Wherever the Road Leads

Winding Down

I Have Seen the Enemy and it is I

In the early sixties, a Canadian appliance maker had taken and run with a British idea of an electric tea kettle featuring a built-in thermostat. The kettle automatically shut off when the water boiled – it did not boil itself dry if untended as had been the issue with earlier models. The company’s product was flying off the shelves in Canada, it was very, very successful for them.

kettleTheir Marketing people got together and decided that if they were selling ‘x’ number of units in Canada, then in the United States, whose population was ten times that of Canada, then they ought to be able to sell 10x units below the border. Production began in earnest and the initial orders were shipped to American retailers amid a large media blitz trumpeting the electric kettle’s safety feature.

The product bombed. U.S. retailers couldn’t give these elctric kettles away.

“Why did that happen?” That was the scenario given and the question posed by our Marketing professor at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, just a stone’s throw from the American border.

I didn’t answer right away as I was convinced the answer had to be more complex than what was obvious to me. When no one else volunteered, I did…

“Because Americans drink coffee.”

That, indeed, was the answer. Americans very seldom, if ever, will drink hot tea. They don’t need an appliance to boil water, other than a 2-qt saucepan and a stove. The company had ventured into the similar, but different, neighboring country’s market assuming the two countries were the same.

Exactly like I did five months ago.

Now that I have been here in Canada for almost five months and have had the chance to actually live here as opposed to a flying one-week visit, now that I have had the chance to cool off from being the Angry American and now that I have had the time to give plenty of thought to my move and motives, I can see that I did exactly the same as the tea-kettle people. I assumed that the countries were identical and that my move here would be seamless.

I now have my OHIP – ‘free’ Health Care – card. You could say that I got what I came for. I got what I needed, though – an education – during the quest for said OHIP card. I learned what it is like to actually live in Canada. I have learned its differences and I have learned its cost.

This area of Toronto is almost exclusively Chinese. Half-way between the Condo and Agincourt Pentecostal Church, about two miles away, is the former home of Keith Palmer. I got to know Keith and I got to know this area quite well. I used to wonder to myself, “How did it change this radically?”

One day coming back from church, I did the math. Keith and I were making the mad dash to the Beer Store before closing time… in 1975. Almost forty years ago. THAT is how it has been able to change. I moved from Toronto to smaller and smaller, more rural communities before leaving for the United States twenty years ago. My recollections of Toronto are forty years old, my recollections of Canada are twenty years old.

Toronto and Canada have evolved. I haven’t, or at least my memories haven’t. That, I believe, is why I have undergone such a culture shock, not to mention sticker shock. My nefarious motive for returning to Canada was to get something for free. I should have known that there’s no free lunch.

I am much better settled into Toronto, now. I have a Chinese doctor, Tupelo has a Chinese Vet from Montreal, I join half of the Caribbean to worship at Agincourt Pentecostal, I used the services of a lawyer from Hong Kong, I wander Wal-Mart with Canadians from Shang Hai and go elbow-to-elbow in the discount grocery stores with Terrorists whose emaciated goats have better manners.

I carry plastic grocery bags in my pocket to avoid being charged a nickel for a new one, I grab loose grocery buggies from the parking lot so I don’t have to pay a quarter to unchain one and I have already read all the grocery flyers to know where I can afford to shop. I am getting better in accepting that a sticker price is only 85% of the actual cost.

In order to fulfill my yearly OHIP obligation of being in-country for five months, I have looked into the possibility of living in a trailer in the Toronto area. Camping in Canada is very expensive. Ontario Provincial Parks charge $50 per night for an electric site. (By comparison, Florida and Georgia State Parks charge $22 and $23 per night for a water-sewer-electric site.) Provincial/State parks are not an option though, as they have maximum stays and no weekly/monthly discounts.

The Toronto Conservation Authority runs a Camp that does offer seasonal rates that are manageable. Sandwiched between a Water Park, an active railway line and a major freeway, it may not have the ideal location. Additionally, living in the same location for five months straight was not really the purpose of ‘trailering’ and the Hare-Brained Scheme.

I have found two privately-owned parks towards Niagara Falls that may be a possibility. They offer affordable, seasonal rates and are within driving distance of the grocery stores, gas stations and malls of Niagara Falls, New York and the familiarity of the United States.

And there’s the rub.

I have three weeks left here in Canada before I head ‘home’. Saying that I haven’t evolved over the past twenty years is not really accurate. I have. I have lived in and become a citizen of United States. But more so, I have become an American.

I may hold dual citizenship but only one country is home.

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  1. Alistair Mair  May 17, 2014

    As you have found out change is a constant in all our lives. We look forward to hearing of your adventures in both countries. We also look forward to visiting you in either country. The USA and Canada while similar in many ways, have enough differences to make us both unique.
    god’s speed s you travel the highways of both countries.


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