I broke my arm almost four years ago to-the-day and I was impressed with the diligence of my friends’ response — the visits, the casseroles and the almost aggressive earnestness with which they offered to help in any way they could.
Their intensity struck me as distinctly Northern — born of a social contract that emphasizes the role of community in fending off the isolation that is intrinsic to our territory.
Or used to be, anyway.
Whitehorse doesn’t feel isolated these days; the Internet, the Alaska Highway, and affordable air travel have seen to that. So if my friends’ response was indeed distinctly Northern, it is only because such reactions are ingrained in our heritage, not because we live on the edge of civilization as we once did.
Here’s a thought: maybe there was absolutely nothing unique about the way my friends came to my rescue; maybe they reacted precisely the same way friends would react in Calgary, or Swift Current, or Burlington. Maybe there is no unspoken social contract reserved for the North of 60 set. Maybe believing in such a thing is nothing but sentimental shoe-scraping.
Having never broken my arm in Calgary, or Swift Current, or Burlington I cannot say for sure.
So where can we be sure to find our unique sense of community these days? Where is the distinctly Yukon flavour that rises above the general din of humanity? It’s on 96.1 FM every weekday at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Trader Time, baby!
Trader Time is a phone-in radio classifieds show on CKRW. The genial host takes calls from every corner of the territory as people look to buy and sell a flea market’s assortment of goods and services.
It only lasts about 10 minutes but in that thin time-slice a tapestry of Yukon voices is woven across the airwaves.
Someone is looking to get rid of her hair-metal cassette tapes; somebody is hoping to buy a new Rototiller motor. Someone has a ’76 Ford that still runs smooth; somebody wants to get the phone number of that gal selling her metal collection.
Some talk briskly; others drawl. Some speak with a well-rehearsed professionalism; others are undoubtedly intoxicated. Some go on and on, mixing personal anecdotes in with their sales pitch; others are overcome by nerves and hang up at the last minute.
My favourite Trader Time moment is the one in which the caller wants to hear himself on the air so he has the radio turned way up while he is speaking. This creates a high-pitched screech, and forces the host to interject:
“Uh, excuse me sir, can you please turn down the volume?”
Fact: Trader Time is hokey. Hokey, hokey, hokey, hokey, hokey. But it’s who we are… and what we’re willing to hawk for cheap.
We may have lost some of our pioneering spirit, and we may-or-may-not have a uniquely Northern social contract, but God bless us, we still have Trader Time.