A note aboot Canada.
Prince George, British Columbia.


I once read a science fiction book about this frozen planet whose inhabitants get around in these cumbersome snow tractors that go 20 miles per hour. They are a very technologically advanced race and could create vehicles that go faster but they see no need to. I am now convinced that this book was talking about Canada.

I am in a Husky gas station in the middle of nowhere and this other car is parked in front of the pump so that I can’t fit in. Its owner seems to be preoccupied inside the gas station building with some mugs of root beer (don’t ask, root beer is a big deal out here) while a women who appears to be his wife is standing beside the car waiting. I politely ask the women to move her car and she looks at me with genuine surprise. “Why, you in rush?” she asks in disbelief. The hustle and bustle of the modern world has not quite penetrated the veneer of the far north and the far remote. You can’t really be in a rush to go someplace because there is nowhere in particular to go. The next town over has nothing particularly interesting that you don’t (except perhaps more root beer) and it takes days to get there anyways.

Besides adjusting to Canadian time management you also have to learn the Canadian language. Though it is very similar to English there are a few very important distinctions. For starters, just about everything is measured in kilometers, an arbitrary unit of measurement who’s exact meaning or origin is unknown. For example, you can say a town is 500 kilometers up the road, or you can fill up your car with 70 kilometers of gas, or you can buy 36 kilometers of coleslaw/oranges/root beer etc., or you can say the temperature outside is 5 degrees (degree being a synonym for kilometer). This arrangement seems to be ok with the locals seeing as there is no point in knowing exactly how far away the next town is because it will always be very far away and there is no rush to get there. Plus one can never have too much gas or root beer and the exact temperature outside is always cold.

Also, say “aboot” a lot. Don’t ask why; just find ways of incorporating the word into sentences as much as you can.

In addition, there are some differences in punctuation you should be aware of. Questions are phrased as statements with an “ae” at the end. For example, “do you want fries with that?” becomes “you want fries with that, ae?” etc. Statements should be formatted into questions Jeopardy style so as to allow for maximum use of the “ae.” For example, “it is kind of chilly out this morning” becomes “it is kind of chilly out this morning, ea?”

All in all, I have a lot of respect for these people; life in British Columbia can’t be an easy one. Aside from a handful of metropolitans in the south of the district there are few of the modern conveniences we have gotten used to even in the most remote parts of the States. Divided or median highways are non-existent. Radio and television stations are extremely rare and mostly public; imagine all NPR all the time! Cell phones are not used and regular phone bandwidth is at a premium. Judging by the occasional antenna we see doting the landscape I think they use microwave instead of long distance telephone wires. Consequently, many businesses don’t except credit cards to save on the phone line. Winters are cold, summers are short, and many years of abuse and poor land management by the logging industry have turned this already harsh climate into a desolate landscape of barren hills doted with the occasional shrub and rusted old truck.

But when all is said and done you can’t get better root beer anywhere else, and that is what life is all about, ae?