ATHABASCA/BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK - It is a strange phenomenon.
A day or two before the province introduces new public health restrictions there seems to be a noticeable change in people's driving habits — they get more aggressive.
That is according to Brett Maul, a delivery driver for Water Pure and Simple based in Westlock.
He started the job shortly before the start of the pandemic. His delivery area includes Barrhead, Neerlandia, Westlock, Athabasca, Smoky Lake, Red Water, Onoway, Legal and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.
Before that, he worked as a contract driver for Jubilee Farms.
"I do sense changes in behaviour and emotion of people from how they react on the roads," he said, noting that two or three days before restrictions are poised to be adjusted, there is a lot of traffic on the roads.
"[The day after] restrictions have been announced, it seems the stress people are feeling dissipates a bit, as people accept the new reality and traffic patterns go back to normal."
The Barrhead Leader talked to Maul the evening before Premier Jason Kenney announced the latest public health restrictions.
He said the day before the premier announced the strongest public health restrictions of the pandemic drivers, on the highway were gravitating between the extremes, either driving extremely slow and cautious, or speeding and doing a lot of passing.
As for the type of people he meeting on his run and whether they favour restrictions such as masking and physical distancing, they run the whole gamut.
Maul added it does not seem to vary from region to region, but rather that of individual workplaces.
“I often can pick up the culture of the places I deliver," he said. "There is certainly a wide variety on what they feel is acceptable in terms of each workplace."
As for what Maul thinks about the provincial health restrictions, he said he believes in following the public health mandates.
"I don't claim to understand what is right or wrong. While I don't fully understand the risks involved for my friends, family and everyone around me, the best option is to go with what [public health officials] are suggesting as safe," he said. "If wearing a mask is going to keep those I love safe, then that is what I am going to do."
Maul also said regardless of whether they believe in following the masking and physical distancing guidelines people, by and large, are very kind and accepting.
However, he has run into hostility on rare occasion. Maul understands he might have caught the person, because of the ongoing stress of the last 14 months, on an off-moment.
"We are in a situation [the pandemic] that was completely unpredictable and beyond our control as individuals ... so if people are angry, or feeling strong emotions or behave in a certain way. I have come to understand that emotions and behaviours are not what people are because it changes all the time."
Because of the limited in-person interactions, Maul has found the ones people do have become more meaningful.
That is especially true to those who live alone, he said.
"As a single adult, living alone, there is very rarely things for me to do outside of work and when you see the same people every day, in the same position, it is like they are a part of a little family," Maul said.
He became aware of how important relationships such as these had become to him, when in September, one of his customers said he was leaving and this was his last day.
"As I was leaving, I realized how emotional it was. These are people you see every day, they provide an important sense of connection and I have come to care about them," Maul said, noting others have said the same thing to him. "It certainly has made this whole experience much more pleasant and tolerable than it would have been otherwise."
In addition to working for Water Pure and Simple, Maul has started his own business, First Impressions Resume Service, to help people who may find themselves unemployed due to the pandemic.
As a way to give back, free of charge, Maul will be helping graduating high school students create, what for many, will be their first resume.
"Hopefully these kids will be able to go forward, with less stress, more certainty and become their best self a little sooner," he said.