Friday, October 17, 2008

"Going Home"

Everybody only has one hometown and today, I’m winging back to mine. I may actually be in the air as you read this. I’m not posting this in the air. Can you do that? I have no idea. I know you can work on computers in the air. I’ve seen young, invariably, Asian guys tapping away from takeoff till touchdown, while I’m working my way through a series of naps.

There’s something about going home. I go through Immigration in Toronto, I announce I was born there, and I’ve actually heard, “Welcome home, Mr. Pomerantz.” That doesn’t happen to me anywhere else. I go to Belgium, it’s, “Who are you?” In Toronto, it’s, “Welcome home.” (Maybe that’s why I never go to Belgium.)

They do go into other stuff at Toronto Immigration, some of which, I don’t much care for.

“What is the purpose of your stay in Canada?”

“I’m here to visit my family.”

That one’s okay. But they follow it with,

“Will you be staying with your family?”


That question always seems strange to me. Why does the Canadian Immigration Department care where I’m staying? And they don’t stop there.

“Will you be staying with your family?”


“Why not?”

“Why not?” What are they talking about?

I mean, these people are wearing uniforms. They may have guns in the drawer. You don’t want to piss them off. But what you’re dying to say to them is, “What’s it to you?” Instead, I throw them a lame joke.

“Will you be staying with your family?”


“Why not?”

“Have you met them?”

Dr. M would call it displaced anger. I take a cheap shot at my family’s expense when what I really want to say is, “You know what, Mr. or Ms. Immigration Person, you’re right. I’m canceling my hotel reservation. I’m staying with you. That’s okay, isn’t it? You wouldn’t mind putting me up for a couple of days? It’s the perfect arrangement, actually. You can spy on me the whole time I’m here!”

Sorry. I just watched a Larry David interview on YouTube. I think it rubbed off.

I don’t like Immigration sticking there noses in my travel arrangements. But you know what? That’s the last time I’m upset the whole time I’m home. Why? Because in Toronto, everybody’s nice.

(Except for this thief who once stole Dr. M’s purse from our locked rental car, but that’s another story.)

My always perceptive daughter, Anna, hit it right on the head on a visit to Toronto when she was eight. We were jaywalking across a street near our hotel. No lights. No crosswalk. We just went.

The oncoming traffic immediately stopped, and they let us cross.

Resulting in Anna’s on-the-money observation:

“They’ll never run you over in Canada.”

She’s right. They won’t. They can have the law on their side. You’re jaywalking. They have the right of way. They still won’t do it. They’ll stop and let you cross. Try it sometime. If you get run over, it was probably a tourist.

Another story, making the same point. Why two stories? To show that the first one wasn’t a fluke.

We’re visiting the wonderful Ontario Science Center. Anna and myself. Again, she’s eight.

Interactive science experiments. I don’t understand one of them. Anna wants the try the “Vortex Experience.” You drop a penny into it, it vortexes around, and then it’s gone. I don’t know the point. It’s just what it is.

Anna wants to try it. We get in line. I look in my wallet for a penny. I don’t have one. Sorry, Anna. No “Vortex Experience” today.

Not so fast.

A person behind us has overheard our dilemma. They hand Anna a penny.

That’s Canada. That’s my hometown. They won’t run you over. And they’ll give you a penny.

There’s a definite difference in Canada. A uniquely Canadian vibe. Maybe I just feel this way, because it’s my hometown. Or because it’s a different country. Maybe I’m wallowing in Nostalgialand, I don’t know. But I do know this.

The moment the plane lands in Toronto, I can feel myself relax.

It should be the other way around. There’s more firepower here. I should feel more protected. Instead, it’s the opposite.

Canadian police officers carry guns; it’s not England. But they keep it in a holster with a “snap flap” covering it up. It’s not like here, where they flash the handle, like, “You see how big this gun handle is? ‘Nuff said.”

It’s more subtle in Canada. It’s hidden away. You’re not even sure there’s a gun in that holster. It could be their lunch.

There’s no flashy “check out the hardware” about Canada. No “flyovers” before football games. Four jets fly over a Canadian football game, they’re probably lost.

It’s not natural for Canadians to brag. “It’s showin’ off, eh?” I’ll say one more thing. For those with financial concerns, Canada’s the place to be if you need a new hip. We’ll leave it at that.

Not that my birth country doesn’t have its problems. For one thing, Canadians have no idea who they are. Canadian identity is a continuing concern. They can’t figure it out.

Are Canadians English people with better teeth?

Are Canadians Americans who aren’t good at it?

Or are Canadians Americans who are good at it, and it’s the Americans who aren’t good at it anymore?

A hundred and forty-one years as a country, and its still, like, “Can we come back to that question later?” Well, they may be confused, but I’ll tell you this. Whoever Canadians are, I feel safer in their company.

What can I tell you? It’s my place. Though I’ve now lived here longer than I lived in Canada, when I land at L.A. airport Sunday night, there’ll be one there saying, “Welcome home, Mr. Pomerantz.”

Except maybe the guy I hired to pick me up.


M@ said...

To be fair, they do have flyovers before a lot of the Hamilton football games, but they're usually old-timey aircraft from the museum in Mount Hope.

But as a Canadian, I really enjoyed this post. I'm going to find someone to give a penny to now.

(And -- welcome home, Mr Pomerantz!)

decanadian said...

Did you mean to say,"there’ll be NO one there saying, “Welcome home, Mr. Pomerantz.”?

You know, Toronto isn't as friendly as it used to be. But by and large, Canada is still a better place to be, in my opinion anyway.

Webs said...

Don't try that jaywalking strategy in Montreal. Drivers here won;t run you over, but they will make it close enough to untie your shoelaces and give you a heart attack.

rms said...

Another hardy welcome home, Mr Pomerantz! I still think Toronto is a pretty friendly place. But then again, any place is only as friendly as you are yourself. How's that for Canadian, eh?

Corinne said...

Perhaps it's the extra trees, the provinces as big as 3-4 states. Even in the city, there's always a sense of 'expanse'. But then again, I live on the west coast and that may be a west coast thing.

Have you ever seen this series on Talking Canadian?
Check this out:

Part 3, deals with Candian versus American accents.

Check out 5:30 for a brillent use of 'eh'!

Part 4, dealing with expressions, is a particular favourite.

Welcome back. Good to see ya, eh.

growingupartists said...

Maybe Canadians aren't secure in their identities because they've yet to be paraded before themselves by the media. If there's any show you could write, it'd be the Canadian guy adapting to life in America, or the American adapting to life in Canada. It's new, it's interesting, but who wants to spend their vacation writing, right? Soak up your family, and enjoy the break!

The Minstrel Boy said...

do you know how to get 100 canadians out of a swimming pool?

you say, will all the canadians please get out of the pool now.

we have lots of canadian snowbirds who bring their tricked out rv's down from the frozen plains for the winter. i find them delightful.

Yank Azman said...

Sorry, Earl, it's been a long time since Toronto Police had a snap close holster. Now it's all quick draw for the Glocks.

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