The online shopping world is coming at her hard these days. Kim White is your friendly neighbourhood courier, delivering the goods you ordered with high hopes they’d arrive before Christmas. But you won’t find her succumbing to the temptation to add that item to her virtual shopping cart and hit send.
“One thing I’m very proud of is every year I’ve done my Christmas shopping 100 percent locally, because I believe in supporting Yellowknife,” says the 56-year-old, who has been a courier for Purolator the past three years, and worked for Canada Post before that. “Especially from my job I see how much people order and do not shop here. I want to do my small part to help out.”
The soft-spoken White has witnessed people unable to curb their online shopping habits until they spiral into a spending addiction. She’s made some unmistakably pungent, herbaceous deliveries from B.C. for medical purposes. But she won’t be picking up anything over 60 pounds… “The boys do those.”
Still, the job, along with decades in the service industry as a waitress, has taken its toll. She shows me her swollen knuckles and curved index fingers.
“I’m going for X-rays for my neck and my back because they believe I have arthritis and it’s coming down into my hands. I have to wear a cast at night and I have no feeling in my fingers, it’s pins and needles from years of waitressing and then carrying heavy boxes.”
The job has made her a familiar face to many and she knows virtually every corner of the city. But it’s the places outside of Yellowknife that have come to define who she truly is, and where she’s most at home.
Born and raised in Ottawa, White, who has a daughter still living there, had never lived anywhere else until coming to Yellowknife seven years ago. Her husband Radek Adam landed a technical job at CBC Yellowknife and while they knew nothing about the city, they were ready for change. They drove across the Prairies, arriving in November, just in time for winter.
The price of potatoes was a shocker, but in no time the pair had discovered the joys of snowmobiling, boating, camping and seeing wildlife outside your window. She started waitressing at L’Attitudes, then at Boston Pizza, and would throw her tips every night into Radek’s night drawer. Eventually, those tips added up to enough to buy a boat.
“We love our boat, she’s called Ileak, because she leaks,” she laughs.
Today, you will not see her rushing parcels around town on a weekend. She takes off every weekend for the wilderness, where she’s content to hang out with whiskey jacks and squirrels who eat from her hands in a gesture of mutual trust.
What are your earliest memories of Yellowknife?
They put us up until our furniture got here in one of the apartment buildings behind the downtown liquor store… and I saw foxes. I’d never seen foxes before, and then one spring they had their babies and they were playing like puppies on the street. We’ve seen bears, lynx, rabbits… I’m a smoker so I was out on my balcony last summer and it was about 11 o’clock at night and I called to Radeck to bring out the video camera right now and there was a coyote trying to go to the fox den and the fox was just screaming.
What’s your favourite thing about Yellowknife?
Being able to go camping and fishing. The beauty of up here is that in 20 minutes you’re in paradise, and in 20 minutes you’re back home.
What’s your least favourite thing about Yellowknife?
I guess it would be the homelessness. It bothers me. Sometimes they’ll follow you into the grocery store. Just last week this one girl followed me into the grocery store and said, ‘Would you buy me a little can of hot dogs in a can?’ And I said sure, but I’m not ready to check out and you go and do what you want and I’ll pay for it. So she came back with a box of crackers and a can of Spam and she thanked me very much, and went to the cash and we paid for it and she said, ‘You know, I live in a tent, but I’ll share it with the homeless.’
How do you spend your summers?
Camping every weekend. We usually do our groceries on Thursday night and prepare all the food and then we leave right after work on Friday.
What kind of opportunities have you found in Yellowknife that you don’t think you’d find elsewhere?
Radek and I have done more things together and made more friends in the seven years here than we have in the twenty before. And that’s the truth. Because I find Yellowknife does come together.
Are you a Yellowknife lifer?
Yes. Definitely. I hope Trudeau does a good job and keeps Radeck employed at CBC. I never want to leave here.