by Clay Appell
Nearly every morning I go to Tim Horton’s around the corner from my house. I swear that this place is busy non-stop. It’s like a pilgrimage going to Tim Horton’s, especially in the winter. I think the only place busier in the winter time than Tim’s on PEI is the unemployment insurance office. The craziest thing about this Tim Horton’s is that I see the same people every single morning (although to be fair, they probably say the same about me). This town feels like a Simpson’s sketch. You know, when in each scene the same characters are always in there. Small island life is strange, I am telling you. People are not doing much, but they are always in a mad rush in their cars. The other day, I am almost got run over by a lady going about 100 km/hr in a 40km/hr residential zone when I was attempting to cross the street. I mean, it was Sunday evening, and nothing takes place in PEI on Sundays. I can’t seem to figure out why that is by the way. A part of me thinks maybe there are lots of devout religious folk here, but the cynic in me thinks everyone is just hungover on Sundays.
I bet being a priest on PEI would be awkward. Can you imagine doing confessions, and probably knowing the people on the other side of the booth really well? I mean, there is the no peaking rule, but for God’s sake, people know each other so intimately here, ‘Father Tom’ probably knows any man or woman in his parish just by the sound of their voice. You’d probably be wise to change your tone before confessing.
The other night I went to this bar by my house called Razzy’s. The place is kind of a ‘dive’, and you don’t wanna wonder in there by yourself during “happy hour”, let me tell you that, but overall it is a decent little watering hole. I remember the first time I went there-it was with my Homestay hosts, and they took me there for a drink. We walked in, and we went and sat at the bar. I started a very basic conversation with a nice local guy, who is a regular there by his own admission. He wears that badge proudly. He is like their mascot I guess. Partly through our conversation, a waitress interrupts us (as they often do midsentence), and she asks me what I would like to drink. This is like the moment of truth in a PEI bar. Your drink of choice here is like your spirit animal. You choose it, and it stays with and represents you. All eyes were instantly fixed on me, as I pondered which alcoholic beverage to order. The waitress waited impatiently, tapped the bar lightly to signal that I needed to make up my mind. With half the place gathered around me, I seized the opportunity to screw with them. I said with a straight face “I would like a white wine spritzer, please”. The whole bar went silent, I felt the glares over my shoulder, and I am sure if I could read minds, one or two would be thinking something along the lines of “what the hell is this guy’s problem? “I am just joking” I exclaimed, candidly still a bit nervous at the tinge of awkward air still permeating throughout the cramped space. “I will have a Corona, please”. The awkwardness left the room, but a few regulars were still perplexed that anyone would order such an “exotic” beer. A part of me was still nervous, as I was not sure what was worse in a small town bar, being perceived as flamboyant or Hispanic (I still had my summer tan after all). I calmed down a great deal when a gentlemen who was a friend of my host’s came over and welcomed me to the island. He was a great guy, and made me feel like a local for the evening.
Small island life is nice though overall-people are friendly, the pace is relaxed, PEI itself is beautiful. One of the things that sucks about island life though is the reputation people establish for themselves. Like someone is the town drunk, another is a woman of ill-repute, someone else is the island nutcase. And you cannot get a clean slate. Everyone born and raised on the island seems to think this is the worst part about the island. Plus, the thing that is different about a small island like PEI versus a big city like Toronto or Montreal, is that let’s say that you are the island loon, there are only a few of those here, in big cities even our mayors can be bonkers. A while back our mayor smocked crack, and justified it by suggesting that he only did it because “he was in a drunken stupor”.
PEI is great overall though, I don’t mean to rip it. The people are friendly and genuine for the most part, the place is beautiful and there is a real sense of community. I revel in the fact that I can text or call someone last minute and then go to their house the same day. I like the consistency of everything too, although it can occasionally make life a tad boring. But, I am genuinely content with life here, and I hope to stay on the island if I can.