Tag: Canadian

Oh, Canada: Where’d all the drunks go?

I remember sitting in a college class ( Nonviolent Defense and Conflict Resolution) listening to a guest speaker talk about life as a submarine commander. This was a few years ago, but here is what I remember from his lecture, “You can travel the world and see amazing things, or you can find out that a bar in Asia looks the same inside as a bar in England.” (The other thing I remember about the class was that on the final day we had a discussion about how our views of violence had changed. My friend Rick said he would still punch someone if the occasion arose.) In other words: If you travel and want to see something different, stay out of bars. I have not always followed this advice, but in my many years of roaming this planet I will add my own bit of wisdom. “If you travel, and you visit bars, you will believe that the entire country is filled with drunks.” This is true in all countries except England where the country IS filled with drunks no matter where you go. England, it might be time for a few of your friend-countries to sit you down and have an intervention.

My early experiences with Canada involved traveling for college basketball games to distant locations like Edmonton, Vancouver, and Victoria. Now one might think, “Oh, isn’t it lovely that all you boys could get together and go and exercise with other young fellows. That sounds so healthy.” Well it wasn’t. Most meals were at the Golden Arches and evenings when I could have been reading my textbook on Nonviolence I was doing research on drunk Canadians. Where do you find drunk Canadians? Bars, liquor stores, and just about everywhere I went.

Canada has changed. I don’t know what happened to the drunk Canada that I once knew, but these days Canada doesn’t remind me of Canada at all, it reminds me of Norway.  (I have a feeling it wouldn’t take much research to locate this drunk Canada again, but I’ll leave that up to somebody who doesn’t have to be in bed by 8:30.) Canada is on a health kick. I don’t know if it was the Vancouver Olympics or if Canada just decided that it needed to lose a few pounds, but whatever happened has transformed this nation into a bunch of granola eating, flip-flop wearing, tree-huggers, and I love it. Who knew a trip to Norway could be just a drive away?

Spend two hours watching Canadian television (I am American, if I can’t watch TV I go into a diabetic shock) and you will see commercial after commercial selling the outdoors and exercise. These are not ad campaigns focused on selling hiking equipment but commercials for Timmy Horton’s Donuts and McDonald’s. Everyone in Canada is now out river rafting, mountain biking, and hiking. I don’t remember this being a Canadian thing but exercise is now hip in Canada.

Did these rings change Canada's behavior?

Did these rings change Canada’s behavior?

Yes, this is the same Canada that is a frozen land of snow and ice for seven months a year, but just like the Norwegians, Canadians have adopted the “there is no bad weather, there is just bad clothing” attitude about being outdoors. They have also invested infrastructure to support exercise. It was like Canada woke up with a huge hangover a few years ago and decided that it was time to start doing something other than vomiting all over itself.

I’m sure my American readers (Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh) have already seen through this Socialist plot to make people healthy. “The next thing you know, they will have everyone outside doing T’ai Chi every morning dressed in grey jumpsuits.” Yeah, that could be. Maybe since Canadians have socialized medicine it made sense to see if exercise might make people healthier. These Communist plots are the kind of Communist plots I can go along with. That’s right, I’m a Socialist-Communist-Pinko-Pacisfist who believes in universal healthcare. I also think that America needs a new cultural identity. I will borrow from the American classic Animal House, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.” The world’s view of Americans is that we are fat and stupid (and they might be right), but we could follow Canada’s footsteps off the couch and become a nation of people who exercise, not just a nation who watch exercise. Or, or we could just wait another five years and hope that Mexico continues to get fatter. We might still look pretty good if we stand next to Mexico.

 

Those Sneaky Canadians

English: The flag of Canada, flying in Vanier ...

Canada: The only country with a leaf on its flag. It’s tricks like this that make me think Canada is up to something.

If I could sum up Canadians in one word it would not be polite, it would be sneaky. That’s right, I wrote it: sneaky. I don’t mean sneaky like China trying to sell toys painted with a combination of poison and lead, but sneaky like having a toll bridge with no toll booth.

I know, that doesn’t make any sense. A toll bridge always has a toll booth; not in Canada. On the outskirts of Vancouver (BC, not to be confused by the one in WA which shouldn’t be a problem unless you are really lost) there is a sneaky toll bridge. It isn’t like the Canadians are trying to catch you off guard, there are a trillion signs leading up to the bridge announcing: Last Exit Before Toll Bridge, Toll Bridge Ahead, Now Approaching Toll Bridge, You Are On A Toll Bridge, You Just Crossed A Toll Bridge, I Hope You Brought a Computer So You Can Figure Out How To Pay Your Toll, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING.

Looking for a toll booth? Don't bother.

Looking for a toll booth? Don’t bother.

For ten miles after crossing the bridge (16 kilometers for those of you who bought into the whole “the metric system is the future” thing) I kept looking for a toll booth. There wasn’t one, but there was a sign with a web address. Had I known that there was going to be a sign with a web address I might have been able to write the address down, but I wasn’t prepared because I was trying to see if the downtown area of Vancouver was visible from the bridge. I did this by ignoring the lines on the road and turning around in my seat to look over my shoulder. “Yep, you can see Vancouver,” I said to my family who were watching the road for me so they would be able to file the police report when I crashed the car.  Then, just as I began to think that maybe there wasn’t a toll after all there was an ominous sign that stated, “Pay Your Toll Within 7 Days For The Best Price,” or something like that. That is Canadian code language for pay or you will get a fine for a “licence plate processing fee.”  How did they have my licence/license plate? Those sneaky Canadians got it when I crossed the border, I remembered the border agent walking to the front of my car and writing down my plate. At the time, I wondered if something came up on the computer when I handed over my passport, “KNOWN TO PARK IN CARPOOL PARKING SPACES, WRITE DOWN HIS LICENCE/LICENSE PLATE.”

