A couple of days ago I sent my absentee ballot in for the 2006 Mid-term elections. It’s not as my vote is going to make a big difference, but I am intrigued with the prospect of Deval Patrick becoming the next Governor of Massachusetts. What’s more there was even a State Ballot Question that would pave the way for the sale of wine in Grocery stores in my former state. If that one passes, I think that Hell is not freezing over, but there probably is a chill in the air.
It felt strange to fill out this piece of paper, because it reminded me that for what it’s worth, I still am an American citizen. When we finally do get our Canadian citizenship (that hopefully will happen some time in the next 3–4 years, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it were 5 or 6 at the rate we’ve been going), I don’t intend to renounce my American citizenship, if for no other reason than the convenience of moving back and forth over a soon-to-be militarized and walled-off border. Along with showing my navy blue US Passport at that time, this gesture is one of the few ways that I’ll assert that identity. Will I identify myself as an American, Canadian, or having dual citizenship when asked by someone in another country? These days, apparently many Americans are claiming to be Canadians when they travel.
On Thursday night we went to a comedy show at the Orpheum Theatre (that’s where the Vancouver Symphony, and most of the high-class acts perform when they’re in town). One of the comedians said that when he was asked what the difference was between a Canadian and an American by an Englishman while he was in London, he said “Well, confusing me with an American — that would be like me confusing you, an Englishman, with say…a retarded person!” The audience roared their approval. “Any Americans here?” the comedian asked somewhat sheepishly. We didn’t feel like raising our hands.
Is that October 5th or the 10th of May?
There are several ways that the closeness of the US (and its overwhelming culture and ways of doing things) can be a real pain in the neck. For instance, Canada finds it necessary to alter our scheduling of Daylight Savings Time so that we can remain in synch with the US, who is doing it earlier next year than today’s date (to save energy, something another terribly popular president, Jimmy Carter, also did during his time in office). So we can look forward to perhaps 4 extra weeks of getting up in darkness and also returning home from work in darkness, rather than getting at least a last hour of sun before dinnertime.
Sometimes having the US influence is handy, like being able to have both a US and Canadian dollar account at the bank. It also has meant that most of our culture shock has been pretty minimal, although you do occasionally have to try to remember if it was a US ad or a Canadian ad for a new product that you saw on TV. If it appeared on a US station, it could very well be something you won’t find here, at least not right away.
However, an extremely annoying way that Canada follows the US (at least sometimes) is in the way that we fill in our dates on forms here. Sometimes the form follows the US format (month-day-year), but occasionally it follows the European format (day-month-year). There seems to be little warning whether its going to be one way or the other. It can cause a lot of confusion when you get something that says “Due 6/7/06”. Was that June 7th or July 6th? Only after the 13th of the month is one sure, and 13 days is a long time to be treating any date as if it could go either way. You’d think that a country that insists upon the English style postal code would resist this problem. Maybe Canada should come up with its own date format. Perhaps something that no one else wants, like day-year-month!