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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Travel woes

BY Sonny Orr Jun 21, 2022

I’m rolling down the highway at the legal speed limit, fully aware that my gas-tank setting drops the faster I drive. These days, the price of gas is more than those in the far North, where high prices for everything are normal and if the price goes down, people go into economic shock. What? Gas prices have nearly doubled! What happened since the last lock down, did I miss anything? Well apparently, there’s is a war in Ukraine and the free world is doubling up all kinds of sanctions and blocking the Russian aggressor.

Meanwhile, as I pull up to the drive-through window to get a cup of coffee and fully wake up, I glance again at the pumps. Nope, it’s really the price and I’m not having a bad dream that I can wake up from. Leaving the fast-food outlet, I hear a metal-clicking sound emitting from my tires. That’s right, I haven’t changed them, and the studs grind away as I pull out into traffic. My southern foray hasn’t exactly been living up to my expectations. 

I am not alone, as hundreds of northerners leave their homes to venture out into an area that was once a pandemic hotspot. Maskless and revealing every grimace and expression, complete strangers can now see my happiness or displeasure. The face does not lie as two years of only using your eyebrows and eyes to express yourself is a hard-to-break habit. Yes, my eyes glower and my brow furrows as I pump gas and realize that bottled water costs less these days. I wonder what the future has in store for us?

I continue down the highway, after spending a night in a remote town in the only room available at this hour. My partner is busy doing what she did for 30 years as the band receptionist – finding a room in the immediate area. Apparently, there are no vacancies within 500 kilometres and we still have to change my tires and find a room.

Fortunately, I find a car dealer who is more than happy to handle my American auto, stating that his vehicles don’t show up too often in his garage and that the mechanics need more work to do. Changing my tires in record time, I head off to grab that reserved room. Being lucky and all, we reach the hotel just after sundown and when my tired head hits the pillow, I pass out from sheer exhaustion. 

Waking up in an unfamiliar place takes my foggy mind a few moments to find its state of awareness, enough to realize hunger is setting in and the restaurant awaits us. After ordering what we thought would be a skimpy meal, heavily mounded plates of food arrive. Is this what a one-egg breakfast looks like? Gobsmacked, we devour the food and slurp down hot java.

After driving 1,500 kilometres, some well-deserved shopping is in order. I’m hoping that the prices haven’t risen too much since last year as my wallet – and my heart – can’t take too much shock in one trip. At least there’s no sales tax as the next-door province respects our taxation rights. When I finally win an election of any kind, I’ll start working on it. But in the meantime, leaders will have to deal with other issues.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.