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Can I get a Yee F’ing Haw?

November 10, 2010

I belong to a sasstastic writing group, the Restless Writers. We meet monthly to drink wine and eat Brie critique each other’s writing. At a writing conference in October, my partners met a group of amazing women who also share a healthy respect for vino and dairy products. The best part? They’re from my hometown – Calgary, Alberta.

When I left my job, family and friends in Calgary nine years ago for Toronto, it was without an ounce of regret. I was a newlywed embarking on a huge adventure that turned out to be the beginning of a fervent and ever-lasting love affair with Ontario. It was always nice to visit friends on our infrequent trips back, but for the most part, we couldn’t wait to get home.

I was back in Calgary last summer without my husband or son – and my daughter had been abducted by my mother and sister – so I barely saw her and I had a lot more time to re-visit places I hadn’t seen in years. I was able to see my hometown in a way that distance – time and geographic – allows for and I noticed some interesting things.

The cowboy culture in Calgary is rooted in history and I didn’t realize how imbedded it was in my psyche until I was driving around listening to a country music station. I’ve never considered myself a fan – aside from the annual, week-long, drunken stupor we call the Calgary Stampede – but on this trip not only did I get used to (dare I say like) country crooners, the odd song actually got me a bit booey*.

In Calgary, I could be on the last minute of a 90-minute run and ready to puke up a lung, but if someone were approaching, I’d use my last breath upon fainting to wheeze out an appropriate greeting. When we moved to Toronto in 2001, my husband and I would go running walking through High Park, greeting others as we passed. Every person just stared at us like we’d offered to kick a puppy. We quickly learned that – in High Park, on Yonge Street and everywhere in between – talking to strangers was simply not done.

Drivers in Calgary are truly an enigma wrapped in a riddle: if someone let’s you in their lane, proper etiquette dictates that you reciprocate with a friendly wave and, if you’re my mom, an audible, “thank you!” And yet, Calgary drivers are notoriously bat-shit crazy, regularly going 20-40 km over the posted limit, cutting people off and speeding up at merging cars to thwart people from entering their lane. I’ve determined that the wave is merely an acknowledgement that you’ve survived the lane change and recognizing the effort to prevent it.

Calgary has the largest per capita number of A&W, 7-11 and Dairy Queen franchises (this is based entirely on my own research driving to see friends around the city). In Toronto, these fine establishments are rare sightings, like loch ness monsters or Stephen Harper fans. This posed a huge problem for me when I moved east. A&W whistle dog combos with rings and root beer (diet, of course – I’m not a total glutton) got me through University. Grape slurpees defined my childhood and the “Bonavista Sev” was my adolescent clubhouse. And don’t even get me started on DQ blizzards: while pregnant, I would cut a bitch for a combination of strawberry sundae topping and Oreo (try it…you’re welcome).

To answer your question – yes I realize that, like music is for other people, the markers of my life involve fast food. And yes, it explains a lot.

* Booey = sad (i.e. “Brad Paisley gets me all booey, then I get all snarffley**)
** Snarffley = snotty

No joke - I stepped off the plane in Calgary and saw a lady wearing this t-shirt.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2010 9:35 am

    Ah yes, the Clevage Stampede.

    And may I say you captured Calgary driving habits in a taut paragraph. A couple of my students told me their parents will “chase a driver down” if he/she doesn’t wave at them after they let them merge. The Wild West, 21st Century style.

    Any chance you’re coming back for a visit?

    The blizzard’s on me.

    • November 11, 2010 6:39 am

      I will take you up on that blizzard one day, my friend. And we’ll spike our slurpees with a little vodka, old skool-style. (I’m so not cool with the lingo)

  2. November 10, 2010 9:53 am

    Just started reading your blog. HYSTERICAL! We have lived all over the states and while I love a big city and all that it provides, there is definitely something to be said about a “smaller” town and all the niceties (and old school chain restaurants!).

    • November 11, 2010 6:37 am

      Thanks for reading, Aimee! I love where we live now (just outside Toronto) because it’s not “the big city” but it’s close enough that we can have little visits (we always drive in saying, “Omigod, why did we leave – it’s so cool here!” and after 45 minutes in traffic we’re yelling, “I HATE THIS PLACE!!!!”).

  3. Trish permalink
    November 10, 2010 11:15 am

    Hilarious stuff! You’ve soooo captured the crazy-ass driving mentality in Cowtown! I’m a transplant from Ontario and I’m still confused by the passive-aggressive driving tendencies out here, but I’ve learned to wave after I cut people off.
    Thanks for the fun post!

    • November 11, 2010 6:35 am

      Ha~I’m an expert at the cut-off wave! Alas, people on the 401 don’t respond so well.

  4. November 10, 2010 12:00 pm

    Boy do I know what you mean!

    Where I live there is a distinct line of friendliness. I live south of the line but work north of the line. It’s an adjustment. South of the line, strangers strike up conversations, wave when changing lanes, wave in passing, and if your kid does something stupid, chances are one or more adults in the vicinity will respond–even if they don’t know you. North of the line *sigh* well it makes me love where I live all the more. People don’t talk. Don’t wave. & heaven forbid you tell a kid that doesn’t belong to you to get out of the street because a car is coming–the parents will glare at you like you should let the kid get run over.

  5. November 10, 2010 12:26 pm

    I had no idea Calgary was the Canadian Texas. 🙂

    That driving style sounds very familiar, but the required wave varies greatly as Austin is a melting pot where half of the people are Not From Texas. Like me.

    And now I want a DQ blizzard. 🙂

    • November 11, 2010 6:34 am

      Calgary is totally the Canadian Texas. And you should get that blizzard, stat (yes, I’m writing this at 6:34 a.m. and stand by my answer).

  6. elena permalink
    November 10, 2010 9:04 pm

    I snorted a bit of wine when I read about Calgary drivers. You capture us so well. And by ‘us’ I really mean ‘them’ since I had the good sense to escape to a small town 15 min south. And yes I know that Okotoks is practically Calgary, but don’t wreak it for me…
    And hey…Bonavista Sev? Just up the hill from my childhood digs in Deer Run.
    Ahhh. Memories.

  7. November 11, 2010 12:20 am

    I need one of those shirts asap.

  8. November 11, 2010 9:24 pm

    Being from Texas, I get the Cowboy thang. And I also believe in saving horses…

  9. November 14, 2010 5:42 pm

    Replace Calgary Stampede with College National Finals Rodeo and we’re practically living the same life. Did the chewing tobacco people give all the all the little girls the pouches too? So they could chew but not get it in their teeth? Ah, life in the wild wild west.

Trackbacks

  1. “Passion, honesty + fun”: Restless Writers chat with the Calgary Writers Group « Restless Writers

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