Don’t mention the traffic circles… or water
Ten Years On: Diary of an Immigrant
Three weeks ago, The Province published Diary of an Immigrant – Ten Years On. It was a follow-up to the series I had published in 2003 and 2004 after arriving in Canada as a new immigrant. The Diary series was intended to be a humorous, slightly wry look at my experiences as I battled various obstacles; bureaucratic and personal. My recent article was also intended to be humorous, but it somehow morphed into a bit of a tirade. After ten years of living here, I felt qualified to rant about certain things: the cost of living, accent mocking and roundabouts. I tried to make it fairly innocuous and inoffensive, as well as balanced (I also mentioned the good things about my move here), but it seems that however hilarious I thought it was, some readers did not agree. As a result, an angry mob appeared at my door carrying pitchforks. I may be over-dramatising here. What actually happened was that I received a few irate e-mails. Two things struck me, though from the tone of some of the e-mails, I am sure those readers would have been happier if there had been more than two things that struck me; preferably heavy things. One thing I noticed is that the people who felt the need to “complain” didn’t seem to notice the positive, or humorous, side of my piece. The other thing that struck me is that those people, mostly, were what I like to call – wrong.
I happened to mention in my piece that drivers seem to be unsure how to use roundabouts here. Anyone who knows me (and I am sure they regret that enormously) know that my favourite hobby is educating people on the use of roundabouts. I have been known to deliberately drive around my local roundabout several times a day, trying to teach the unfortunate people driving behind me that when exiting the roundabout, they must signal to show other drivers where they are going. I do this by driving around the roundabout very slowly, then deliberately moving my indicator to its upward position in an overly dramatic fashion as I make my exit, whilst staring intently in my rear-view mirror as if trying to convey my superior driving skills to the driver behind. It rarely works, and I know this because I have a camera installed in my car so I can watch my unwitting students as they leave the roundabout behind me.
I am providing this as a kind of free community service. It is unbelievable to me that drivers scoot round these things and just suddenly shoot off without any warning. Oh, I haven’t even got started on this, but really I am starting to bore even myself. The point is, I received an e-mail from someone who gave me a lesson in the difference between roundabouts and “traffic circles” and informed me that you do not in fact need to signal when leaving a traffic circle, though you do need to signal when you leave a roundabout. Right. OK then. So, what, exactly, is the difference between a roundabout and a traffic circle? And why do we need both? And who named this ridiculous, confusing, superfluous “traffic circle”? Please don’t email me to answer any of those questions. It’s kind of irrelevant. To pass my rigid roundabout testing, my unwitting students will need to signal on both circles and rounds.
Accent: I moaned in my article about people mocking my accent. The people who felt the need to defend or explain this to me were suggesting in their correspondence that when people who I don’t know repeat what I say in their false British accent, they are in fact complimenting me. They are doing it out of respect or sometimes even reverence. Wrong! They are doing it because I sound different to them. And as I have pointed out to the e-mail writers who suggested this to me, the accent mockers would not dare to do this to a Chinese or Indian person. One e-mailer even suggested that perhaps I don’t speak properly, which is why I am mocked. Ironically, after receiving this particular e-mail, I actually could not speak properly for quite some time. My words were coming out in a mixture of swearing and spitting.
Cost of living
I mentioned in my rant that I find living here extremely expensive, compared to living in England. I was not talking about tourism – which in London is particularly extortionate – I was talking about cost of living, and to illustrate this, I am pretty sure I mentioned cost of living type things – utilities, insurance, groceries etc. My favourite e-mail was from someone who felt the need to point out that I was probably forgetting to convert pounds to dollars before making a comparison. Because pounds are, like, three-quarters of what a dollar is, so obviously everything would seem cheaper – three-quarters of the price in fact! And back in 2003 when I moved here, a pound worked out to less than half of a dollar, and so based on this logic, everything was half price!
OK, now I feel I have gone on another rant, and I will probably have to go through the whole thing again. I would like to publicly state that these topics are now closed for debate. Unless of course I need to mention them again. But I won’t. I promise my next entry will be non-confrontational, non-offensive, and will not mention roundabouts. Or even traffic circles.