In my second edition of Toonie Tales, noticing the behaviour (<– notice my spelling) of people here has been a refreshing change from those south of the border. No matter where I have gone – take it from the Passport Office to the Tim Hortons to the Government of Ontario offices to the people at Pizza Pizza – there has been nothing short of gracious service and friendly people everywhere. It’s a complete culture shock even though I have visited here nearly every year since I moved away but moving back has been great.
First experience was immediately felt at the border. I presented the guy there with my proper forms of ID for crossing into Canada and I figured since I had tons of stuff with me, I would have my work contract since he would most likely ask. Instead, the guy asked me about my school and where I graduated from, which state I was currently residing in and whether I planned to still own the car the next time I would visit. THAT was it. My contract lying on the seat next to me went by the way side, no luggage check for someone admitting to move into the country and in under a minute, I was on my way. It’s safe to say, people like me are usually the ones “randomly” selected to be inspected at any TSA line.
I thought maybe I had gotten lucky but I was in no mood to push my luck so I carried on. The rest of the travel was rather short and I only unpacked and called it a night. The next day was my first at work and I had spared myself some extra time getting to downtown because of the train commute. I got there a little early and the thing I noticed, (noticed it when I came for the interview too), was that there is no uptight security like we have back in the States. Any work environment I have been a part of, barely lets you set foot into the building before being forced to talk to a security guard of some sort or brandish your work ID. Here, there is a guy sitting at his desk but he just said “Hi” as I walked in like I had been here before. Interestingly, all the doors on every floor including the entrances from the staircase are ID protected so you can get in the building, but can’t do much else.
The relaxed and refreshing environment of security was also present at the passport office too where a very pleasant officer was greeting people waiting in line going out the door and was suggesting alternative timings to come avoid the rush or different places if you were there just to pick up your passport instead of filing for one. The kind people over at Service of Government of Ontario were great too. I didn’t have an appointment (they accept people from 4-7pm with appointments only) but the lady waived me through as the queue was rather empty. Apparently I didn’t have all the necessary paperwork ready that day but when I did come back a couple of days later, a different lady guided me through all the paperwork, even chatted about why I hadn’t lived in Canada since 2000 and what I liked better.
I put all the government offices first because that’s where you are least likely to find a friendly environment in New Jersey or New York but this behaviour transcends those walls too. The local Tim Hortons next to my work has a packed line at 7 or 8 in the morning and yet they each find a way to laugh about something with each customer. How do people get the energy to do that, this early in the morning? The Pizza Pizza near where I am living apparently goes even beyond that. First, the lady upgraded our order from a large to extra-large because there was a sale/it was going to cheaper on our end and then once the order was complete, they opened up each box to show that we were satisfied with what it looked like. Apparently, they go back and cook more / make you a new pie if it is too burned. Good like finding that kind of service at Pizza Hut or Dominos without putting up a fight.
All that praising aside, they do have a complex with identifying every single person who is Canadian though. For example, there have been repeated updates on the radio of injured “Canadian” first baseman of the Minnesota Twins Justin Morneau. It is quite awkward to hear all Blue Jays, Raptors, Leafs and Argos updates and they include a tiny segment for the Twins vs. White Sox update because Morneau is not playing. Also on the radio, there is a rather bizarre obsession with Lady Gaga music here that has to be classified as some sort of disease.
My biggest adjustment so far would probably have to be not crossing the street on a red light. No one and I literally mean no one crosses the street when there is a red hand up. I am sure everyone has places to go but even on an empty road in the morning or the add break in traffic leave for home, everyone seems to patiently wait until the light turns green and the ‘walk’ symbol appears before they start walking. Succumbing to public pressure, I have also stopped and kindly twiddle my thumbs while waiting for the light to turn green – I guess I need to learn to be more patient.
On a funny note to end this, I did experience one incident of road rage while I have been here but it turns out the license plate of the guy was from the great state of New York. Go figure, right? Good Ol’ USA.
P.S. Popeyes still has the best chicken and biscuits of any fried chicken place.