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Nolan Haukness

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A guide to becoming a true McMurrayite

I HAVE BEEN LIVING IN FORT MCMURRAY FOR SEVEN AND a half years. Sometimes I joke that I am now technically a “townie.” This usually gets a chuckle from people, except actual townies who don’t seem to find it humorous at all.

For the most part, we are from somewhere other than Fort McMurray. I believe that is the reason we have such a friendly city, because everyone is from somewhere else. We all have fewer people to rely on so we have to rely on each other.

 Still, that does not technically make those of us who choose to make Fort McMurray their home townies. But, I think there is a certain set of criteria that, if followed, definitely makes you one.

If you know precisely what “Sunshine Bread” is and crave it frequently, you might be a townie.

Those delicious loaves of heaven baked daily at The Chef’s Table by Mitchell’s (simply Mitchell’s to us aspiring townies) hold some of the most amazing sandwich creations this city has to offer.

Let’s face it, when done well there is really no food that warms the soul more than a sandwich.

I have found, though, that the term “Sunshine Bread” is a term that only people who have been here a while know off the top of their heads. Bring it up and any townie can wax poetic for hours on their favourite soup and sandwich combinations.

I now have to clean up the drool off of my keyboard.

If you have made up a story about how big tar sand beetles can get, you might be a townie.

When I first moved to Fort McMurray in 2005 I heard tall tales about these giant bugs, which, from the stories I heard, may pick up my car and fly away with it. If it didn’t do that it would at least take a chunk of flesh away that would no doubt leave me in the emergency room. I lived in constant fear that I would become next in a long line of McMurrayites who had fallen prey to these mutant insects.

Then I saw one and reacted like most people when they first see it: scream like a girl, realize you are safe, attempt to recover your manhood, and finally look closer at this supposed terror and exclaim, “is that it?”

Sure, they are a pain in the butt and plenty of people still find them to be terrifying, but they are nowhere near the sci-fi like creatures many of us have said they are in some type of bizarre hazing ritual.

(By the way, if you just recently moved to Fort McMurray everything I just said about them not being huge is a lie. The government wants us to keep them under wraps. Have you ever seen the any of the Alien movies? Yeah, they are like that. I saw one once carry away a bear.)

If you have your own special way to deal with traffic, you might be a townie.

Every weekday at around 3:30 - 4:00 p.m. traffic northbound on Highway 63 through the city becomes a stop-and-go nightmare. It would likely be quicker to travel by bicycle than car.

If there is an accident on the bridge, it is even worse. It is pounding your head against the steering wheel, swearing at everyone around you bad.

Now to the newcomers to Fort McMurray it may seem as though townies handle the traffic woes here better than anyone. They seem very even keel and that is generally because no matter how bad traffic is, they have seen worse.

Most of them also have special shortcuts to bypass high volumes of vehicles.

My own personal shortcut is Prairie Loop Boulevard to Reidel Street to Franklin to Longshots Sports Bar. From there I let traffic dissipate…and take a cab home. Good shortcut, right?

The truth in all this is that you are a townie when you believe you are.

In true nerd fashion, I am going to quote Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

We all have made a choice in being here to make a better life for ourselves and because this community provides many of us with a quality of life we normally wouldn’t have. We must give back and leave it a little bit better than we found it. There are people who have been here for decades that have done that and that is the reason we can call this home.

They are certainly townies. That is what being a townie is.

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