Far North Rambles #13: Boom, Bust and Echo
Far North Friday: Boom, Bust and Echo - Walk With A Mission: I have attended many events in many community centres in northern First Nation communities, including community feasts, political meetings, school events, public presentations, and dances. I have composed thousands of photos of people in northern community centres. I attended as a person well known to the community and as a complete stranger. Regardless, I never felt like a fish out of water. All those events in northern community centres were memorable, but the one community centre event that left me feeling like a fish out of water took place in Thunder Bay.
I had just returned from the Far North and was dressed in my appropriate Far North attire. Before checking into a hotel, I stopped by the offices of Matawa First Nations and Ontario Geological Survey, where I learned that David Foot, author of Boom, Bust and Echo, was speaking at the Thunder Bay Community Centre - also known as the Thunder Bay Auditorium. I was a fan of David Foot and decided I would attend the speaking event.
I finished my visits in the early evening and did not have time to change into my city clothes. So I went straight to the community centre wearing my Far North uniform: red, felted plaid shirt, quick dry hiking pants and shirt, and hiking boots, all scented with a touch of smoke. My thinking was “it is a community centre. I will fit right in dressed like this”.
I walked in to the Thunder Bay auditorium and my brain was hit by its first revelation. I needed to buy a ticket. I never needed a ticket to attend a northern community centre event, but David Foot is a well known author and no doubt he was paid for his speaking event. So, paying for a ticket made sense. The ticket booth staff asked where I wanted to sit. I said I had no idea and asked “where would you sit? That is where I will sit”. The ticket person said with a big smile “the 3rd balcony”. The balcony? The community centre has a balcony? Now I started to feel a little odd, but I bought the ticket. I walked into the lobby where my brain met its next revelation. There were so many people waiting in the lobby. I am an introvert so that was a bit of a jolt. So many people, standing around, talking to each other! And I did not know any of them! Most of the men were wearing jackets. Most of the women were wearing pant suits and some wore long evening gowns. They were dressed a little differently from me. I guessed there must be another event going on that they were waiting to attend. That must be why they were dressed up.
The introvert side of me took over, I scanned the lobby for an escape, and bolted toward the stairs labelled “balcony”. There was a uniformed usher blocking the stairs. I walked with authority towards the stairs, said “hi there” to the usher, and marched up the stairs. No intervention by the usher. Up the 2 sets of stairs I went to the third floor balcony. I sat down, alone, in my balcony chair.
From my balcony chair, I made two observations: 1) the auditorium was very fancy (Photo 1); and 2) no one else was in the auditorium. I was the only one. I had 30 minutes alone to sit and reflect on the traumatic experience I had just experienced, but I was happy to have escaped the auditorium gathering area. It suddenly dawned on me that the usher was strategically positioned to ensure people did not leave the lobby before the designated time. I realized that all those people, dressed in their fine attire, would soon fill the auditorium. What could I do to make myself more presentable? I took off my plaid outer shirt and stuffed it under the chair. The lights were low, so no one would see my bush hiking shirt. Fifteen minutes before the show started the auditorium doors flung open and hundreds of finely dressed people rushed in to claim their seats. I don’t remember who sat on either side of me, but I recall they were very polite and never commented about the smoky fragrance that filled the balcony air.
大卫的脚是难以置信的。我们都笑了,clapped together during his presentation. At the end, I sat there and let the patrons leave before I dug out my plaid over shirt and quietly flowed down the stairs to escape.
I learned several things that evening: a) understand the event you are attending; b) if you walk with authority, despite being dressed like you are ready to repair an important piece of equipment in the building, control people may assume you know what you are doing and that you are on an important mission, so they will not stop or question you; and c) the people of Thunder Bay are not pretentious and accepted my presence in their balcony, despite the fact that I was clearly a fish out of water.