It was a holiday season of Alberta traveling, and left me much to ponder. Was I as observant as I should have been? Well, that’s what Black Press pays me for.
Looking back to the Christmas pre-game show, it was clear to me in Red Deer this current economy has many people hurting. I prefer Christmas shopping in Red Deer because the city has a wide variety of small, medium and large size stores, and Red Deer is relatively easy to get around in as opposed to, say, Edmonton (Anthony Henday stand-still traffic, LRT sideshow etc.). Bower Mall on the south side of Red Deer is usually one of my favourite stops, despite the fact that, during holiday season, the mall is a three-ring circus; that is, it’s very busy. One year I recall driving around the entire mall parking lot, and couldn’t find a single empty spot.
This year was different. The mall didn’t seem any different from a usual weekend until you got inside and saw the faux-St. Nick. Wasn’t “wall-to-wall” people walking inside, food court had ample empty tables and the parking lot had plenty of space. The Alberta recession obviously had an effect on holidays shopping this year.
Something else I noticed: the price of everything has gone up. Wrapping paper, decorations and even seashell truffles. Don’t know if you’ve tried those, but they are super-cool, and that comes from someone who doesn’t go crazy over chocolate. Last year seashells were $3 a box. This year they were $5 a box. That’s a huge hike. I’d like to blame Rachel Notley for that somehow. I’ll get back to you on that.
Getting into the holiday proper now, I had to drive to Stettler, Oyen, Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer over Christmas and New Years. Lots of hours spent driving main and secondary roads, day and night. I was very disappointed to see lots of people driving while holding a cell phone to their ear, or looking down at their crotches (I’m assuming they were texting on a cell phone). Maybe they don’t know it’s illegal.
The recent stiffened penalties approved by the provincial government must have had some small footnotes that I was unaware of (for example, cell phone use prohibited while driving, unless you’re a guy with a white ball cap turned around backwards and driving a lifted white pick-up truck…then, you’re allowed to talk on your phone). A shame, because this cell phone stuff isn’t like a seatbelt. In my opinion, if you don’t want to wear a seatbelt, that’s your choice. You’re the one who will be crippled or killed. But this cell phone stuff is a threat to other people including pedestrians who get run-over because you’re staring at your phone, or other motorists who get hit head-on because you’re looking at your phone rather than the road.
One other observation that comes from much night driving recently: lots of people don’t dim their high beams. Okay, look, this is basic highway courtesy. If you, Mr. or Ms. Motorist, can see another vehicle coming (and we can all see the glow on the other side of the hill coming toward us so don’t give me that “I didn’t know” stuff), please dim your high beams. It’s not only the considerate thing to do (do you like getting high beam blasted in your face?), but the safe thing too. And while on Highway #2A, you don’t even need to use your high beams. There’s too much traffic. So pretty-please-with-a-cherry-on-top dim your high beams.
Now looking back I’d say I had a decent holiday and judging by what my friends and family say, they all did too. I hope the same goes for everyone reading this paper. Happy New Year.
Stu Salkeld is the new editor of The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.