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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Coming home

I went to Florida over Christmas this year. Not just anywhere in Florida, either, but to the Happiest Place on Earth! (Does Disney have that trademarked? I should expect a “cease and desist” letter from their lawyers any day now.) It’s my third visit to Disney World, and probably won’t be my last (I married a woman who is truly, deeply, bafflingly in love with all things Disney, and since I am a willow in the wind, I go where she goes). I’ve got a post or two about Disney and the vacation in general, but what I want to talk about first is the homecoming.

First, like all sane Canadians, I’m not a big fan of that mystical number where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales collide, namely 40 degree below zero (they do it again around 11 degrees, but no one gets excited about such a non-offensive number). Apparently we had decent weather while I was away, then we got plunged back into the deep freeze in time for my flight to land in Winnipeg. There was a plane-wide groan when the pilot announced the current temperature, let me tell you.

However, I will take the cold. There are compensations. For instance, I don’t have to turn my shoes upside down in the morning to get rid of scorpions, I don’t have to sleep under mosquito netting or risk malaria, our spiders never get bigger than something you can safely squish under a slipper, and no one around here ever lost their home due to a hurricane. And perhaps it’s the cold that makes us almost desperately friendly.

Oh sure, when you’re here every day, you don’t really notice it. Your mental “friendliness meter” gets set to the local social climate. But go away for a bit, and man, it’s obvious our local folks are awesome.

Case in point: airport security. (Yes, this is anecdotal evidence, so it has no scientific merit, but we all live in anecdotal worlds, so it counts for real human experience. Anyway…)

On our trip out, the American custom officer was grim-faced and threateningly somber. She asked how long it had been since we’ve visited the States. One of our party hadn’t been down in at least ten years, and said so. The immediate reaction? A blunt and terse “Why not?!” We were all a little stunned. I wanted to say “Cause your politicians are nuts and you loonies keep electing them” but thought that might end with a visit to a small white room and an unofficial prostate exam. When I answered “Where do you work?” with “I’m a house-husband” I got a serious stink eye.

Now come back. I gave the same answer to the Canadian custom officer. She smiled and said “Oh, I know what that’s about!” Both women. Both working the same job. Yet one made us feel like criminals for daring to spend money in their country, and the other acted like a human being.

Next I moved on to the parking attendant. I had misplaced my ticket, so he had no idea how long I’d been in the parkade. Yet I explained the situation to him, told him the car had been there for eight days, and he just nodded and took payment. He said if people lied, they usually claimed they’d only been there for five minutes. Still, he had no proof I hadn’t been parked there for a month or more. Instead of making my life miserable when all I wanted was to make that final marathon drive home, he let me go on my way with a shrug and a smile.

Basically, the first two people I encountered could have made my life a temporary hell. Instead they sent me on my way with as little delay as possible. You can’t believe the smile on my face for their tiny kindnesses. (Or maybe you can, if you’ve spent a day with two kids that started at 5 am and ended 12 hours later in an airport 3200 kilometres away.)


What’s the point? I love my country, and I’m glad to be home. The warm cockles of my heart are holding the frigidity of January at bay, at least for a bit.

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