For my last MatadorU assignment, I once again had to rewrite a conversation overheard in a public place. This time however the task involved the narrator (me) being included in the conversation and interacting with the characters. The goal was then to recreate the scene to include a sense of the other characters, the narrator’s relationship to each character, and a sense of the narrator’s relationship to the place. I had a lot of trouble thinking about how to start an interesting conversation on a topic that I could later rewrite, but then one casual night at the pub the context came naturally.
Canadians Are Nice, Eh?
As soon as we entered Backstreet Pub we were unexpectedly greeted with a familiar face sitting at a small wooden table next to the bar. “John!” Ryan exclaimed, “How are you buddy? It’s been a while.” John’s dirty blonde hair was much longer since we had last seen him and he had grown a beard. I thought this hippie look kind of suited him. We sat down at the table with John and the rickety wooden chairs creaked in unison. It was a Sunday night; the pub wasn’t exactly bustling. There were three excessively loud British frat boys sharing a jug of beer at the table next to us, an older couple playing a game of pool, and an elderly gentleman with a cowboy hat sipping away at his whiskey at the bar. Most of the seats in the establishment were empty, yet the slouching waitress was far from hasty in taking our order.
“What’s new with you, John?” I asked shyly trying to make small talk.
“I’m going to Thailand in a few months,” he responded.
My eyes lit up. “Thailand? Wow! Why Thailand?” I exclaimed with piqued curiosity.
Ryan wasn’t interested in travel talk, and he had already ventured over to befriend the lone cowboy at the bar. The pair then gravitated towards the spare pool table for a game. I smiled at the sight of Ryan being able to relax and enjoy himself alongside a new friend. Soon after their game had finished, Ryan returned to our table as the gentlemen scuffled behind to introduce himself.
“John and I were just discussing how much of a culture shock it would be to go to Thailand,” I explained, “I moved from New Zealand to Canada, it isn’t a very big difference.”
“What is the biggest difference you noticed between the culture here and New Zealand?” John asked.
“Well…” I thought, “It’s true what they say about Canadians – super friendly.”
They all laughed and grinned widely. “When I first got here I was kind of overwhelmed by it,” I continued, “I do think that Canadians can be overly friendly sometimes”. I had to pause and think about how I could explain myself. “For example when I’m in a shop, I just want to buy my item and go, but here in Canada I always get roped in to chatting for at least five minutes about random stuff – we don’t really do that in New Zealand…”
“New Zealanders sound like assholes!” Ryan interrupted.
“No, we are polite to everyone, we just don’t chat unnecessarily,” I paused, “I guess that may also be because I’m from a much bigger city than Lethbridge, and everything is a lot more fast paced, everyone is in a hurry.”
Ryan had noticed my apprehension earlier when the elderly man joined us at the table. He decided to exploit it. “What about in bars? You wouldn’t start a conversation with a stranger, would you?”
“No,” I responded, “people generally tend to stick to their own groups.”
“That’s why I love Canada”, Ryan grinned, “I could walk up to any Canadian, introduce myself, and be completely welcomed by them.”
I could see in the spark Ryan’s eyes that meant he was determined to prove his point.
Ryan turned around and tapped on one of the British fellows’ shoulder.
“Excuse me, I noticed your accents, you boys are from England, right?” he asked, “My girlfriend here is from New Zealand and we were talking about how much friendlier Canadians are compared with other nationalities, have you guys noticed that?”
“Mike here is a huge asshole, it isn’t just because he is from England,” the guy responded gesturing to his friend with a smirk, “but yeah, we have noticed that.” He turned back around and continued his conversation with his friends.
“Now lets compare,” Ryan remarked as he waved over to the couple playing pool and waited as they approached our table.
“I’m sorry to bother you, my girlfriend here is from New Zealand and she doesn’t know how to play pool. Is it okay if she watches your game?”
“New Zealand? Wow!” the local responded cheerfully towards me, “I have always wanted to go there! We could teach you to play, would you like to have a game with us?”
I glanced over at Ryan and noticed his huge grin, content with the knowledge that Canadians truly are the friendliest people, and the fact that he had just confirmed it. ‘Canadians – they may be friendly, but sometimes they’re not exactly modest about it.’ … I kept that thought to myself.