Someone I used to know in Nova Scotia is warning everyone on Facebook not to buy a used yurt from a family of off-grid grifters who rented acreage on her property near the wind-blasted shore. Facebook is more interesting in Nova Scotia. Someone else in Shelburne, where I lived for nearly seven years, lost her husband yesterday and had to alert the Mounties: He was there, in bed, when she left for work in the morning, but not home when she returned last night. Ground search and rescue was alerted and a grid search initiated before he was located. “He’s found! He’s found!” Facebook tells me this morning, though my feed hasn’t yet divulged where her husband had been. I am checking back regularly for updates.
I joined Facebook in February of 2009 — quite the year. My daughter was an 18-month-old cherub with chubby cheeks dressed in a hand-knit bunny sweater, round as a snowball in her snowsuit on a winter walk, and we lived in a doily and decorative-doll-strewn house rented from an evangelical pastor in the historic district of Shelburne while my then-husband renovated a historic home around the corner on Charlotte Lane. Come to think of it, February of 2009 was the month he proposed by spray-painting “Will . . . you . . . marry . . . me?” in rough, red-graffiti letters up the stairs on Charlotte Lane, on the patched plaster walls soon to be stripped to the studs. I planned our wedding in the rental-house kitchen, sitting under a caftan on a dusty-rose-colored La-Z-Boy recliner by a bay window that looked down the lane to the dark water of the harbor.
Facebook was used as a community bulletin board by the residents of small towns in the Maritimes in 2009. Facebook wasn’t optional: You needed it if you wanted to know what was happening. Did anyone else hear gunshots on the south end of town, near the abandoned boys school? Did anyone recognize the man in red coveralls in this deer-cam footage, prowling around Roger’s woodlot cabin and laughing up into the camera? Did anyone have any smokes to spare? Could someone out with a snowplow bring Jackie some smokes? How were the roads? Was Tim Hortons open? Could someone buy me a double-double coffee and a bear claw at the Tim Hortons drive-through and tote it out to me because my car was broke? Did anyone know why they kept running out of honey dips at Tim Hortons? Did anyone know what the new manager of Tim Hortons thought he was doing? Did anyone know what the new manager of Tim Hortons wife was doing with the postman in the woods behind the elementary school on King Street? Did anyone remember when they had to lock the doors of the elementary school on King Street because a moose was on the loose?
We moved back home to the States seven years ago, but I keep up on things via Facebook. I’m a stranger again now, and mostly I don’t comment, although I did get a bit overinvested in the yurt situation. The yurt grifters are American, and I’m always curious about other Yanks who move to Shelburne. We aren’t popular up there, to put it mildly. About as welcome as a skunk at a picnic. A turd in a swimming pool.
Shelburne is a small town, the county seat. When we lived there, the population of the town center itself was around 800. I’ve heard it’s grown a bit during the pandemic, with a trickle of young families who work remotely or, with high hopes, buy one of the small businesses on Water Street that had been empty and out of business since the 1990s, when the air force base closed and the cod fishery died. Godspeed to them. Shelburne is a geographically isolated and economically depressed small town that’s not so very different from so many economically depressed small towns in Maine or Appalachia. A similar proportion of the voting population — at least when I lived there — was proud to drive up to the Dairy Treat for an ice cream cone after the tee-ball game with Confederate flags flying from the back of their Chevy Silverados. (Yes, Confederate flags in Canada. I knew more Trumpers in Canada than I know down here.)
Some of my old neighbors in Shelburne are totally uninhibited about posting their grievances on Facebook. The grievance-airing on Nova Scotia Facebook is often really funny but also frequently depressing. Tragicomic. Someone I used to know has beef with her sister, who was arrested for selling drugs on her newspaper delivery route. Someone I used to know has lost custody of her child and wants you to know that those who gave evidence against her are lying sons of whores. Read all about it!
It goes without saying that Facebook is incredibly uncool in 2022. My daughter — no longer wearing a winter coat in February, but capering into the blizzard in a snow-white Chrome Hearts hoodie — is very merry when she mocks me for still being on Facebook. She keeps a store of stock jokes handy about middle-aged women like me who hold their iPhone above head height to snap Facebook-mom selfies from a flattering angle. I realize how catastrophic Facebook has been for the political discourse, but I have so many photographs, videos, and memories on there, recording my kids’ first years on earth, that I can’t bring myself to leave.
This week, liberal Americans are highly surprised — confused, shocked — by the shenanigans of the hard-right Trumpist truckers causing mayhem in Ottawa. I’m highly not surprised. Rural Canada shares a demographic with the rural U.S.A. They are definitely armed up there, too.
I knew those dudes when I was in the Shelburne Volunteer Fire Department. We were friends. And I’ve read all about it on Facebook.