Blog No. 24
Rita MacNeil died. That’s not the Canadian moment I had though she was very Canadian. Of course she was a Canadian but there was something else too. I remember catching the end of her show on CBC back in the 90s. My brother and I were waiting for Hockey night in Canada to come on and there was probably five or so minutes left of Rita and Friends. My mom made a comment about how only in Canada could Rita MacNeil be a celebrity. It wasn’t meant to be mean (I think she was a little bit proud). I think she meant that it says something about who we are as a people when an overweight 40-something-year-old woman could become a singing sensation, win numerous awards and have her own successful TV show.
I had already decided to write about the moment I had before I found out that Rita died, but I thought that it fits into what I think I want to say. Whatever it says about Canadians that Rita was a success is only half the story. We like to think of ourselves as special (be it as a person or in a group). As Canadians we believe ourselves to be kind, polite, sophisticated and intelligent, but are we? I, along with everyone I know, often have stories to share about the ridiculous, mean, rude and dumb people we have to deal with every day. Just ask anyone who works in retail, they have hundreds of stories (most you wouldn’t believe unless you’ve worked in the retail world).
My moment is much more pedestrian, but if anything even more Canadian that Rita herself. The other day I was at Tim Horton’s (stereo type no. 1). On my way out I held the door open for a lady who had her hands full (no. 2). A man on his way in was opening the outer door for an older gentleman (no. 3). I continued to hold the door open for the older man while the other man held his own door for the burdened lady pleases and thank yous running rampant (no. 4). Then we each, the door holder and myself, continued to hold our respective doors open for each other (no. 5). We nodded and gestured to each other to “go ahead” back and forth for some time before he broke and came in (no. 6). I then walked to my car thinking about how nice a guy I was and how utterly Canadian the whole thing was, but I still don’t know that it was.
Part of me thinks that maybe it’s the way of the world and Canada is falling into it as much as any other country and another part thinks that maybe it’s all percentages and we do have more people who are nicer (a third part just wants to watch hockey and have a beer). I am no sociologist or other fancy word-ist who has actually studied it, I am just a guy who grew up being fed the line and tries desperately every day (or most days) to be that nice Canadian who holds open doors for strangers and lets the other countries think that we are a bit slow because it’s the polite thing to do.
I like being a Canadian (though I like being different too). The more I’ve learned about history and the world the more I have found reasons to be proud. There is just that nagging doubt in the back of my squeaky clean Canadian mind that maybe we aren’t as awesome as we think we are. It would be easier to ignore if it weren’t for all those people who made fun of Rita MacNeil.
Also our flag is bad ass.