Yesterday I was walking through the mall on the Calgary Plus +15 one of the nicest things about Calgary.
Wikipedia says is the world’s most extensive pedestrian skywalk system, with a total length of 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) and 59 bridges. The system is named this way because the skywalks are approximately 15 feet (approximately 4.5 metres) above street level. (Some Plus 15 skywalks are multi-level, with higher levels being referred to as +30’s and +45’s.)
I spend a lot of my free time just walking and looking at people, that’s where I engage strangers in my good morning campaign. Engaging complete strangers by saying good morning which is followed with a big smile. For the most part people respond favorably, I get the odd look however.
The Plus 15 has a lot of eating places, they are all very busy between 11am and 1pm. Yesterday just about noon, I was walking through one of the many eateries when I spotted a female sitting down and eating a sandwich reading a newspaper. Me, being the nice friendly guy that I am decided to approach her as part of my experiment, I approached the table and sat down across from her.
I picked her because she looked really friendly. Let me repeat this is a crowded eatery.
Me: ‘Hi, it’s been a while since I last saw you’
Her with a mouth full: well she didn’t say anything just looked at me like I was a nut.
Me: ‘Nancy right? We use to work together.”
Her having swallowed: ‘are you sure. I don’t recognize you. Where did you say we worked?’
She was smiling now; I can tell she has a Spanish background from her accent.
My experiment was working, a very friendly person.
Me: I stood up, ‘Im sorry I was mistaken, I’ll leave you alone.’
Her: ‘that’s ok’
Then she looks me right in the eye, I’m thinking here it comes.
Her: ‘Where are you from?’
I had lots of choices, I can be from a lot of places, St Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla or Toronto. I sized her up.
Her: ‘ I am from Cuba.’ Actually she said Cooba, with an awesome accent.
Yes someone I can relate to. We chatted for a couple more minutes; I was already standing so I just waked away wondered if I would ever see again. Next time I’ll ask her name.
Why are people the way they are, always wanting to know where you are from?
So I’ve decided to rewrite my story from last week.
As you probably know we moved from Toronto to Calgary 7 years ago. In Toronto I was a consultant/programmer, maintain a software application I had developed some years earlier and was really tired of it, so I jumped at the chance to do something new. How hard would it be to restart?
My first job interview, I was doing really well, had the guy eating out of my hands, I am who I am, well you don’t know me, so let me tell you, I am a little mischievous and very confident. I have a job interviewing technique, I call it ‘the Tony job interview technique’; I do the interviewing, you know I interview the interviewer; it takes a lot of practice, which I have.
Anyway the interviewer asked me how long I have been living in Calgary, it was Stampede time, everyone dressed like a cowboy and I dressed like I worked on Bay Street, the financial district in Toronto. I said three weeks, he was not surprised, I think it was the three piece striped suit that outed me. He asked me where I moved from, I proudly said Toronto. I spent most of my adult life in Toronto, sometimes I forget that my accent would give the impression that was not so.
Like I said I was doing great in the interview, knew all about the interviewer and his blended family, where he was going for vacation etc. I was an expert in the job subject, so why not, I knew I was getting this job, unless the guy was a total moron.
I have a bad habit of not knowing when to stop talking. At the end I was feeling so confident, I started to talk about all the things I loved about Toronto; he seemed interested so why not, when I was finished he practically told me to go back to Toronto. What did I do wrong, doesn’t everyone love Toronto?
Well over the next few months I began to realize that people in Calgary don’t want to hear about Toronto, so when I was asked where I was from, I would point east, now that could be anywhere, right. I’m sure you know the story about the wise men travelling from the east, im one of of them, Alberta has abundance.
Where I’m going with this?
No it’s not about Calgary; it’s about people wanting to know where you are from.
I was born and spent my teenage years in St Kitts, if you don’t know where that is, take a plane to Jamaica, everyone knows where that is, then take a big boat and go south, ask the driver to keep left, for two days and whammo you are in St Kitts. Warning, if you get to Trinidad it means you can’t count; I said two days, not four, turn around.
Do you notice that when you say you are from the Caribbean people no longer ask if that is Jamaica? I am so use to explaining that it’s not, I just do it just in case.
A side story.
I was going to fly to NY a while back and when I got to the airport the US custom guy asked me where I was from. St Kitts of course, he had my passport. He shouted to the other customs folks, ‘does anyone know where St Kitts is?’ he was messing with me. He had his honeymoon in St Kitts.
I felt yea big, so yes I get defensive.
In case you missed it, I am from St Kitts, my dad is not from St Kitts though he was from Anguilla. The people from Anguilla have a noticeably different accent. Sad to say but the people in St Kitts made fun of Anguillans, seems like I’m always in the wrong place.
What is it with people?
I must tell you, my dad was fiercely Anguillan, loved his country and I don’t believe anyone has ever made fun of his heritage to his face. He had a reputation. Today if you asked me where I’m from, my answer would depend on who was asking;
I’m maybe from St Kitts, if you are from a smaller island in the Caribbean hahaha, good one,
or Toronto if you are from anyplace else in Canada other than Calgary,
for Calgarians, to make my life easy I’m from Anguilla, seems exotic, plus they don’t know the accent.
I get a lot of; ‘you are from Angola’? Silly people, no Anguilla , it’s close to St Martin, take a plane go south past Jamaica to St Martin……
I once travelled from Anguilla to St Martin in a fishing boat with a small outboard motor, yes its really close. Recently I have been rediscovering my St Martin family, my dad had three brothers that migrated there. So many exotic places to visit ,hmmm soon.
Darn almost forgot, for those who know me personally, I’m also from Nevis, that’s where my mom’s from.
pheww, that was close.
If you don’t know, St Kitts and Nevis are one country, I don’t talk much about Nevis because St Kitts and Nevis peoples sometimes conflict because of politics, so when I am talking to someone from the federation, if I don’t know for sure which island they are from, I’m from Trafalgar (that’s the village where I was born), seems no one is threatened by that.
Will I ever be Calgarian? Probably, I don’t think I’m done being from someplace else as yet.
I love Calgary but the weather…..
You are probably wondering why I told a total stranger, my new friend in the Plus + that I was from Anguilla?
I was hoping she would ask me where that was. Sometimes I like when people ask.