Tuesday, December 28, 2010

On Toothpaste and Sandboxes

I was in Shoppers Drug Mart a couple of days before Christmas picking up a few things to fill up my wife's stocking when I heard an interesting conversation take place down the toothpaste aisle. Two women, strangers, struck up a conversation about the vast number of choices when it comes to picking out your toothpaste these days - total, total advanced, tartar protection, cavity protection, baking soda, whitening, professional, sensitivity - the list goes on and on.

Anyway, these two women started talking to each other (a phenomena unique to women - men would never start talking to another random guy in a store), about toothpaste. It was obvious that the first women wasn't from around these parts with her thick southern U.S. drawl. When the second woman commented on her accent, the first one very quickly identified herself as being from Virginia...and a Liberal.

Now, I don't know if Americans feel some sort of pressure to identify themselves as Liberal when they are in Canada, sort of like cheering for the home team at a football game even though you are secretly from the visiting city, but I've had this happen to me on more than one occasion.

When we visited Chicago earlier this year, as we went around the breakfast table at our B&B with the obligatory introductions, one woman introduced herself by saying "I'm from Maryland and I voted for Obama." Odd, I thought, that one would choose to self-identfy by reveling one's political leanings. This would never happen in Canada. We'll talk about the weather, about the (insert local hockey team here), and then apologize for something, but we would never introduce ourselves by revealing our political party of choice.

"Hi, I'm Bob, and I voted for the Conservative Party of Canada in the last election. How are you?"

"Great thanks, I'm Steve. I voted for the NDP last time. Don't you just love Jack Layton's groovy mustache?"

These things just don't happen here. Generally speaking I think Canadians are far less likely than Americans to self-identfy with one particular tribe or another. And when it comes to politics, we have an equal disdain for all of them so there is no real home team. It's as if the Americans are putting it right up front that you are only allowed to play in their sandbox if you are of the same political leaning. If not, go find your own sandbox because you are not welcome and not really trusted here. That's when they end up drawing a line in the sand with no compromise on either side resulting in ridiculous shouting matches heard from the White House all the way down to the lowest levels of government - and on Fox news.

So, to the lady from Virginia...next time you are in Canada and identify yourself as a Liberal, just know that for the most part, we don't care. If you are friendly, not too intrusive, and maybe just a little aware of life above the 49th parallel, you are welcome to play in our sandbox anytime. Oh...and make sure you apologize for something random every few minutes. Then we'll accept you as one of our own.

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