Winter in the Kootenays can bring a very real sense of isolation. The roads are imperiled by snow, ice, avalanches making anywhere outside of town a risky prospect depending on the weather.
Living in a geographically isolated spot like we do, there can be a sense of deprivation, real or imagined, when it comes to the number of goods there are to choose from in town. Many of us think there are cheaper options just on the other side of the mountains in the Okanagan valley which now cradles big box stores as well as traditional farmland. I admit I had this prejudice myself until recently.
My mom and step-dad called me from Vernon to ask if I needed anything; they were in a big drug store, the kind that hold legendary status as far as rumoured cheaper prices go. ‘Twas the season to give, and being practically-minded, I was on the hunt for something to help my middle-aged friends’ newly discovered aches and pains.
“Do they have any hot water bottles?” I asked, “Something less than seven dollars?”
I love my friends, frugally.
Nothing could be found for less than $12, and although my aging friends were ailing, I’m not sure they needed the obligatory enema attachment, and I’m not sure I needed to know if they did in any case.
Somewhat dejectedly wandering the main street in Nakusp, I stopped in at Dollar Dollar and asked if maybe they might have something like a hot water bottle. Owner Val Hill whisked me over to where they were tucked away with the other bathroom accessories, and held one triumphantly before me, like a prize fish.
I was embarassingly amazed. Would I have driven to the Okanagan to find these mid-winter warmers when they were here with me in downtown Nakusp all along, and at a fraction of their big-store cathetered cousins price? No, I wouldn’t have (sorry achy friends), but at least now I knew I didn’t have to.
Although you can’t get everything you may want or need here in Nakusp, there is a lot more here than you might think. It pays in more ways than one to see what’s here before hitting the road to the nearest huge retail outlet.
Not only did I save a bundle on gas, but I was “keeping it in the family” by keeping my money in town. Money kept in town means jobs kept in town means more people kept in town, and it might also mean more new stores opening.
There are things more important than getting the best deal, or efficiency at the pump. Sometimes inefficiency can be a good thing. Even though it might be a few cents more a litre, I like getting gas at stations that have people who come out and say hello. If it weren’t for them, I might not check my oil as often as I should, or take the time to clean my extremely dirty windshield. Those short conversations over a gas nozzle makes filling the tank a pleasure rather than just another thing on the “to do” list. Hang around long enough and you’ll likely find out what the fishing conditions are like, or what’s happening on the roads, information that’s been dropped off by other drivers passing through.
It’s the everyday voting that we do with our money that makes the difference. If we spend it in town, we’re investing in our community now and for the future. Isn’t that worth it?