Friday, May 29, 2009

"It Happened Again"

When something happens once, it’s, like…so? But when the same thing happens again, something beyond the normal range of ordinary behavior, you have to stop and wonder,

“What’s going on?”

Building a case, as if one were needed, for Canadians’ consideration for others:

On my last trip to Toronto, I told the story of a smile-inducing exchange between myself and a thoughtful Canadian Customs Officer. I’m on the plane, reading some six hundred-page distraction, so I won’t look out the window and notice I’m in the sky. A flight attendant comes around, handing out Customs Forms for us to fill out and present to the authorities in when we arrive. I diligently complete my responsibilities, and as I notice the form says, “Do not bend”, I slip it between the pages of my book, to insure that the document will be perfectly flat.

We land in Toronto. I line up at Customs, my official form neatly nestled between pages 328 and 329 of my big book distraction. When my turn arrives, I find myself facing a well scrubbed, mid-twenties, female Canadian Customs Officer waiting to execute her duties.

I set my book down on the counter in front of her, my Customs Form secured between its pages. The officer reaches for my Customs Form, then abruptly stops, a look of concern playing across her face.

“Is that your bookmark?” she inquires, unwilling to remove the form until she had ascertained whether it also served another purpose.

(Contrast this – I can’t help myself – with the surly U.S. Customs Officer I once coughed in front of who gruffly barked, “Cover it!”)

Okay. Fast Forward:

My most recent visit to Toronto.

Anna and I share a room in the hotel. I wake up before her. To allow her to continue sleeping, rather than switching on the light, I take a pillow and my book, and sit on the floor by the window, so I can read by the streaming morning daylight. Anna eventually wakes up, I say, “Good morning”, and we start the day.

We return from our day’s activities, in the interim, the room has been cleaned up. My book in no longer by the window where I’d left it. I look around, finally discovering it, sitting on the night table beside my bed. I pick it up, and immediately notice that there, at the spot where I’d left off, in the form of a small square of paper torn from the hotel’s complimentary notepad, placed there by someone other than myself…

was a bookmark.

I’m telling you, these people are really nice.


Rich said...

It's cliche, but it's the little things. They 'cost' the giver almost nothing and are appreciated by the receiver almost more than they should be because things like that almost never happen anymore.

Today I worked I stepped out of the way for an oncoming person to step by first and I got the most robust/surprised 'thank you' I've heard in years.

A. Buck Short said...

On your next Canadian trip, may you return to your room only to find Michael J. Fox's Always Looking Up and Ross King's Judgment of Paris with "N.B" and "True" already scribbled throughout in the margins of yellow pre-highlighted sections. Carrying on with the theme, let me be the first of your readers to wish you the happiest Shavuos ever, and may you always return to the bema finding your Torah opened to exactly where you left off, in its locked and upright position.

Jon Mac said...

In fairness to the Customs Agent of the USA, I have to say that the fella I encountered at JFK a couple of years ago couldn't have been nicer.

It was ten at night, the flight was full of confused/drunk Britons, Irish and whatnot, and this guy was charm personified. Funny, welcoming and friendly. Maybe he's the exception that proves the rule, but after all of the warnings I'd had about how surly they could be, he was something of a relief.

MikeThe Blogger said...

As a converse experience. When driving in San Francisco I was making a left turn when a woman in the oncoming lane was making a right turn onto the same street. We both stopped so as not to hit each other. I deferred to her and waved my hand to express the "you go first" signal. She went but later when I pulled along side, her male passenger was screaming and gesticulating wildly. I guess he took my polite (Canadian) signal more as a (American) "hurry up , bitch" signal. I was very surprised - but I understood the difference in our cultures.