Updated: Sep 14, 2020
By David Sherman
The trains, loaded with skiers, stopped coming here more than 50 years ago. Steam and then diesel engines dwarfed the quaint mini-station that remains on the Aerobic Corridor, a wide trail to jog, ski, walk and dive for cover from the hell-bent mountain bikers. The tracks are a memory.
The bus service stopped coming maybe 25 years ago. The station at the centre of town became a café and is now abandoned, waiting to be demolished and reborn as housing for urban exiles.
So, instead they come by car and SUV and pickup trucks bigger than some cottages. As summer bids goodbye and Covid crazy also means stir crazy, they invaded for the last long weekend. They being city folk.
City folk are not all bad. They clog up the autoroute most of the weekend and then hide away in their country homes and leave us in peace. Others pollute the local grocery store, which I’m sure loves the weekenders lining up at the counter, hands or carts full of goodies to take to the cottage. Locals, used to spending five minutes grabbing something for dinner and paying, don’t share the love.
It’s easy to tell city folk. They subsist on cases of beer, dep wine, potato chips, Doritos, stacks of rib steak, hot dogs, mechanically deboned, of course, ground round and packaged white buns guaranteed to stay fresh until 2022.
They also line up into the parking lots of the SAQs starting Friday afternoon. Many come to get wasted under the stars.
They come for the mountain air but as someone is dispatched to crowd the grocery stores and booze shops, they sit in their parked cars with the windows closed, engines and A/C running, making sure mountain air has that familiar proportion of carbon monoxide and doesn’t pollute the upholstery.
The tourists are a bit of a tourist attraction for the locals. They also line up at the factory outlet stores, waiting patiently to be mistreated by Covid-crazed slit-eyed clerks demanding you shape up and stand right and walk left and wash and dry and don’t touch this and no, you can’t use the washroom.
While retail owners need your business, the clerks who work the stores don’t. Customers are irritants and potential plague carriers and for the 12 or 14 bucks an hour they’re making, they’d rather not be disturbed. Once they’ve interrogated you and commanded you to walk here and stand there, they tell you they don’t have what you want so the next victim in line can be tortured, stressed and regret they thought they needed a whatchamacallit.
Servers at restaurants, however, working for tips, are a different species and couldn’t be happier to see you, greet you, serve you and shine your shoes. They’ll even allow you access to the washroom.
Curiously, people come to the mountains to shop for clothes though I’m sure they have clothes stores in the city. But burning brakes and patience in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway north for two to three hours on a Friday appears worthwhile if they get to stand in line outside a factory outlet store to save $20 or $30 on shoes or shirts dumped here because no one wanted them in the city.
Shopping appears to be as a big a draw as a swim or a hike or mowing the locals down with mountain bikes that cost more than many of us paid for our cars.
The town down the road is a pretty place, careful with its zoning and rigid in its no franchise food ban. It is a crossroads of stores and restaurants, none of them inexpensive, the food edible, the stuff interesting, if you come to the great outdoors to buy stuff. Which people do. With alacrity. I mean, how long can you sit on a porch and stare at a birch tree, even with iPhone in hand?
They also clutter sidewalks sucking on dripping ice cream cones and bring more cars than the streets can handle. In need of sedation, still high on city fumes, they tail gate, pass on curves or even on shoulders, doing 140, fly through red lights and stop signs. Yes, they need to chill.
And to get laid. Friday night on the main street of the little town is a parade of women in four-inch heels, short skirts, tight tops with plunging necklines, great makeup and technicolour nails, often in packs, looking to pull the plug on social distancing. Or any distancing.
I cannot tell you how the men are dressed because I’m too busy looking at the women. That might be considered felonious sexism and grounds for lethal injection, but it’s an incorrigibility I share with several men.
The bee-like behaviour of city denizens is puzzling for those of us who retreated to the mountains to get away from the hustle and bustle and “buy me, buy me” of the big city only to find that the big city has followed.
But there is a cure. Saturday mornings I climb into my trusty bazou – yes, it costs less than a mountain bike and requires no peddling – and head south to Montreal. The autoroute is traffic free, the city is traffic free, construction takes weekends off and parking beckons. I buy a box of the world’s best cherry donuts and smoked sausage at a polish deli and hit a grocer for fresh Cornish hens and zip around town for any other stuff without fighting lineups or tempestuous clerks.
I dodge cars, jay walk, people watch, ponder big-city fashion, meet friends and get away from boisterous country living in the tranquility of a weekend morning in the city. And everybody’s happy.