Winnipeg Square is a strip mall located off of Main Street and Portage Street in downtown Winnipeg. This is where I ended up after I disembarked from Bus #15 at the City Hall bus stop.
I realized that after hopping off the bus and looking like a lost soul in the middle of a busy sidewalk that there’s only so much you can do when you are becoming acquainted with a little part of a block in a strange city. I could either look like a tourist or I could walk with purpose and let others around me know “hey, I belong here, I’m not a wuss.”
For a second, I hesitate, but then I light a cigarette, and inhale deeply, my stomach and chest wall contracting as I breathe in and breathe out. I let out a huge sigh… AH! As a little cloud of smoke escapes my mouth. The nicotine calms my nerves almost immediately, or at least I’d like to think it does. Seasoned professionals would tell me otherwise. I can almost hear the words of my therapist in my head saying
“Come on, Christine, you know cigarettes aren’t good for you and you should quit.” And then my indignation and rebuttal
“Ah, its something I need. I’m not going to quit.” Even though I know better.
I cast that thought from my head and I turn to walk to the corner, I feel like I am invisible. I could have been a ghost or a spirit to the people walking by me. The people were either staring at the ground, or looking through me as though there was no substance to me at all. I’m just another tourist as far as anyone could guess, in this city far from home.
Crossing the street, I notice the RBC sign that the bus driver told me to look for. I walk down the sidewalk, brushing past some suits. You know, those people all dressed to the nines that carry briefcases, hurrying to their all important 9-5 jobs in swanky government offices (oh how I wish I could be one of them!) and a couple of police officers in the crowd to boot.
I see some doors and walk down the steps, careful not to slip on the ice that I can just vaguely see forming in this bitterly cold weather. As the doors swing open, immediately to my right, there are a couple of boutiques, a restaurant and pub with a name I can’t recall, and a food court. The mixtures of the different foods being cooked assault my nose. Ah! There’s nothing like the smell of overcooked rice, pizza, burgers and fries all in one sniff.
To escape the smells of the food court, I duck into a store and start looking around. My tired eyes adjusting to the dim lighting in the store, I notice some jewelry, and I hone in on what I see as native themed rings. I pick up a ring that has a bear paw engraved in it. I turn it around and around in my hand, as I contemplate whether or not I should get this ring. I walk around the store, with this ring in my hand and look at everything from t-shirts that say Winnipeg on them, to hand towels and Inukshuks. I finally decide, “ah you can do without this” and put it back. I walk out of the store two minutes later and walk back to the stairs leading to the great outdoors.
Walking back up the steps, I decide that I’ll go exploring. I know that I’m not going to go very far, it was a hassle just trying to get to Winnipeg Square, and I don’t want to get lost again. I pull my jacket close and start walking. Names of stores pop out at me as I make my trek down the sidewalk- a mom and pop convenience store, a TD Bank, a pawnshop or two, with signs that yell “COME ON IN, WE’LL TAKE YOUR GOLD.” I pass a crowd of people waiting at a bus stop and I see a News store.
Ducking out of the cold, I pop into the News store. At the front of the store is the magazine section, and further back I see an 18 and over section. I head directly for the magazine section. I’m in heaven-all my favorite writing magazines are there at my fingertips. I start leafing through them one by one. As I am standing there, out of the corner of my eyes I see a Writer’s Digest magazine. I figure if I’m going to be spending the day in the city, I might as well buy something that will keep me occupied. There’s nothing like reading! Picking up the magazine, I walk around the store one more time just to see if there is anything else that will grab my attention. Deciding there’s nothing left to do, I walk up to the cashier and make my purchase.
Cutting in front of me is a lady with her Lotto 649 ticket. I want to say, “Hey, I was here first!” but I stay silent. I should have said something, but I didn’t want to cause a scene. After handing my cash to the store clerk, I walk out. Back out on the sidewalk and wondering what the heck to do now, I glance across the street and see another one of my favorite stores-the Dollarama!
You gotta love the Dollarama’s that dot big Canadian cities, and the cheap bargains they offer. After crossing the street one more time, I go into the Dollarama and start walking the aisles. I pick up a pair of fingerless gloves, I see a giant Tootsie Roll that I would just love to sink my teeth into but the glare of the fluorescent lights and someone who seems to be trailing me makes me put everything down, and leave the store again. I head back to Winnipeg Square.
Once inside, I head to the ATM. I check my bank balance, and see that I can only take out six dollars. Boy did I ever feel Nish, going in and saying to the bank teller “Hi, can I take out six dollars?” and almost laughing when the bank teller looks up at me and says
“Would you like a five dollar bill?”
I wanted to tell her “ oh no I’d like it all in change,” but don’t.
For some reason, I didn’t think she would find my comment that funny.