Tag Archives: traveling

Traveling to Canada: A Guide for Dumb Americans

I recently spent some time in Ontario, Canada for a business trip. I’d been to Canada before but only for very brief visits. This time I had a whole week though so I was able to thoroughly engulf myself in the whole culture and society. I know us American’s sometimes are not the most well liked when we visit a foreign country because we seem either dumb or elitist or arrogant. So here are six general things I learned that might help you assimilate easier in case you ever need to travel to Canada. I have a lot of Canadian friends that subscribe and read this blog too, so please don’t hesitate to help out if there’s anything you’d like to add.

1. Canadians can speak a lot of languages. Even though the national language is Canadian, like a lot of foreign countries, most of the people are capable of and willing to speak English when talking to Americans. They’re pretty good at it too, except some of them are hard to understand when saying words like “out” and “about” and “trout” and “pout”. One guy said he was “out and about” and I thought he said he was “oat in a boat” and I got confused and pretended I got a phone call and had to excuse myself. In Canadian they also call the bathroom the washroom instead of the restroom which is confusing because it implies people are washing in there instead of resting and bathing and for the first several days there I didn’t know where to go to the bathroom. There’s also a lot of people in Canada that speak French which is weird because I didn’t think Canada was anywhere near France.

2. Canadians are really nice. I mean really nice! Maybe the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’d heard that about Canadians before but now I’ve confirmed it’s most definitely true. Every last one of them that I bumped into was super nice, even the one I bumped into with my car apologized for getting in my way. I bet the two Gopher’s from the Warner Brother’s cartoons were Canadian. Sure, I haven’t traveled extensively, only to Mexico and a few tropical islands and now Canada so I’m sure there are some mean Canadians out there. Probably not very many though. Even the Canadian Border Agents were really nice. They were very polite and smiley and happy to see me as opposed to the U. S. Border Agents who seemed very snarly and mean and had a lot of scary attack dogs around.

3. Canadians have money that’s very colorful and some of it has little plastic windows where you can see through the money. It’s pretty weird and you can waste a lot of time looking through the plastic part to see what the world looks like through money. They also have weird names for some of their money like Loonies and Toonies. When I first got there I went into a bank to exchange $40 and had this conversation:

Me: Hi, can you exchange out some American money for me? Just an assortment, but include some quarters please, as I need to pay parking meters.

Teller: Would you like any Loonies and Toonies?

Me: Excuse me?

Teller: Would you like any Loonies and Toonies?

Me: (panic) Uhhhh….. je ne don’t speaké…. uhhh…. Canadian… eh?

Teller: Yeah, I’ll just give you some bills.

4. Canadians use something called the Metric System. I know, I have recollections of this stuff being taught to us in the 1970’s too. On the highways Canadians are allowed to drive 100 which I really liked because it was super fast and I could get places quickly even though most of the locals didn’t seem to be driving that fast. But I got a bunch of speeding tickets while I was there too which I didn’t understand because I thought I was only going 100. Maybe the police aren’t as nice as the rest of the Canadians. The whole metric system is really weird though, apparently people there think it’s easier to measure and count everything in increments of 10’s rather than dozens and 4’s and 8’s and 16’s and the difference between 32 and 212. I don’t get it.

5. Canadian cities are very clean and safe with not a lot of vagrant types or homeless people. In one city I actually saw a female city worker climb out of a white official city work truck and pick up two or three leaves from the side of the road. I thought that maybe she was just working extra hard or that maybe she was working on a craft or something that needed some leaves. The cities also seemed very safe and a man on the radio said there were only about 500 homicides in Canada last year which I thought couldn’t be right since there were probably at least that many in Chicago alone during the same period. So I called up the radio station to ask if he had made a mistake and he said no, but then he was so nice and said I was the 12th caller and I ended up winning two tickets to a Maple Leafs game which was pretty cool.

6. It’s hard to buy wine in Canada which is weird because I’d always heard that Canadians liked to drink. In the U.S. the average grocery store has an aisle the length of two football fields full of wine. In Canada, if you can find a grocery store that actually sells wine, it’s in these little mini-stores inside the grocery store which are about as big as a bathroom and you have to actually talk to the clerk and pretend to be a sophisticated sommelier American while you are frantically scanning the shelves to find the cheapest wine they sell. They also sell some of their wine in Milk Cartons. On the other hand on every corner are these giant stores called “BEER STORE” so apparently they’d rather have you drinking beer than wine. I didn’t see a single place to buy actual liquor though. Maybe that’s why there are not very many vagrant types or homeless people.

