As the walrus said, the time has come. Not to talk of many things, but to rejig the calendar so that Groundhog Day makes sense in Canada.
The day when we North Americans turn to the highly scientific method of weather forecasting, namely the actions of a sleepy rodent, is observed on February second. If he sees his shadow and scurries back into his hole, there are six more weeks of winter. If he does not hightail it back to bed, but stays out, signs a few autographs, poses for a bunch of selfies, and does some interviews, then an early spring is in store.
The six weeks outcome, the ‘bad’ one, has many Canadians puzzled. It would bring us to mid-March or almost the end of ‘calendar’ winter. In Canada this would be a most welcome time to see spring. Considering that realistically mid-April is when things start to warm up here. There are places I suppose where the February second date works, but not here.
So I hereby suggest we move Canadian Groundhog Day to a later date. Just like we do with our earlier Thanksgiving. Both Canada and the USA celebrate Thanksgiving; a way to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. But here in the north our harvest time is much earlier than in the south, so we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, not in November. If we had Groundhog Day on March first, it would reflect a more accurate reality. And let’s face it, when you are forecasting weather via a furry beast, it’s all about the accuracy!
Chuck’s classic has been covered by just about everyone over the years. But the version by Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra may be my favourite.
Of course, it is well documented in the annals of Rock ‘n’ Roll that many a band split up because of arguments over various riffs. These have come to be known as riff rifts.
it is an understatement to say traffic in Montreal is bad. It is horrendous with gusts to devastating.
With the city in the midst of a major multi-year project to redo a large highway exchange, it is an understatement to say traffic, which can be a thorny issue at the best of times, in Montreal is bad. It is horrendous with gusts to devastating. Some recent traffic induced situations have shone a light on human nature.
Many streets in Montreal’s downtown sector are old and narrow. In many cases, these secondary streets are reduced to one lane of traffic when there is parking on both sides. Twice this summer I have witnessed how this can bring out the worst in drivers.
One day a month or so ago I was on MacKay Street watching a large tractor-trailer as the driver attempted to back it into a lane. This involved blocking the street, almost putting the cab of the rig on the opposite sidewalk and I suspect a few prayers that the whole thing would not jack-knife.
The driver of the truck was not having any luck after several shaky tries. In addition, traffic was backing up for some distance and starting to block an intersection. However, people were being patient. Until a fire truck, sirens blaring lights flashing started down the street. Horns began to hoot as drivers wanted to get out of the way. I figured the driver would pull out, go around the block letting traffic flow, and try again. But no; just when it looked like he was going to do so this guy opted instead to give it another shot. With traffic building, sirens getting louder he tried to get that trailer into that lane until a cop strolled by and told him to get out of the way, go around the block. Even then the driver started to argue with the cop about having to make his delivery.
Yesterday was recycling day. On the next street over, Bishop, at 5:15 pm the contractor started to collect the recycling put out by the many restaurants, bars, and condos on the street. Yep, at rush hour. To make things worse, the truck had but one person to drive it and pick up the loads of cardboard and other recyclables. He would move up a few feet, get out of the truck, run from one side of the street to the other collecting, toss things into the truck, get back inside and move up a few more feet. All while a line of cars is growing behind him, down the street and causing a tie up on another street as drivers wait to turn. Who in their right mind would a) do recycling or garbage pick up at rush hour and, b) have only one person to drive and collect? It defies logic but probably puts a bit more cash in the contractor’s pocket.
But it wasn’t all bad. Last weekend I was driving west on a main street that intersects a highway exit. While waiting at the red light with my left turn indicator on several cars exiting the highway got stuck in the intersection blocking me from making my turn once the light changed. One fellow was so close to me that I could see he was going to do everything possible not to make eye contact, knowing he was in the wrong by “blocking the box”. But human nature being what it is he eventually looked at me no doubt expecting some rude gesture or comment. But all I did as our gaze met was shrug. A sort of “don’t worry we’ve all been there” shrug. He smiled and shrugged back and it was over.
Originally published September 3, 2013
This post was linked to by CNN to explain the backhanded apologies of some Canadians!
It is often said that we Canadians are polite to a fault. As a Canadian I would suggest, but certainly not argue, that it is impossible to be overly polite. People point out that we say thank you too much, perhaps even when being given a traffic ticket. If someone gives you something you have two choices; you can say thanks, or no thanks. As the latter probably won’t work with most cops you’re left with the former. Thanks for the ticket. Just as an afterthought, when someone does say thanks, or thank you, it is customary to reply with “you’re welcome”, or “my pleasure”, or even “no problem”. It is never appropriate to reply with “sure” or “uh-huh”!
But maybe we are more often accused of being overly apologetic, so let me enlighten you as to the true nature of the Canadian apology. Saying sorry is often depicted as a national pastime in Canada: bacon, hockey and apologizing. However I think it would be of benefit to those who hold this opinion of Canadians as apologists to explain our apologies, because they can be very subtle in nature – often more empathetic than apologetic.
Let’s say a Canadian and a non-Canadian turn a corner and bump into each other on a sidewalk.
The Canuck will probably be the first to say cheerily “Sorry about that” even though both were equally at fault, or no fault existed. The other person may also apologize, just as cheerily, resulting in what is known as a civilized exchange. Then again he or she may seize upon the Canadian’s apology to feel superior and reply “You certainly should be sorry” or some other witty retort.
In this case the subtlety of the sorry masks its true intent, which is along the lines of: “Sorry, I didn’t realize you are a total arsehole unable to function in normal society”. You see, the sorry in this case is more akin to the sorry expressed to someone recently bereaved; you weren’t responsible for the death of the loved one, but you “feel” sorry for their loss – you empathise with them. In our case you feel sorry for the cloddish boor for being a cloddish boor.
Keep this in mind the next time a Canadian apologizes to you; don’t be fooled by our oft used “sorry”, sometimes we’re actually expressing our sympathy for your shortcomings.