Some years back I met a Columbian man who was visiting Canada for the first time. I asked him what his first impressions were, and he said, “Don’t look, don’t talk, and apologize if you are clumsy enough to touch.” A little different from South America, then? “Oh, yes! We have to hug everybody. Unless they’re wearing a pistol, and even then sometimes.”
A friend who moved to Toronto from Newfoundland said much the same. At the time, I was pining for the prairies, so we mused over the quality of our homesickness. I suggested my fondness for my hometown was perhaps a bit naïve: I knew everybody there, which was why I thought it was friendlier than the city. He conceded that, but said the Maritimes were different. “It doesn’t take so long to be a neighbor, because everyone talks to you.”
The conversation in California differs considerably in quality from the conversation in Newfoundland (material for a future entry, perhaps), but the charming thing about California conversation is that, in sharp contrast to Toronto, it exists. This is a trait I’ve always appreciated about the citizens of the United States – so long as you are not the sole occupant of any given space, you have a ready interlocutor. I've conversed with complete strangers while cueing up for a movie, shopping for post-cards, visiting the local library, buying a pair of shoes ... Thankfully, none of these has ever concluded with a hug (too far out of my comfort zone, still - after all, I'm not just Canadian but Mennonite) but it leaves me with the impression that becoming a “neighbor” in this State would not be a long or difficult process.
California Delight #6