The United States shares a border with its neighbor to the north, Canada, that’s 5,525 miles long – or if you happen to be Canadian, that’s 8,891 kilometers – not that anybody really uses kilometers, mind you. Did you know that our border with Canada is the longest unprotected border in the world? I’ll bet there are a lot of things you don’t know about our friendly neighbor to the north.
As someone who has been married to a Canadian for 25 years, I am an expert on appreciating the subtle cultural differences between our two nations. I continue to be surprised by how little most Americans know about the great nation of Canada. When asked, What’s the capital of Canada?, 55% of Americans guessed Toronto. Another 25% chose Montreal. And 15% responded, Could you repeat the question? The correct answer, of course, is Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Many Americans think of Canadians as beer-swilling, hockey-playing, toque-headed, parka-wearing moose-hunters, whose favorite food is a beaver tail pastry, covered in maple syrup. In reality, only a small minority of Canadians are moose hunters. Most prefer to hunt caribou. The true picture of Canada is much more nuanced and includes Royal Canadian Mounties officiating curling matches on floating pack ice.
The sad truth is that most Americans know next to nothing about our next-door neighbors to the north. Time to set the record straight. Here are seven widespread myths (only two of which I’ve been spreading) about Canada and Canadians.
… with an elephant. I would put it right up there among the most unpleasant experiences I’ve ever had to endure, tied with having a root canal or listening to a life insurance sales presentation about the benefits of whole life versus term. Recently, I had a colonoscopy. It’s one of those milestone events in life that apparently you’re supposed to do every few years once you hit 50, like starting to think about retirement planning, only a lot messier and more humiliating.
If you have never had a colonoscopy, let me give you a preview of what you’re in for. It’s no fun. They call it a “minor procedure.” But there’s nothing minor about it if you ask my colon. A doctor shoves a 142-foot tube called an endoscope up your butt to check out your insides. Essentially, it’s the same as the Roto-Rooter guy, but without the clipboard and baseball cap, and in this case, the backed-up pipe they’re inspecting is your intestinal tract. And this is one serious tube they insert. I am not completely sure of the exact route the endoscope took inside me, but I believe it included a side trip to my spleen before moseying to take a peek at my left ear canal.
Most qualified colonoscoptologists (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what they prefer to be called) will take careful safety measures to ensure they don’t jam the tube in so far that it might come out a facial orifice. Avoid any doctor who refuses to make that assurance. Before last week, if you told me that I was going to voluntarily succumb to allowing a complete stranger to stick a tube the length of a basketball court up my back side and take pictures of my interior (probably to post on Facebook), I would have laughed my ass off. Perhaps I should have rephrased the previous sentence.
America is a nation obsessed with its cars, especially us males. Ever since my Y chromosome muscled out that wimpy second X one, I was pre-destined to fixate on buying my next car. Since college, I have owned eight cars, and every one of them has taught me a valuable life lesson. (Click on the links below to see exact replicas of each car I owned – down to the color.)
My Volvo (1968 model year) taught me a lesson in humility. A guy I knew in college dared me to a drag race on a stretch of highway. He had a Corvette. It did zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds. My six-year old Volvo did zero to sixty, well… eventually. By the time I reached the finish line, the other dude was in a different zip code – mocking me from afar. A humbling experience. Volvo has always had a reputation for building safe cars. After my humiliation, I could only conclude it must be because few Volvo owners ever have enough time on their hands to attain dangerous speeds above 20 mph.
My Chevy Malibu (1973) taught me about Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I received a firsthand education on the complexity of automobiles and just how many different components could break down, including the antenna, the door lock, the radio, the non-electric windows, and the clock – and that was just on my test drive. And I also learned that not all car horns sound the same. When my horn died (who knew car horns died?) the repair shop apparently found a replacement horn by stealing it from a pink Schwinn bicycle previously owned by a six-year old girl.
Dear Young Tim,
Hello, handsome young lad. This is me – that is to say, you, writing to you from the future. It’s now 2012 and a lot has happened to us since I was your age. I wanted to talk about some of the things you’re planning to do over the next fifty years. First, don’t worry so much. You always were a bit of a worrywart. There will be some minor hiccups along your way – and a few doozies – but in the end, you’ll stumble through with more than a quarter of your dignity intact. Here’s some advice to make your journey to the year 2012 a little less bumpy. You’ll thank me later.
When you’re three years old, our mom and dad are going to dress you up as a Little Bo Peep for Halloween – complete with the curly-haired wig. Don’t let them. This humiliation will cause you to question your sexual orientation and sour you on barnyard animals for years. Insist on going as a tiger or maybe a ladybug. Just say No to Bo!
On the last day of school in fourth grade, the neighborhood troublemaker Hank O’Connor is going to try to convince you to jump on your skateboard and hold onto a rope attached to his banana bike as he veers all over the street – that’s right, just like water skiing – only on rock-hard asphalt. This is not going to end well, I’m afraid. Your next stop will be the ER of Albany Medical to repair two broken bones. Your cast won’t come off until two days before school begins next fall. My advice: Be polite. Offer to let Hank go skateboarding first. That hooligan has no summer plans anyway.