Subtle Twists

Aug 2, 2004

I noticed something about Canada during my recent visit. It’s a whole
different country. Some things are the same. The people look and
talk much the same (eh?), assuming your aren’t running off to Quebec. Cars
still drive on the right. Cows still moo and ducks still quack. But there
are all sorts of little things that throw you off.

First, there’s the whole metric system. I never really understood why
us Americans could never get jiggy with a world full of multiples of ten
but it’s interesting to hang out someplace that does. I used 3 kg bags of
ice to keep my beer cold. I had to keep a close eye on the inner circle of my
speedometer. We have 100 to go. Wow. That’s really far. Perhaps it’s in
kilometers? Did that feel like 100 km? How far is 100 km? Where is my
slide rule? Slow down. You are going 120!

Then there’s the money. American dollars and Canadian dollars have almost
nothing in common outside of the fact that they are currency.
It wasn’t the odd colors or exchange rates that tripped me up, however.
It was the use of coins for dollars. On my first full day in Canada, I
picked up beer for $35. I handed the cashier $30 in cash and got my $4
change in coins. Odd, I thought, as my head worked out both the monetary conversion and the worth of these loonies now lining my pockets.
My pockets jingled nearly the entire trip. Too bad I never found one of
these
quarters
. They are too cool.

Lastly, we have the beer, which was different in more ways than one.
While shopping, we couldn’t help but notice the huge amount of recycling
going on. Two guys pulled up in a truck bed filled three deep with cases
of bottles. I remarked to my brother-in-law, “They must own a restaurant.”
The woman pulling three cases of bottles from her trunk made me reconsider
that comment.

The store we entered didn’t have any beer on the shelves proper. Instead,
the walls were lined with empty bottles. Choose your poison, order from
the cashier, and watch the beer come flying out a conveyor belt. It seems
that there are some things we could learn from our Canadian neighbors.

And we quickly learned that the beer on those conveyor belts packed a much
greater punch than their American counterparts. Budweiser came in at 5%
alcohol and without its American aftertaste. Yum. I need to start importing
the stuff. Coors light, much to the chagrin of my brother-in-law, sported
a similar boost (up to 4% alcohol). I’d say it was fact I was on vacation
but that wasn’t it. Beer really did taste better around the campfire.

Still, things were much more the same than different. The subtle twists
gave the trip its own special flavor. We did travel to another country
even if, for the most part, America was just 3 miles and a barrel ride away.

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