Unexpected Kindness


One spring afternoon I was standing in line at a fast food counter, preparing to meet a friend. Prince Albert’s coffee row scene was alive and well in the form of eight guys putting the world to rights at a table meant for six, headgear promoting everything from the P.A. Raiders to AC/DC. I gazed out the window as the blustery winds re-distributed litter around the parking lot. On my way there, I’d detected a new and possibly expensive noise in my car. Earlier, while out walking, I’d been splashed by some speed demon oblivious to crosswalks, puddles and pedestrians. Aaand… where was my cellphone? Apparently still at home, charging.

Finally it was my turn at the till. A cheerful young woman took my order, then chimed out clearly “You are beautiful!” Surely she wasn’t talking to me. I’d seen myself in the bathroom mirror that morning at tooth brushing time, and been caught off guard by the aged specimen of humanity gawking back. A strange yet familiar face on which time, worry, and too little sunscreen during Saskatchewan summers had written their stories for a few years. Perhaps several. Okay, quite a number of years. Despite reminding myself how lucky I was to have had those years, it was still a bit of a shock. That’s what I get for installing LED energy saver bulbs.

Still, there was nobody else waiting in line, so I guess the employee meant me. “Well, thank you,” I replied. She responded emphatically “You are beautiful!”, and as I picked up my coffee she broke into a little tune. The crazy thing is, while I sat watching the litter-confetti eddies and awaiting my friend, I did feel just a wee bit beautiful.

It’s not always the big things, is it? One evening, not long after a family member had passed away, I answered a knock at the front door. There stood my neighbour’s little girl, holding out a container of cookies she’d made with her mother’s help, because as she said “I know you’re sad.” A teeny bit of my grief melted along with each bite of their lovely shortbread.

Then there are the kindnesses that don’t seem so at the time. I recall going on a first date to an Italian eatery, trying to mind my p’s and q’s, when the potential boyfriend abruptly suggested I find a mirror and check out the spinach stuck in my teeth. I didn’t know whether to feel mortified or grateful, so I felt both, and popped to the washroom to fish out the offending greenery. The fellow was an accepting sort, and willing to risk a second date. It turns out I’m not to be trusted with popcorn either. But that’s another story.

To wrap up this one, I think back to the visit with my friend at the You Are Beautiful cafe that day. My cellphone wasn’t missed during our face-to-actual-face time together. Thoughts of puddle-splashed clothing were tossed from my mind into the laundry hamper where they belonged. And on our way out, I found myself smiling and opening doors for strangers.

I’m still doing it. Because, well, why not?

And that worrisome noise in my car? I hadn’t quite shut the radio off. Yep. So I cranked up the volume and rocked the Beatles before they were 64, all the way home.

Lorna Blakeney is an avid writer who enjoys photography, history, travel, and genealogy. She was born and raised in Prince Albert, earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, likes to walk, and loves coffee shops. Her column appears on the first Friday of every month.

The comfort zone


I’ve never written a newspaper column before. It’s out of my comfort zone. Which is exactly why I’m doing it, in the hope that I’ll grow and learn while sharing some interesting stuff along the way.

Well within my comfort zone, however, is my home town of Prince Albert. I was born and raised in this city. I left P.A. a few times but always returned for (a) the people and (b) the trees. After a year spent in a small town on the bald prairie I discovered that I missed being near the forest. Driving home for a visit one summer weekend, somewhere between Duck Lake and Macdowall, I felt compelled to roll down the car window, stick my head out and breathe in the aroma of evergreens. It was a classic case of “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”.

The trees, for the most part, are still standing. As for the people I chose to stay here for, many are gone now. Some passed away, others moved away. Losses have a way of tossing you out of your comfort zone, making even familiar landscapes look different. When the pandemic came, our landscape was full of losses: lives, relationships, human connections. Comfort zones had a radius of six feet.

Enter technology. Some of us (okay, me) had a steep learning curve to climb if we (okay, I) wanted to see familiar faces up close, without a mask, albeit it on a screen. Pure stubbornness, combined with time on my hands, prompted me to step up my tech game. I set to work on my fairly new, but according to the repair guy, almost obsolete laptop. Things quickly got uncomfortable and stayed that way.

Eventually, thanks to numerous phone calls with patient individuals, some online videos and blogs, and despite random links down rabbit holes, progress was made. Each week opened new vistas, or should I say windows. In the process, however, I tore out half

my hair in frustration, ground my teeth so I required a mouth guard at night, and started screaming at inanimate objects like computers and cellphones, entertaining the bizarre notion that they would listen and behave. Hah!

But I was determined. Take a break. Breathe. Get out and smell those trees. I burned off my frustrations by frequent fast walks along the Rotary trail. There was no conversing with fellow walkers, even from six feet away; I was working off an acute case of TISD – Technology Induced Stress Disorder. (It’s a thing. I just made it up.)

A day or two later, I’d be back at my laptop, a sucker for punishment, but with a sense of accomplishment every time the computer screen did as I instructed, with no annoying pop-up backtalk. I got onto Facebook and everything! I set up two email accounts! So what if one was by accident. I participated in online chats, and had virtual appointments with health care professionals. I was practically a technological genius!

Well, I may be exaggerating slightly. The point is, I got out of my comfort zone. It had exacted a cost (although my hair has mostly grown back, I still need the mouth guard), but it was worth it. The benefits have far exceeded the price I paid in stress.

Having the opportunity to write this column is one of them.

Lorna Blakeney is an avid writer who enjoys photography, history, travel, and genealogy. She was born and raised in Prince Albert, earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan, likes to walk, and loves coffee shops. Her column appears the first Friday of every month.