My first job in Calgary was with a well-respected printing company. I spent many hours at a this place working hard to ensure blueprints looked presentable to construction and engineering firms.
It was not that much money per hour, but it was enough to pay all the few monthly bills that followed me around. It was also enough money to cover a significant amount of Christmas Shopping in the late fall of 2000.
I rented a small yet perfectly cozy apartment in a rough Northeast Calgary neighbourhood. Come to think of it, how many Northeast Calgary neighbourhood are not rough today? Around the start of the first cold snap of fall 2000 I decided it was time to consider some holiday shopping. Was going to gather some gifts up and send them back east in parcel format. This was going to mark my first Christmas away from Atlantic Canada. It would turn out to be one of the best holiday seasons I would ever enjoy.
One Saturday morning I woke up to a light dusting of snow. It was probably a mid-November day and the real start of any hustling for Christmas shoppers. I drove my 88 Camaro to a nearby C-Train station and headed downtown to join the madness.
When you think of a busy holiday shopping you think of absolute insanity in stores. People crawling over displays of the most useless things on display for others to buy. The latest fad toy for kids, and the latest fad gadget for guys who regardless of their handyman ability are likely to have it eventually become a dust magnet.
A rough but true picture in many stores.
My first C-Train Saturday of a holiday shopping season was far from that. I was still a rookie to navigating Calgary’s downtown core so I went into one place and just stated to wander. Even the busiest of the malls in downtown were quieter than some of the public libraries I have been in. Part of my own mission was to make sure I get to the now long gone A & B sound store. This place was a massive museum of music where I could look at several CD’s that I otherwise would have to order from the States, usually. For a brief time I befriended one of the store clerks who as it turns out was a regular at many metal concerts that would come to town. As I started to make regular trips to A&B, she was always quick to mention shows that were coming to the area and any new stuff that I should take a listen to.
Beyond the walls of A & B Sound, I took many trips in and out of high-end clothing stores, magazine and newspaper stands and food courts. If I was taking time out of a Saturday to be downtown I did not want to leave empty-handed. Best part of that was I always could find something I really needed. Usually something in a clothing item was par for the course. If I rode the rails back to the Northeast with a new shirt and a CD it was all worth it.
After a bite of late afternoon lunch I would always start my trip back to the Northeast. It was easy to find a quiet bit of space on a C-Train car where the nearest passenger would be 4 seats away. I would watch a few more flakes of snow try to add second, third and fourth coats to the previous dusting of the morning. If any attractive female passengers were within eyesight I made damn sure to get a good look. In a city of nearly one million chances are you would never see any of those women again.
The close of these days usually involved a light supper and a return to the weekend escape of movies, books, music and writing.
With any holiday shopping today, I am delighted to be in the information age where e-commerce gives you the comfort of taking care of business from your home office, laptop or smart-phone. No one ever really needs to throw themselves into the insanity of the busiest shopping time of the year.
There are still of course the usual exceptions one has to make and shop in person sometimes. Especially during the holiday season. There is always the grocery store fill-up before they close for a few days, and the all-important liquor store run….