“Here they come, the boys in the bright white sports cars, waving their arms in the air. Who do they think they are?”
It is a rite of this season. Like the lake breaking up, the days getting longer and the snow’s retreat to reveal the carnage of roll up-the-rim and eight months of dog shit.
The rite I’m talking about is the return of Yellowknife’s most promising sons and daughters. Those who tripped south at the end of last summer to expand their minds and pollute their bodies at universities and colleges across the country.
It’s a complicated sentiment I feel towards these young people. Far more complicated than the sentiment they feel towards me: indifference.
For them, it’s simple – this is their town. Their hometown. It’s theirs.
And who am I, they might ask, to have come here at some point as a young professional only to start knocking around Yellowknife like I own the place, or even understand it.
The return of these young adults disrupts Yellowknife’s stratified social hierarchy. During the winter, I wasn’t at the top of the heap, but at least I knew where I fit. I’m not quite new here, I’m not quite old; I interpret all this as, I’m young and established. These “boys in the bright white sports cars, waving their arms in the air” are an affront to that. (It’s not just boys, but the lyrics work.)
Despite the sun circling overhead right now, winter is part of the issue. It’s Shakespearean that without the depths of our winter, the fruits of our summer are not as sweet. You see it in their easy smiles, their unburdened laughter. They didn’t earn this summer, they didn’t soldier through a Yellowknife winter.
That season of live music and Euro-fashion in Montreal, those months of ditching the books every weekend to carve up B.C.’s mountains, and even the semester of being a beer-guzzling hoser in Lethbridge; those all fall short of the price of admission to this northern summer.
But alas, those of us who earned this summer don’t get to decide who is allowed to consume it. We can’t just pull up the drawbridge. It’s general admission. Some people are even happy about the return of these college folk: their moms. The rest of us must find ways to benefit from their youthful, unbroken-by-winter energy.
What do they offer, I’ve asked myself? Plenty. They come back to Yellowknife with talents that we missed: musical, artistic, longboarding. They also have a degree of local and historical knowledge that few of us come-from-aways can boast. If you want to know the best place to catch pickerel near town, ask a second-year geography major back from Halifax. What was Yellowknife like before cross-fit arrived? Ask a third-year biology student from the University of Victoria.
Much has been made in the media of this generation of millenials and their sense of entitlement. The only time they really get to me is when I’m waiting in a longer than usual pub lineup because they’re all home and carefree and looking to party.
When I ponder that sense of entitlement (theirs, not mine) it seems a small enough thing to put up with stacked against the infusion of energy and tattoo ink they bring. Plus, this homecoming rite only really feels the same to those of us who stayed put. There is one thing that changes about it every year: the faces.
Soon enough this year’s crop of returning students will run out of academic rope and many will be forced to get real, to join us, the hardened year-rounders. They’ll join us in looking enviously at the next generation of interns and seasonal municipal grounds crews. And by then instead of calling them the boys (and girls) in the bright white sports cars, I expect we’ll be calling them, “boss.”
Loren McGinnis is one of Yellowknife’s earliest risers. He’s the host of the CBC North morning radio show, The Trailbreaker.