The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Coffee with the Neighbours

By Craig Terlson

Things I noticed while touring a foreign country (that would be the United States of America):

As soon as that imaginary line, for now the largest undefended border in the world, was crossed I heard a different accent. How can that be? North Dakotans had just a touch of twang in their voice; not a single 'eh was to be heard.
And the accents changed again moving into South Dakota (twangier) and again one state over in Wyoming (the twang was a touch deeper and drawn out, like the low E string on a guitar).
It could have been my imagination, but I really felt quite British indeed, with all my over-enunciation when ordering a small repast at the local eatery.

Kilometres go by way quicker than miles. I don't know why, they just do – it takes forever to go 62 miles! Much longer than it takes to go 100 Kilometres. Trust me it does.

On a similar note – why can't we go 75 M.P.H. on our highways? You cross that border and hit the power boosters, on returning it’s like your front wheels hit a lake of maple syrup.

Crackers are better in the U.S. It has something to do with those damn Keebler Elves – I think our Keebler products are outsourced to someplace in Northern Alberta (trust me on this one, I know crackers).
Salad bars suck in most U.S. restaurants. You have your wilted iceberg lettuce and then buckets of different coloured goop. That's why I know the crackers, also at the salad bar, are better stateside.

Why can't we allow dogs in our bars? Dogs should be in bars, they act like they belong. In a roadside bar my wife and I played cards and sipped Michelobs while we waited for our pizza. A pair of dogs, Little Girl and Hank kept us company – true, they got a bit close when the pizza came, but it made us feel at home.

The money still looks all the same. I know... I've heard our money looks like monopoly money. But I am really hoping I didn't give out a lot of twenties when I thought I was handing out ones for the bar tab (boy, those Canucks do tip).

Somehow, inexplicably, WalMarts are even bigger. We tried to avoid them for the most part, but one late night we were out of tonic water and after hitting the local convenience stores we were told to try WalMart. So there we were at around 1:00 A.M., gazing around this gargantuan, consumer cathedral of all worldly goods, in awe of all the things we could buy, and for sooooo cheap.
We made it out of there with our tonic water and a rainbarrel size of Smuckers Grape Jelly (c'mon, it was like a buck!)

No one lives in Wyoming. No, really, trust me.

Okay we did see a few folks – but wow, can you ever see a long ways, and it is GORGEOUS. Growing up in the prairies of Canada we had that joke about watching your dog run away… for three days. In Wyoming, I think you could see him for a week.

American cows look about the same as Canadian cows – no accents were noted.

Gas is still cheaper and road coffee is still bad. I used to laugh at those folks that hit the McDonalds in their around the world travels – sheesh, you want a bad burger, have one at home. But the squeals of delight that went through the car when we came upon a Starbucks in the wilderness… well, it was just a tad embarrassing.

Lastly, people are people. I met some great people on the road and where we stayed. Talked politics, geography, droughts, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets, urban sprawl, living where there is space (like in Wyoming) and just general learning about each other.
It rekindled my hope for keeping that border open and undefended.
It was really good to meet the neighbours.

But that salad bar... c'mon.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What fun! I enjoyed your word trip. You're right about it feeling as if nobody lives in some of the western states. Like the world ended and you're the last to know.

Mon Sep 04, 12:13:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Apparently you are more likely to have an intestinal parasite the more you frequent salad bars, so perhaps it's a good thing. And just to be safe, take the crackers from the middle of the stack.

I enjoyed your trip vicariously! Thanks for sharing.

Mon Sep 04, 12:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

I love this, I know exactly how you feel about the starbucks and the walmart and allll of it, sounds like you had a blast, a great road trip, and yes, we have great neighbours..xoxo

Tue Sep 05, 01:18:00 am GMT-4  

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