They also got it because the new bridge has cameras taking pictures of the license plates of all the vehicles crossing the bridge. Pretty sneaky, Canada, pretty sneaky. (Canada loves their hidden cameras.)

How do I know all of this? Well, because some enterprising Americans invented Google. (Okay, one of the guys was from Russia, but the other guy was from Michigan.)  So when I got to my hotel in Whistler I typed into Google: “Toll Bridge Vancouver BC” and this is what I found: https://www.treo.ca/the-bridge/

This was the moment that I realized I would not be getting a free drive across the Port Mann Bridge. They had me. I crossed the bridge. I saw the signs. I would be recrossing the bridge on the way home. There was no way to avoid paying. I paid the toll, but it didn’t feel right. Computers, cameras and the interwebs have made it easier for us to  those daily tasks, but what have we lost? We have lost terrible jobs like Toll Booth Collector. Imagine how mind numbing that job must be. We have lost the traffic congestion caused by people who don’t have exact change. We have lost the challenge of picking the quickest line of cars when approaching the toll booths. Okay, we haven’t lost that much, but I did have to give my credit card number to Canada to pay for my $6 (Canadian) toll, which will probably end up being $20 after all the overseas charges and exchange rate maneuvering my bank goes through for me spending my money in another country.

Why couldn’t Canada just put a booth on the road like the rest of the world? That’s just not Canada’s style. Canada enjoys its reputation of producing maple syrup, hockey players, and Ouija boards. (I made up the Ouija board thing, but it is better than saying Justin Bieber.) Their reputation has allowed them to quietly infiltrate the entertainment industry in the United States. Of course everyone knows about John Candy, Mike Myers, and Martin Short, but do you realize that William Shatner is Canadian? How about Ryan Gosling? Lorne Greene? (The name Lorne should have given him away, but riding those horses with Hoss and Little John made him seem more American.) Tommy Chong? For every Howie Mandel there are three Raymond Burrs (Canadian). You don’t see Malcolm Gladwell walking around singing, “Oh, Canada” but he sure knows the words. So did Peter Jennings and Guy Lombardo. That’s right, Canadians have been sneaking across the border for years and taking American jobs. Where is the outrage? There isn’t any outrage because Canadians have built up years of trust with us. They are the polite nation. The nation that produces maple syrup. They aren’t the job stealing nation, I’m not going to mention any names here but Florida knows who I’m talking about.

Should we care? I don’t know. Should I care when I go into a McDonald’s in Canada and they serve poutine? Does it matter that Canada has a sneaky little maple leaf in the McDonald’s arch? Well, if they can corrupt McDonald’s with their little red leaf where will they stop?

McDonald's Canada

One step closer to Socialism taking over the planet.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe Americans can become more polite. Maybe we can say, “Sorry” before we say, “What’s your problem?” Maybe we can learn to wear sweaters in the winter. I can probably learn what a blue line is in hockey. I can probably learn to like Nickleback. (See, I just wrote that sentence and didn’t throw up on my computer.) I can probably understand that universal health coverage is better than paying $700 a month for insurance that only works when I don’t need it. I can probably be Canadian. I’ll make you a deal Canada, I will learn your sneaky ways if you don’t tell Texas, and if you put up one toll booth on the Port Mann Bridge.

 

Oh, Canada…The Country Right Above My Home And Fatherland

The first mistake an American traveling to Canada makes is to assume that Canada is pretty much exactly like the United States except a little colder. It isn’t. It is a mysterious place. It is a place where an American (United States citizen) can move freely without much trouble, but realize that those Canadians who are being so nice know who you are. They know how you spell favorite and honor. They know you eat your french fries without gravy and cheese. They know you probably have a gun hiding in your shoe. They know you don’t know the difference between a blue line and a red line. And they know you are a visitor because you yell at people letting cars merge at the border crossing.

Some Canadian flags: (left to right) Canadian, BC?, I have no idea, and mystery flag #2.

Some Canadian flags: (left to right) Canadian, BC?, I have no idea, and Whistler’s own flag. The skies in Canada always look like this.

Canadians have a reputation for being polite, friendly, and polite, and they are, but Canadians are also sneaky. They are one of the only nations to attack the United States on our soil. They think their national anthem is better than ours (and they might be right). They have a television show that plays 24/7 where they hide a camera and play cruel jokes on people and nobody ever gets mad. They continue to sneak actors, musicians, and comedians across the border without us figuring it out until it is too late.

I have returned from Canada and have put together an extensive guide for Americans visiting Canada. I will be covering everything from Canadian radio to driving in Canada. This guide will probably become the most important reference since Wikipedia was invented, so hold on to your touk (according to an actual Canadian, this is spelled toque) and get ready for some serious learning in the next few weeks.

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