Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some of my favorite (favourite) Canadian moments so far. . .part deux!

The other night, after finishing some delightful Canadian Chinese food, I opened my fortune cookie and was informed that “D’autres admirent votre côté dramatique.” Fortunately, this was a reminder to post my second installment of my favorite (favourite) Canadian moments. (If you missed the first installment, check out my post from September 23, 2008.)


1) Shortly after I moved to Canada, I had to take my car in for emissions and safely testing. I dropped off my car and Sarah followed so she could drive me home. While I was in the shop turning in my keys and making arrangements for the testing, Sarah had her first Canadian confrontation while waiting for me in the parking lot. A guy walked past her truck and started gesturing at her, waving his arms and pointing. She noticed he was looking at her US license plate and rolled down her window. He approached her and started angrily lecturing her, saying that she should not be sitting in a parking lot with her car running because of all the pollution created by the idling engine. She told him that just because she had US plates didn’t mean he could harass her and then rolled up her window as she told him to mind his own business.

Sarah is not a confrontational person and she was a bit upset by this incident. I thought it was kind of cool that people in Canada cared enough about the environment to even notice an idling vehicle but thought he probably was a bit more aggressive than he would have been had her truck had Ontario plates. But then, as we drove home, I noticed a subtle irony each time we passed a Tim Horton’s—at each location, the drive-through line was at least six cars long. And, if you’ve ever been to Canada, then you know that a Tim Horton’s always has a lineup at the drive-through. I wondered much time Sarah’s new friend spends at the Tim’s drive-through spewing pollutants into the Canadian air each morning.

2) I’ve mentioned a few times the Canadians’ obsession with Tim Hortons. But, the best story so far since I’ve moved here has to do with Sarah’s accident back in September. She was on her way home from work on a rainy fall evening in her beloved pickup truck when an Ontario driver turned left in front of her. She didn’t have time to stop and both cars were demolished. Sarah’s airbag went off in the collision, and she stumbled out of her truck to find the other driver. He also emerged from his vehicle but was relatively unhurt. Some witnesses on the scene called the police. While waiting for the police to arrive, the other guy decided he wasn’t going to stand around and left the scene to go to Tim Horton’s for some coffee! Once the police arrived, Sarah was the only driver at the accident scene. The officer was confused and irritated that the other driver was not there. A few minutes later he showed back up holding his coffee and proceeded to try to talk himself out of the ticket (without success).

3) Okay, one final Tim-related story, except this actually happened in Michigan. While my family and I were shopping at the Birch Run outlets in Michigan on Thanksgiving weekend, I happened to be standing in a checkout line at one of the stores. A group of young girls were in line in front of me and seemed perturbed. Eventually one turned to all the others and said with desperation, “I wish they had Tim Horton’s in the States, eh?” All the other girls chimed in their agreement—“I know, eh?!”

A few Tim Horton’s actually do exist in the US, but they are not common unless you are in a location that attracts tourists from Canada! Birch Run is a place that attracts tourists from Canada, so I wonder if those girls ever realized that there was a Timmy’s across the street!


4) Coming from the Bible Belt of Michigan where certain cities are dry and other counties are (or were up until very recently) not allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays, I was surprised and relieved to find the attitude towards alcohol a little more relaxed here. This might be expected as the Canadians are known for their beer and because there is a very high concentration of breweries in my area. But, I didn’t realize how different the attitude towards alcohol was until some employee awards were announced at my company. The e-mail that went out to everyone named the winners of the customer service awards and informed us that they had won gift certificates to the local liquor store chain (LCBO for those of you who are familiar with alcohol sales in Ontario).

If employee awards at my previous employers in Michigan had ever involved alcohol, I think that protests, boycotts, prayer services, and lawsuits would have followed!

5) I am a caffeine addict, and as such, need caffeine often throughout the day. Never was I more in need of caffeine than when I was attending the two week new employee training for my new job. We had a lunch buffet set up for us and so I grabbed some food and was elated that I managed to seize the last can of Mountain Dew in the drink bin. I figured that would help me stay awake during the long afternoon in our windowless training room. I finished my lunch and my Dew and was listening to my classmates talk as I spun the empty can around in my hands. I looked down and almost screamed. Above the nutritional information (valeur nutritive) in small bold letters were the words CONTAINS NO CAFFEINE. I looked at the front of the can—it looked like a normal Mountain Dew can to me, no warning that this drink was *gasp* caffeine free.

I said to the people sitting at my table, “So, what’s with the Mountain Dew here? No caffeine?” They said, “Oh, no, it’s caffeine-free.” I looked incredulous, so they continued, “But we’ve heard that Mountain Dew is stronger in the States, eh?”

I haven’t had a Mountain Dew here since because I can’t fathom drinking that without caffeine. It would be like drinking alcohol-free beer!


6) Hockey rinks are everywhere here. I can’t even think of an equivalent in the US. I guess maybe the closest is that many people put basketball hoops in their driveways. But, still, it’s nothing like what you see here with hockey. Every town, no matter how small, has a hockey rink, and often this arena is the center of the community. My town of under 200,000 people has seven ice arenas that I know of, and there are probably more. This number doesn’t count the arenas in neighboring towns. Wait, I have forgotten the rinks in the shopping malls (yes, many malls have ice rinks in them). And, this doesn’t count the outdoor rinks that are numerous and found in almost every neighborhood. It also doesn’t count the rinks that people make in their back and front yards!

Even the streets can serve as hockey rinks in summer and winter. My town of Cambridge made national headlines in Canada last fall when the City Council considered banning sports equipment on city streets and sidewalks, i.e., banning street hockey. A massive outcry ensued and the resolution didn’t pass. Apparently tampering with this popular pastime was tantamount to an assault on the national culture.

7) I’ve always enjoyed bowling even though I’m not very good. I was excited and delighted to learn that my department at work was having a social event during work hours and it would be at a bowling alley. That morning, before I left for work, I put my bowling bag in my car and looked forward to the day ahead.

Once at work, I was chatting about the day’s planned event and my co-worker commented, “Well, it’s five-pin bowling, eh?” I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, and he assured me that five-pin bowling was common everywhere, and probably most popular in the US. I assured him that this did not exist in the US. To settle the argument, I looked up five-pin bowling online. Sure enough, it is a Canadian form of bowling. You cannot imagine my dread when I saw pictures and diagrams online and realized that I would be making a fool of myself in front of my new colleagues by having to bowl with a ball the size of a coconut on a little narrow lane that ends with five pins. Even now as I’m writing this, I’m so puzzled by the bizarre nature of the whole event that I’m not sure what else to day about it. Anyway, I’m glad I found out what was really going on before I brought my own (giant) ball into the bowling alley because I would have looked like an idiot and probably cried from embarrassment.

Then again, others love my dramatic side!

1 comment:

Nova Canadian said...

Ahh, we agree. As new Expats to Nova Scotia via New Jersey, we have come already to love Canada's delightful contradictions. Still getting used to the snow, the huge rocks from nowhere, and the pleasantly kinder & gentler roadways, we are happy to be here. We also have come to love hockey and Tim Hortons (Timmies) as well are developing a fondness for Treehouse TV.