All gas, no brakes in court
When I moved to Calgary as a young man in the mid-’80s, I was drawn to the city for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the province’s image of a land of plenty with jobs for everyone.
Unfortunately, my timing was more than a little off.
The Alberta economy had boomed for a number of years following the 1979 energy crisis. Plentiful jobs in the oil patch drew wave after wave of dreamers hoping to make it rich. The price of oil peaked around 1981, but for the next few years the price would remain high. Even in 1985, at the time I arrived, the price of oil was still double the pre-1979 price. To a young man looking eastward, the high price of oil held its allure. What I couldn’t see was the law of supply and demand as it applied to the job market. The increase in the numbers of skilled and unskilled labour that had arrived had outpaced the jobs.
But off I went, with oil in my eyes and dreams in my head.
After landing on a cold late-autumn day at Calgary International Airport, I took a cab to my cousin’s home. The driver, with his rich accent, soon explained, as we weaved in and out of traffic, avoiding red lights and never once slowing down, he had an Engineering degree from universities in three countries, including Canada. But times were tough in post-oil boom Alberta, so he took whatever job he could.
Then he rolled down the window, despite the -10 Celsius weather outside, and started yelling at the pedestrians in an uncontrolled crosswalk, “Get out’da way! No brake! No brake!”