeing for a while, but falsely concluded that it must have something to do with the thermostat.
The numbers on it, I learned, were there because the switch had a timer, and you had to push the knob.
Getting a kick out of my country bumpkinish astonishment at the marvels of modern civilization, Reenie and Dick really set to work on me when we made a fruit salad. A simple affair of cutting up some fruit with a knife, or so I thought.
Far from it.
Gleefully pulling a weird aperture much like a giant thumbscrew from the Middle Ages out of the cupboard, Dick proceeded to insert a pineapple into it and by pushing on the top handle severed and removed the tasty core. Shaking my head, I started peeling an orange, assuming that this was a strictly manual task, when Reenie dove back into the cupboard and yelled, “wait, wait! You can use the grapefruit peeler!”
“The grapefruit peeler”, I repeated numbly as she brought me a flimsy contraption consisting of three plastic parts.
The orange was halved and then set on top of a conical plastic rib cage with a serrated metal blade inside – believe me, you don’t want to know the details.
It turned out that the orange was too small anyway to be peeled and sectioned like this.
The by then half mashed fruit was re-assigned to me, to be processed the old-fashioned way.
I’m pleased to report that at dinner, the cutlery was non-motorized and without any pull-out features so that I did not embarrass myself.
Although I was decked out in my clean set of town clothes, the vaccuum groomed carpets, entirely devoid of sawdust and dog fur, kept me furtively checking if some remnants of wood chips, tree sap or animal hair were still clinging to my clothing. Stretched out on the softly padded floor and looking out of the window, I wondered at the artificial grass monoculture surrounding the houses. Most fallen leaves that would have added a more natural look and even some nutrients to these green crew cuts were painstakingly raked up and bagged, leaving the re-exposed grass blades to encircle the lonely tree or two like so many prison guards.
Venturing out of the house came with its own set of survival challenges.
Wandering around town well-fed and watered, the call of nature struck me rather urgently. Pampered by years in the bush where the slightest hint of an urge while out on a walk is easily relieved among the trees, my body has become unused to the restraints of town.
Burping at the mere thought of consuming yet more food or drink just to use a restroom, I finally discovered just in time that the government building on Main and 4th features public washrooms.
One good use of taxpayers’ money.
After this leisurely Whitehorse stay with friends, with the last shopping before winter casually sprinkled in here and there, I do recommend it as a town survival strategy to fellow bush people, despite the inherent hazards.
And if you‘re headed for Dick and Reenie’s place, you already know not to use the grapefruit peeler on an orange.