I have mentioned a number of times in the past that I live about 20 minutes from the closest border into the USA and that I occasionally go over to do some shopping. On Friday, my brother decided to take the day off so he and his wife could go get some Christmas shopping done and they offered to take me along with them. I jumped on the chance to go with them!
We had a great day of shopping and from that day, this story emerged.
I'm sure you are all familiar with the common stereotype that Americans don't know anything about Canadians.
Well, I know that this stereotype is not true.
I have more than enough American friends who realize that I do not live in an igloo, that I do not drive a dogsled to work and that I even wear shorts in the hot summer months.
I know most Americans are fully aware that day-to-day life in Canada is not very different from day-to-day life in the states.
But, unfortunately, as with all ill-founded stereotypes, there are bound to be the select few individuals who provide evidence to suggest that these stereotypes do, in fact, exist. And what's even more unfortunate, is when this evidence comes from someone who lives close enough to Canada that they could almost walk there.
I came into contact with one such individual on Friday while shopping in Buffalo.
I was all set to check out at Marshall's and took my merchandise up to the counter. While the lady was ringing my purchases through, she said to her coworker, "I finally figured out why Canadians always enter the line wrong."
(Background: it's the kind of line that has a sign that says 'Please Enter Here' and requires you to walk through a maze like line to get to the checkout, whether or not other people are in line.)
Obviously as soon as the checkout lady said this, I was intrigued to find out what her reasoning for this claim would be. But I kept my mouth shut.
"Why?" Asked the co-worker.
"Well, because Canadians learn to read right to left and bottom to top, so they can't understand our sign."
I could hardly believe my ears!
"WHAT?" I exclaimed.
"Yeah, I found out today that Canadians read right to left and bottom to top so they can't understand the sign and enter the line from the wrong way."
"Well, I'm Canadian and I don't read that way. Where did you get this information?" I asked her.
"A Canadian lady, an older lady, was here this morning and she tried to butt in line and I explained to her how the line worked. She told me she didn't understand the sign because she reads right to left and bottom to top."
I could not believe how serious this woman seemed.
"Well, I'm sorry. But either that woman was crazy or she was trying to yank your chain." I informed her.
What I didn't inform her was that likely the lady was trying to yank her chain, since I know lots of Canadians who like to see what kind of things they can make Americans believe about us.
A look of relief crossed the checkout lady's face and she said, "Good. I was so upset about this all morning. You know, my poor nephew lives over there [sidenote: I love her use of the terms 'poor' and 'over there' as though Canada is some distant land where one should not dare to venture] and I was afraid he was going to learn to read all wrong."
I assured her that her poor nephew would likely fare just fine as a result of being brought up over there in Canada and that he would, luckily, learn to read from left to right and top to bottom just like he should.
I laughed about this for the rest of the day. Actually, the rest of the weekend. No, scratch that, I'm still laughing about it now.
So this message is for all of my dear American readers, please continue to send me comments and e-mails in left to right, top to bottom format ... I'll figure it out. Somehow, I am sure I'll manage over here in Canada.