It has been almost six months since I turned my life upside down and became the CAO for the City of Selkirk. One of the most exciting parts of this change for me was the lifestyle changes I was going to be able to make. My previous job required me to commute to Winnipeg every day, five days a week…sometimes six if I was especially busy. I know a lot of people that live in Selkirk do this. Living twenty five kilometres from the provincial capital is a blessing in this way. Lots of interesting, great paying work is only a short commute away. It provides a lot of local folks with career opportunities that they just would not have if they limited their job search to Selkirk only. Frankly this is true for every major city in North America. It’s almost a rite of passage to spend significant portions of your life behind the wheel of a car on your way to, or returning from work. Both of my parents commuted daily for work. And for 8 years I did as well. I loved the job….did not like the commute.
One of the most exciting side benefits of the new job was that I was going to be able to walk to work. I was going to trade in my 45 minute drive and all the associated stress of traffic, construction, and ice covered roads for an 11 minute (yeah…I timed it) brisk walk to work. Not only would this save me a ridiculous amount of money and not only would I be healthier for it, but I also reduce the guilt I feel for being a significant personal contributor to climate change. I claim to be concerned about climate change and environmental protection – yet the transportation choice I made was not in alignment. Sure I carpooled, first with my Dad and then with my friend, but even a shared daily commute of 70km (round-trip) made me cringe when I thought about its impact. This new job however allowed me to shed that guilt and made a human-powered commute possible.
Walking to work in the summer was awesome. The world is just coming alive when I stepped out my front door. The birds sang, the sun was just rising and the breeze carried the most wonderful smells into my nostrils. Almost every day I congratulated myself on making a good decision. Even the days when the rain seemed to come at me sideways didn’t deter me. Actually, those days I felt even more empowered by my decision.
At first my choice in transportation mode was an oddity for my new co-workers. “Good for you” they said, “Keep at it!” some encouraged. Over time it became the source of good natured ribbing. “I hope you’re not claiming mileage” and so forth. But as winter approached – I could tell most people expected me to pack my hippy-sandals away and join the rest of them in the ritualized daily burning of fossil fuels.
At the beginning of November I stopped by Marks and did some preparatory shopping. I needed a good pair of boots, snow pants and some warm mitts. About $380 later I was ready to go. While this seems like a lot, I decided that I wanted to buy high quality gear. I could have purchased much cheaper outer wear but I’ve made that mistake before. I expect my new threads will last me a few winters. If I’m going to trudge through the snow in a Manitoba winter for 5 months of the year – I want to make sure I’m comfortable. My tab included:
Sorel boots = $170
Dakota lined work overalls= $170
Wind River Heavy duty mitts = $40
I’ve used these for the last two weeks or so. At first these items were way too warm. Combined with my Roots ‘Blue Dot Tour’ toque and my parka I overheated. This past week was much better – though the mitts still make my hands sweat. Given the results of these first few weeks, I’m pretty confident that I’m just about ready for the worst old man winter can throw at me. The final piece I need to add to complete my winter commute collection is a ski mask to keep my cheeks and nose from freezing off. Maybe a pair of ski goggles as well.
All of this to say that I’m committed to my new transportation choice and that a bit of snow and artic winds won’t convince me otherwise. Brave words for the beginning of winter…let’s see what I’m saying in April!