January 16, 2008

Lighten Up America!

I've lived on a border town all my life, having grown up in Niagara Falls, NY, USA, but only ten minutes away from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Playing hockey as a kid, I would trek over the Rainbow bridge often. Of course, back in the days of low security, it was usually a quick and easy experience.

I spent Saturday at Niagara-on-the-Lake just across the border, at the mouth of the Niagara River as it hits Lake Ontario. It's a quaint, beautiful town, lots of tourists. The "vacation mode" started as we crossed the border. The Canadian customs officer was pleasant, asking their typical "Where were you born?" quesion. After that, you head to a toll booth where you have to pay the fee ($3.00 US, $3.50 CDN). As I was searching for the correct change, the toll collector was chatting away with me about what a nice day it was, have a great day, etc.

We spent the next few hours sitting at a hotel's outdoor patio, watching the crowds go by. I think it's actually pretty easy to spot a Canadian from an American, so we played that game for a while as we also watched the girl that gives the horse and carriage rides clean up that bag that they put on the back of the horse (yeah, that was our view for a while!).

The change of atmosphere was brought home as we headed back home across the border. The US Customs Agents are very military looking (not that there's anything wrong with that!), carrying sidearms and rarely smiling. Quite a contrast from their low-key Canadian counterparts.

Vacation mode was definitely off. The general pace and attitude of the American's is really a contrast to the Canadian's. Maybe it's the beer, but I think there's something to be said for a lifestyle that has humor and relaxation, with no drop off in productivity.

Lighten up America!

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