"There are two kinds of pedestrian: quick ones and dead ones," said the stranger after witnessing my close encounter with a motor vehicle. I laughed, but didn't stop; I crossed the crowded parking lot towards the footbridge over the railway track. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and cloudless but there was a cold bite to the air and a breeze that sent crispy brown autumnal leaves skipping across the highway. As I crossed the bridge I watched my shadow on the road below following close behind as I entered the shade caused by an awning, which hung over the entrance to Marlborough Railway Station. This Calgary, Alberta, suburb consists mainly of parking lots – big ones – which are bordered on three sides by low-lying industrial buildings with little in the way of style or panache. Huge signboards advertised the businesses nearby: dental, radiology, food courts to name but three, and people could be seen crossing the lot either empty-handed on their way, perhaps, to the Chinese supermarket or fully laden with shopping en route to their 4x4, which is a necessity here, not like in the UK where people buy them to show off.
|Marlborough Railway Station, Calgary, Canada.|
At the bottom of the footbridge I walked towards a crossroads, but decided against crossing without the permission of the lights. Instead, I moved further along the road and crossed at a safer point into yet another parking lot peppered with fairly large 4x4s. The sound of the wind hurrying the leaves along the tarmac was complemented here and there by the deep rumble of a V8 and the sound of an airliner soaring high into the blue sky from Calgary's international airport.
Another road, another parking lot and the next one crammed with new 4x4s that were for sale. I fantasised about riding off in one, travelling north to Edmonton and beyond and then swinging east and across the country towards Newfoundland before turning south and heading, perhaps, for Florida or Texas and then across the border into Mexico, down further through central and South America and then selling the car in Santiago and taking a flight across Antarctica towards Auckland, New Zealand.
But the reality of my situation was much harsher – and far less glamorous. In under one hour I would be assisting my colleagues in registering delegates for the International Potato Processing and Storage Convention at Calgary's Coast Plaza and Convention Centre (October 10-12 2007).
Crossing an empty parking lot I had only moments of freedom left. Ahead of me I could see the swing doors of the hotel and the shuttle bus that had already unloaded a number of paying delegates, some of whom had travelled vast distances to be here today to discuss closed loop blanching and vacuum frying technology.