So that’s all you need to know about traveling to Canada! Oh, and make sure your passport is up to date.

Safe travels!

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In an Airport

I’m sitting in a lonely airport.

I just gave up my seat on an overbooked flight for a generous voucher and was re-booked on a flight four hours later than my original departure time. These situations rarely work out but this time I am mostly just shifting my layover times to different airports and moving my arrival time back about two hours.  I’ll be happy  for the voucher the next time I have to book a flight.

But now, here I sit with countless time to write… yet there’s really nothing to write about.

I am in a regional airport. Unlike the large hubs which are always filled with activity, regional airports are only loud and boisterous when there are flights coming and going and there often may be several hours between these times. Right now this airport is in between flights and so it’s deathly quiet other than the occasional announcement over the intercom’s, the faint sound of a television spewing propaganda on a cable news channel and the humming sound of the vending machines that are across the aisle from me. I am one of about a dozen passengers who have made their way past the security checkpoints and now are forced to kill time reading or sitting at the lone bar here or typing words into a blog.  Periodically someone else walks by, another passenger preparing to wait it out, or the cleaning personnel pushing a trash barrel.

I put my time in at the bar, ordering a sandwich and a couple of vastly overpriced  Corona’s for lunch. I sat by myself, my eyes darting from the TV behind the bar to the blogs I was perusing on my iPad. Neither was terribly interesting and so I mostly just sat and thought about what I could write.  A few other people sat in this little restaurant and read newspapers or stared at the screens on their phones.  I wondered what they might be thinking about; writing or missing their families or the work they had to do whenever they arrived at their destination.

The man behind the bar wore a net on his head, I assume because they were selling food here as well. It looked kind of silly and I wondered how he felt about having to wear it. He appeared to be about my age and was very friendly, running from the bar to the cash register and talking with the few customer that were stopping in. Regardless of his silly hair net, he was very jovial and upbeat and confident. He checked everybody’s ID that ordered a drink at the bar and would make the comment each time “can I see your ID so that nobody gets into trouble.”

After about an hour, I left the bar, walked to the restroom, emptied out some of the beer, then walked the couple of minutes to my gate. On the way I passed a young guy sleeping in one of the massage seats, his two bags sitting in front of him. I assumed he had probably not spent the $1.00 to get the seat to vibrate for a few minutes but only sat there because it was the most comfortable seat in the house.

When I arrived at the gate, there was nobody there and so I sat in the corner and fiddled with my iPad.  I snacked on a small box of Conversation Hearts that my wife had stealthily hid inside my backpack before I left. I had discovered these while loading all my electronics, my shoes and my jacket into the gray plastic tubs at the security gates. I smiled at her thoughtfulness and because I was reminded on my recent post on the subject of Conversation Hearts. As I sat, the minimal amount of alcohol from the Corona’s seeped into my blood and I felt sleepy but I didn’t want to fall asleep. Instead I wanted to try to write.

Now I sit at a little stainless steel desk with an outlet that I can plug my laptop into.  It’s the only desk in a row of six of these desks that doesn’t have a phone in it. I wondered who could possibly be using these phones anymore with the prominence of cell phones in the world today. But I’m happy to have the desk even though it’s too small for my height and I feel hunched over as I type.

I sat for a while trying to think of something to write. I thought about writing about my recent FP’d experience, but I just wasn’t inspired to write that post. As exciting as that was, I’m ready to move onto the next post. I tried to come up with something funny to write about, but there was nothing there. I considered writing about how I miss my family when I am on the road, about how difficult it is to leave, but that once I am gone and busy it becomes easier. But in reality, it’s not really easier. I remembered something another salesperson said to me several years ago; he said “there will never be a time when you’re on the road that you wouldn’t rather be home”. He was right and so I passed on writing about that as well.

So I sat in my little stainless steel cubicle and stared at the stark silver in front of me. I could faintly see my reflection in the shiny metal and my back ached from hunching over.

Then I just started writing.

Because sometimes writing about nothing can be the most interesting thing of all.

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