33. Canada, it is not the USA
Well we drove into London as dusk was falling. I had spent hours back home in Lithuania researching driving instructions to our various friends’ houses, and though it was peak hour, London’s busyness was quite placid. We drove though the cool, crisp evening air without taking one wrong turn. Though Betsie was still a little rattled after the border comment, I could sense that she was quite proud of us. The person we were going to visit was my room mate at college some twelve or so years ago. I can still remember the first time that he walked through the door of our tiny British Columbian campus/house. I thought ‘Oh no! Here is trouble’ and indeed I was right. What I didn’t realise at the time was that he would be my brother-in-arms, the one that I spent time with drinking beers and barbecuing steak. Or that eventually the two of us would move into a cardboard house on a lonely Mexican mesa and spend all of our money on building a roof so that our new-found Mexican friends could live a little better. Over the six months we spent living in and out of each other’s pockets we accrued quite a lot of history, fought a few battles together and never got caught during our misadventures. And this placid London evening was our barbecue and beer reunion. The anticipation of meeting again was killing. Of course, now he was married with a couple of sprogs, one of them being only a week or two old.
Betsie lumbered to a stop in front of his house. My mate was out the front chopping up a tree that had collapsed under the weight of a recent snow dumping. After a long drive it always takes us a while to gather things up and actually get out of the car and then we went to the back of the car to gather our bags etc. and start dragging them up the driveway. On my way past the tree, I stopped and greeted my buddy whom I had been waiting so long to see, with a polite hand-shake and a hello before entering the house to meet his wife and settle in. After twelve years of waiting, our reunion was no more that a hello and a hand-shake. It appears that Canadian men are just as inept as Kiwi blokes at sharing their emotions.
I mean if we had been American, like the ‘south of the border’ brand, we would at the very least have hugged and said something like ‘It’s really good to see you again’. And shoot if we were from some parts of Europe, we would have sped frantically through Michigan, swerving in and out of the cars, whilst excitedly honking the horn and randomly whacking the brakes and accelerator. We would not have eaten during the whole trip, but would have stopped numerous times for coffee. When we got to the border, we would have had to spend thirty minutes searching for our passports and then another thirty minutes searching for the car keys that we lost in the process. We would have totally missed the comment about the ‘pricks south of the border’. And once in Canada we would have rung our friend twenty separate times to get fresh instructions on where to find his house. And on arrival we would have abandoned the car half on the road and half on his front lawn, would have jumped out of it and run open-armed across his lawn, oblivious to the fallen tree and running chainsaw. We would have hugged, maybe kissed and maybe even cried, whilst yelling things like ‘It has been so long, it is so good to see you!’. Then once more oblivious to the tree that needed to be cleared before dark, we would bring out the beer, wine, bread, cheese and sausage and sit, eat and drink whilst sharing how we felt about almost everything. Somewhere about one or two in the morning we would have our last coffee, send the kids to bed and stumble to the car to discover that leaving the door open all evening had run the battery flat. But we wouldn’t care, we would just grab our bags, retire to bed and sleep through until lunchtime, before starting on the coffee and intimate feeling sharing again.
But alas we are dignified Anglo-Saxon subjects of the Queen, we suck up our pain and only share our emotions at the pub in that two minute window between being happily drunk and stupidly drunk. Thus a hand-shake and hello sufficed.
But me thinks, this is not entirely true. We settled in and my mate cut his wood and cleared the tree in the fading light. When he had finished, he came inside and gave me a beer and asked how the drive was. This was Commonwealth man lingo for, ‘It is good to see you again’ and was a rather intimate moment. We were all hungry, his wife presented us with steak, we grabbed another beer and followed her pointing towards the barbecue. This translated out to ‘I remember all of the times we ate steak and drank beer together in BC(109), they were really special times we had together and I have missed them ever since’. Then we stood out there beside the barbecue in the freezing temperatures together. Because that is how Commonwealth men bond and express their love and companionship to each other. We could not work out how to light the gas barbecue, then suddenly it quite literally and dangerously exploded into combustion, we giggled and though carefully avoiding eye contact, smiled at each other. This translated into ‘We really miss our simpler, freer days before we were married, but are quite content and happy to now be married, though sometimes it can be a little work, but is well worth it’. Then we stood there, froze, drank our cold beer, ignored the steak and bagged our third college room-mate. This translated out to, ‘Yeah we had some fun back then, they are really good memories, it is such a shame that we no longer live in the same city and that we are not here for each other, you would be a really good supporting friend for me and sometimes I could really do with someone who understands me the way you do’.
Then the beer ran out, which meant the steak must have been cooked and our intimate deep and meaningful time was over. We wandered emotionally drained inside to our waiting wives who seemed to have been communicating on a rather different level and had been using such strange intros to their sentences as ‘I feel’ and ‘It hurts me when’. We presented the steak which incidentally was bloody rare to them, and sat down and ate. This was followed by putting the kids to bed, then we whiled the rest of the evening away with idle chit-chat before going to bed at a respectable hour. Oh the Commonwealth, it presents us with such a comfortable, predictable and somewhat boring lifestyle. But it is what we know, who we are. And for us the emotionally-inept contingent of Commonwealth men, we would really like to change things, but outside of having another beer and shouting at our favourite hockey, cricket or rugby team, have no idea how to express it.
Tune in for the next issue and read more about our Canadian adventures.
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You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!
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