Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Change In Time On A Cool Morning

For the last few years, I've been getting up VERY early once every week or two to go grocery shopping at the Superstore on Kenaston at Grant. I don't like rising at 4:40AM and walking out of my building by 6 but I've done it. Traffic is light and my bus connections are good. I could be at the store by 6:30 and back on a bus home by 7:10. If early rush hour traffic wasn't too bad, I'd be walking in my door by 7:40. Other advantages to that early shop were that the produce was fresh, the store wasn't crowded and the morning staff there knew me and were more than willing to offer assistance finding things if I needed it.

Thanks to our recent bitterly cold weather, I hadn't been out much, so my perishables were getting a bit sparse. So, this past Tuesday morning, I set out on my usual early trek to stock up.

As I crossed Grant, a westbound vehicle was turning into the parking lot. By the time I reached the store entrance, the driver was also approaching the door. We were both surprised to find the door locked and a sign indicating that the store only opened at 7:00AM!

HUH? When did that happen? I'd been there just before New Year's and nothing was said.

As we stood there in -25C windchill, we talked for a couple minutes about the unforeseen change. He and his wife had just returned from a month long trip to Mexico so their cupboards were rather bare - especially of fresh products. I said it wasn't worth turning around to go home as it was a half hour (including transfer) each way. I began to mentally calculate my options as we talked.

A couple minutes into our conversation, he said that he was going back to his car to wait rather than standing out in the cold. As he started to walk away, he turned and said that I was welcome to come and sit in the car with him till the store opened at 7.

What to do?

I was dressed for short waits at bus stops (5-7 minutes) but I wasn't dressed for, let alone thrilled that I may have to stand there for 30 minutes.

There isn't a lot of shelter by the store and with the windchill as high as it was, I could have gotten hypothermia and/or a very nasty cold before the store opened. There is a bus shelter not too far away, which is supposedly heated but frankly, those aren't much warmer than standing outside. I'd have stayed standing rather than sitting on a cold bench at a shelter as a cold seat would have left me vulnerable to a bladder infection. (It's happened in cold weather before and I wasn't about to risk that after effect again!) If I'd have caught a bus, I would have only gone a few stops before having to get off, cross the street at an unfamiliar intersection (possibly one without stop lights making it riskier) then wait for another bus and come back. Streets and sidewalks had many icy patches and a fresh dusting of snow overtop making them very slippery. Not all intersections have been plowed properly so a risk of falling (I've already fallen twice this winter and certainly not wanting to fall again) I know my way between the bus stops and Superstore but not familiar with many other businesses in the area - especially any that would be open at 6:30AM. Not to mention that at this time of year, it is after 8AM before the sun rises and the orange tinged street lights aren't conducive to safe visually impaired navigation.

Being legally blind, I've learned to trust my instincts about people over the years. Believe me there are many people I wouldn't dream of getting in a vehicle with! Heck, there are people I don't even want to sit near me on a bus or be in an elevator with! Some people just give off a bad vibe.

Winnipeg is a very friendly city and known for acts of kindness. The store is located in an area with low crime rates.

My spidey senses weren't going off. I didn't feel threatened at all - more gratitude for a strangers kindness. As I said, we had only talked for a couple of minutes before the car was mentioned.

I had contemplated my options and took a calculated risk. I asked if he was sure and when he said yes, I said thank you and walked behind him to the car.

He turned on the seat warmers and we continued to talk. He told me more about his trip and the experiences bussing and shopping. I told him a bit of my trip to Mesa last January. We talked about the competitive grocery market here in Winnipeg and how some store takeovers and closings were effecting customers who relied on nearby stores. Of course we talked about the weather! Somewhere along the line, we also thought to introduce ourselves - first names only though. We talked of neighbourhoods and careers but nothing overly personal. All in all, it was a comfortable, casual conversation.

About 6:50, he noted that the Gas Bar in the parking lot was now open and that if it was okay, he wanted to drive over and fill up the tank so he or his wife wouldn't have to do it later. That may have set off alarm bells for some, but the fact that he told me what was on his mind rather than just starting the car and driving over eased any apprehensions I may have had otherwise.

The store finally opened its doors at 7:00. I thanked him once again for his kindness as we walked towards the entrance.

I learned from staff that the new hours started the first Monday of January. The opening was moved from 6 to 7 as there wasn't enough business to justify staffing for that early hour. The change has been noted on their web site and in flyers. I check the website weekly, but only the flyer section - not my store hours. A number of customers have been caught off guard by the change. Oh well!

Once my shopping was done, I managed to make semi decent connections home - despite not having access to my bus timetables. I walked in my door by 8:25 - about 45 minutes later than I used to.

Since then, I have re-calculated my bus timings - both to and from Superstore. AND for future early morning grocery shopping trips, I can now set my alarm to 5:20 and still be there shortly after 7!

So, all's well that ends well for that early morning adventure!

Yes, this story could have gone in a very different direction. As I shared the story with various friends,  some thought I was a tough cookie, but also knew me well enough to know I have good instincts and would never intentionally put myself in harm's way. There were also those who cried "stranger danger!" They are right of course, but I reminded them that my spidey senses weren't going off. On a Tuesday morning at 6:30AM with a nippy -25 windchill in a Winnipeg neighbourhood with a low crime rate, it felt like a reasonably safe chance to take.

Would I do it again? That will all depend on the circumstances and what my instincts tell me.


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