• ldcrichton

Stampede 101: Scorpion Pizza and Deep Fried Pickles Served With a Side of Rude

I live in Calgary. The winters are too long and too cold and the summer is absurdly hot. The mountains are half an hour from my doorstep. I can ski in the winter, and drive to the lake in the summer. These are a few of the things I both love and loathe about Calgary.

Despite my love/hate relationship, for ten days every July, my city becomes vibrant and alive during the Calgary Stampede, coined the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

At its core, the stampede is a rodeo. A rodeo where I’ve been told participants can make more money in a single week than they can all year. There is bronco riding, barrell racing, bull riding, calf roping, chuckwagon races and probably a ton of other events I am not familiar with.

But the stampede is so much more than that. Pancake breakfasts are on every other street corner. Businesses invite Calgarians and visitors alike to eat a warm breakfast, ususally with music and face painters for little kids.

Down at the stampede grounds, there is a midway. Haunted houses, tilt-a-whirls, ferris wheels, drop of doom, gravitron, slingshots and many other rides for thrill seekers and sightseers alike.

You can get corndogs, deep fried snickers, oreos, twinkies, cheesecake, fries on a stick, maple bacon doughtnut burgers, red velvet mini donughts, and for the more adventourous eaters, pizza topped with scorpions. That’s right, as in the creepy crawly awful kind.

Chew on that.

There is ten full days of free music. There is country music, pop music, rock music, rap, something for everyone. Even my beloved Marianas Trench played this year!

In order to enjoy the stampede, you need to put up with massive crowds, sweltering heat, flash rainstorms and on Sunday, I learned: some really miserable people.

There we were, having spent a long and gruelling day in 33C weather (91.4F). For someone who spends 8 months a year in a parka, this heat is enough to melt me like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Regardless, I slathered on the sunscreen, donned a bandana and stepped out into the world.

Upon arrival, we headed straight for the midway to sample some of the rides. When you’re flying backwards on the Polar Express, the wind whipping your bandana covered hair everywhere, you don’t feel the sun baking your skin like a turnover.

We spent most of the day here, riding rides and fighting crowds and before we knew it, it was time to go to the Coca Cola stage to see Billy Talent perform…but no trip to the stampede is complete without some grub.

We stopped and gave rather serious consideration to the scoprion pizza before deciding the novelty of eating scorpions was not worth $10 a slice, but that deep fried pickles sounded like a good treat to go with the show.

We arrive at the deep fried pickle booth and place two orders.

“That’ll be about 15 minutes,” the girl says.

I look at my phone and see we have 45 minutes before the concert. “Sure, no problem,” I tell her.

15 minutes pass.

No pickles.

20 minutes pass.

Alas. Still not a pickle to be found.

25 minutes pass. The people on the other side of the booth get their pickles.

30 minutes pass.

This next part is important. I lean in and say (quite pleasantly), “Do you know when the pickles will

be ready? We’ve been here for thirty minutes.” 

The girl tells me they will be right up.

“Thanks,” I say.

She hands me a tray of pickles.

“Thanks. But there are supposed to be two.”

“Yep, the other order is coming.”

I proceed to wait.

My patient waiting is interrupted by a raven haired lady who is scooping blobs of deep friend, fermented cucumber into a fry tray. She says to me, out of the blue, “You don’t need to talk to her that way, it’s not her fault the order is taking long.”

I was stunned into silence.

What way?

I mean if I was a total cow and complained rudely or mistreated the girl at the till in any way, I may have expected such a reply. But that just wasn’t the case.

The woman flips my bitch switch and I gape.

“Excuse me?” I say.

“You don’t need to talk to her that way,” she repeats.

“I wasn’t talking to anyone, any particular way,” I tell her.

I look at my husband. He may need to restrain me (and not in a Christian Grey kind of way). I want to lunge at her.

Accuse rude people of being rude. I try to be respectful to everyone unless they give me reason not to be, like this black haired woman has.

I take my pickles, tell her she should get her ears checked and stomp away.

As I’m listening to the show, I come to realize this. It’s hot. For ten days straight this woman has been standing there deep frying pickles. Perhaps she misheard me. Perhaps she was, in her mind, defending her friend. Perhaps she works a crappy job for minimum wage and is taking it out on someone and I am an easy target. The list of possibilities are endless.

At the end of the day, I know this to be true (and it doesn’t hurt to issue a friendly reminder to myself):

There are people in this world who go through life looking for a fight. You have no control over their actions, but you do have control over your reaction.

Next time someone is nasty to you, step back, breathe and think about your response. I gave her what she wanted and that was the wrong thing to do.

I’ve been schooled. Stampede style. 

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