Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sign On The Dotted Line

While my American friends are using their smartphones to deposit money in their Chase accounts without ever leaving their apartments, I have to deal with Canadian banks.  It takes some getting used to.

Anything that isn’t simple means going into the bank and dealing with the tellers.  And of course, because everyone inside the bank has something complicated to do, it takes forever to get your complicated thing done.  You just have to plan on spending an hour in there and hoping for a good outcome.

Today’s transaction was especially complicated.  The teller took it in stride and just got on with it, but it took some doing.  After 20 minutes of tapping the keyboard and squinting at the monitor and looking things up in a manual, she said, “OK.  Now I just need to get some John Henrys on this,” and headed for a cluster of desks.

“Oh,” I thought to myself.  “She means John Hancock.”

Pretty flashy signature for an insurance man
Pretty flashy signature for an insurance man.

But while she was off locating John AND Henry, I started thinking, “Hang on. This is Canada.  Maybe up here a signature has to do with a steel-driving man, and not with the American Declaration of Independence.”

But wait.  There’s more!  It IS John Henry, but it’s not the steel-driving man!  Apparently a cowboy never signs a document, he puts his John Henry to it. Who knew?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Stanley Cup

It’s the end of April, and time for baseball.  At least for me it is.  But here in Canada, people are paying far more attention to hockey, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway.  It takes some getting used to.

When I was a little girl, I listened to the NY Rangers on the radio late at night. I'd never seen a hockey game, but I loved the rhythm of the game, and the French names of the players. My favorite team was the Toronto Make Believes, and I hoped to stand one day in Make Believe Garden. It was a pretty big disappointment when I saw my first (televised) game, and finally understood the name of the team.

When I lived in the Bay Area, the San Jose Sharks came into being, and I paid attention to hockey once again.  The standing joke then was that there were really only 17,442 Sharks fans. That was the capacity of the San Jose Arena configured for hockey, and the most likely explanation for a team with one of the worst records in the NHL selling out every home game.

Now, the Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but even more thrilling, the Stanley Cup was in Kelowna last night.  I'll never stand in Make Believe Garden, but I got to touch the Stanley Cup.

Stanley Cup on the left; me on the right.

No Falcons baseball until June.  So it’s root, root, root for the Canucks.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Pop Quiz!

Fill in the blank.

Damn the __________________.

  1. torpedoes
  2. Americans
  3. Harper Government

Canada’s navy wants to spend about $120 million to retrofit torpedoes they bought from the Americans in order to fire them from submarines they bought from the British, according to news reports.

So Canada has four submarines.  One of them is “partially operational” and the other three are not at all operational.  The navy has a total of 36 torpedoes, none of which can be fired from any of the submarines, even the one that is partially operational.  It takes some getting used to.

HMCS_Victoria_SSK-876_near_Bangor courtesy Wikipedia

Apparently once the torpedoes are converted, Canada will need to spend more money to refit the subs.

All this comes to light in the middle of a federal election campaign, but it was the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency that published the information about the pending sale in a press release dated March 23.  Weapons sales of this nature have to be approved by the United States Congress.  Canada is awaiting approval.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Canadian elections and Solfeggio

Canadian elections are confusing.  Elections here are different than back home.  In the United States, everyone knows when the next election will be.  Here, at the federal level, there’s no set date.  It takes some getting used to.

Canadians seem so proud of their Parliamentary system.  (Proud in a Canadian way, that is.)  I haven’t quite figured it out.  If Democracy were a religion, an election would be a sacrament --- an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.  But as soon as there is a hint of an election, pretty much everyone complains.

This time around, the political pundits are trying to get Canadians fired up about the “In-and-out-affair” which is not what you probably think.  It’s about creative campaign funding, and the Conservative Party just trying to gain its fair advantage, a concept so foreign to Canadians I don't know how I could possibly explain it.

The chief political pundits are on the national news broadcast, called “The National,” are  Chantal Hébert, Andrew Coyne, and Allan Gregg.

At Issue Panel - Andrew Coyne, Allan Gregg, Chantal Hébert
At Issue Panel - Andrew Coyne, Allan Gregg, Chantal Hébert

Most Thursdays, they debate the issues of the day, each taking a different side.  Yes.  There are three sides to everything here.  At least.  They remind me of The Nairobi Trio.

Ernie Kovacs - The Nairobi Trio “Solfeggio”

If we have an election in May, I’ll probably hear “Solfeggio” in my head the whole time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Canadian Frugality

Yesterday it came to light that President Obama’s proposed budget includes an item which would charge Canadians a $5.50 "”inspection fee” when entering the United States by plane or boat.  This is the same fee that the US charges people from other countries, and from which Canada was exempted in 1997.  No fee will be assessed to the Canadians who stream over the border by car or bus to buy food, clothing, gas, and alcohol at decent prices.  And Canadians are really conflicted about cross-border shopping.

Canadian cross-border search results
Should we not expect a National Debate on cross-border shopping?

You would think something important had just happened, judging from the reactions of many Canadians.  Who knew?  Canadians are apparently just entitled to visit the United States whenever they please without being subject to the same fees as, say, people from England, Germany or Finland, just because they are Canadians.

It takes some getting used to.

The CBC kicked things off with a story slugged Obama proposed travel tax for Canadians, with a link to a poll question.  The question is:  Border fee:  Do you think the passenger inspection fee is reasonable?  Not surprisingly, the results look like this:

CBC non-scientific poll results
CBC non-scientific poll results

Many Canadians would rather complain about a proposed $5.50 (US) fee than about a $42M (CAD) glass dome which will house Canada’s Parliament…temporarily.  That $42M figure is courtesy of Public Works.  Other sources estimate the cost of Stephen Harper’s Cone of Silence as closer to $100M.

One Hundred Million
"One Hundred Million"

Canadian cross-border frugality is widely recognized by residents of Michigan and Ohio, who can't find anywhere to park at Wal-Mart in the winter because the parking lots are full of $70,000 motor homes with Ontario license plates.

Last month during the World Junior Hockey tournament Canadians flooded across the border to Buffalo, NY  to cheer for any country playing against the United States.  (It's a shame, really, that Canadians' Gold Medal hopes were dashed by arch-rival Russia.)  Apparently Americans can overlook fans fighting in the stands and general rude behavio(u)r, although some are still surprised and disillusioned when they witness it in their own country.  Donn Esmonde of wrote about it here.  What sticks with them, however, is Canadian frugality:
Make no mistake, we were more than happy the past couple of weeks to have Canadians sleep in our hotel rooms, eat in our restaurants, drink in our bars and shop in our malls. We love the uncommon smell of outside dollars. All we ask is that you do not be obnoxious about it.

In some cases, it was too much to ask. I talked to workers at a downtown bar/restaurant that will remain nameless, to protect the place’s cross-border business. By tournament’s end, they had disdain for all things emblazoned with a Maple Leaf. The main complaint, and this is not new, is a lot of Canadian hockey fans are awful tippers.

“They would have a few beers and leave like a quarter or 50 cents,” said one bartender, who for job security reasons asked that his name not be used. “Servers said they were getting two-dollar tips on a $25 check.”
No report on the generosity of the Russian fans, but a two-dollar tip on a $25 dollar bar tab in the middle of an event is heroically frugal.

Hey, guess what, Canadians.  It's not your country.  You're don't get to come and go as you please simply because you're Canadian.  Run out of things to do in Canada?  Feel like making your way to the United States by air or sea?  Just pony up the $5.50.  You can always stiff your waiter later on.  You're entitled.