Normally, I would arm myself with some essential phrases when visiting a foreign country: "is there cheese in this?" or "where is the restroom?" or "you can't do this to me, I'm an American!" I would also try to learn the words for a few niceties like "please," "thank you," and "don't worry, it's only a cold sore." I'm very polite.
But it is a bit strange, that the entire Quebec province in Canada speaks a totally foreign language from the rest of the country. I guess in the U.S., it's a bit like going to Arkansas where they speak Barnyard. Not everybody of course; the genteel, well-educated folk there speak Pig Latin.
Until I planned our trip to Montreal, I've never thought of Canada as a foreign country. I've always thought of Canada, you know, like it was as a very large suburb of America. It was gonna be like going outlet mall shopping on a weekend.
I mean, I already love their music: Alanis Morrissette, Sarah McLachlan, Tegan and Sara. Like a well-chosen concealer, I would blend right in. Canadians are probably not that different. They probably raise the toilet seat with the tip of their shoe in a public restroom just like we do in America.
However, if there was anything that worried me more than having to speak French, it was the metric system.
I could probably muster "how do I get to the Biodome" in French, but the reply "turn left and walk 1.5 kilometres" would mean absolutely nothing to me. I am terrified that I may be in situation where my life would depend on buying orange juice in the right size container. How many litres is in a gallon or a quart? The thought of memorizing the conversion factors was daunting. I feel myself slipping into despair.
Our cab driver gave us our first taste of the local color, when an inattentive bike rider cut in front of us. Incensed, our driver suddenly stepped on the gas, driving like a madman. He soon caught up with the biker. He rolled down his window and let loose a barrage of curses. It sounded like this:
"%&$?!!' ' ' ' ' ' ' @% ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ! ' ' ' ' ' ' &%& ' ' ' ' '?!?!"
I felt like I was in a Peanuts cartoon and the adults were talking.
Realizing that we were still in the cab, our driver embarrassedly turned around said what sounded like an apology in French. How can we be angry when the swearing sounded so glamorous, even if I peed a little in my pants because of his crazy driving?
We were excited when we got to our hotel in The Village, which is the gay neighborhood in Montreal. We decided to take a stroll.
As we walked past the locals, we caught snippets of French which made us feel like worldly travelers. We found ourselves adding a nasal sound to our conversation, affecting a fake French accent. We randomly read signs out loud just to hear ourselves speaking French: "Le Chateau du Pantalon," "L'Adonis," "Ben & Jer-ree's." I was way ahead of Brian as I had a great advantage over him: my lisp.
The Quebecois were friendly people, we found. They switched effortlessly to English if you respond "Good Morning" to their "Bonjour!" or if you say something like, "where's my coffee, bitch?"
We looked forward to basking in the warmth of the locals much like a penis looks forward to the warmth of a well-lubricated hole...
Posts about my trip to that other gay city, San Francisco:
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