He was short and old and very nervous. As we landed in the snow onto a white runway, he looked out and said: “This is my first time here and I don’t know what will happen.”
I felt for him, for so many time I have gone somewhere new, alone, and afraid.
He told me he had come from Nova Scotia, Canada, to drive a truck taking hazardous waste from the oil processors to the disposal site. He had spent the winter building ice roads to the north, but now spring had come and no more; and there was no work back in Nova Scotia. Somebody had paid $800 for his flight to bring him in to work – they are desperate for drivers. But he said: “I have tried so many times to get a job with the oil sands mines, and never a reply.”
His story echoed that of the young girl who drove me last week from the airport to the rental car pickup place. She had come with her father from a logging town in Saskatchewan when he was laid off. And now both have good jobs driving people to and fro.
Then there was the young man from Newfoundland who followed his girlfriend here and is going to drive buses, make money, marry her, and carry her off to live happily ever after in Vancouver. I just nodded my head in amazed and impressed agreement.
When in Fort McMurray, one should write of oil sands mining, for this is the world capital of oil sands mining. But why, when the human story is everywhere? The sheer guts of them all! The innocence, fear, courage, and determination. This is the essence of mining towns and mining people, and those who make mining communities. Even including the tiny waitress this evening who lost my receipt in an over-crowded place, and looked at me as crazy when I told her that any old piece of paper would do to keep the accountants happy. You simply do not find them that hard working and naïve in the big cities. Nor do you find them that happy to help, please, and serve.
This may not be sustainable development, but it sure testifies to the human spirit and ability to adjust and succeed. I am proud to be here.