December 12, 2008

Slow down...

You know that Simon & Garfunkel tune, Feeling Groovy/59th Street Bridge song? "Slow down, you move too fast..." Now you'll be humming it all day. This tune was in my head while driving today to get the snow tires on the car. I must have had Simon & Garfunkel on my mind because I was also singing "Slip Sliding Away..." As you can see from the photos -- snow plows are not plentiful. Really. For friends and family in the Midwest -- don't complain about the roads again! By the way, the photo of Duke is because he has not made the blog in a while.

The slow down idea has a different meaning these days. As we’ve mentioned, everything takes longer in Canada. For the most part, people are extremely friendly and service people take the time to talk. Today at the “garage” where the tires were installed, the mechanic named Steve, took the time out to come in and talk to me (Kish). Fortunately, I wasn’t paying him by the hour. This garage was a combination gas station and coffee house. I learned all about the auto industry in Canada, the mark up on parts, how mechanics in dealerships are unionized and can’t be fired and they all do jobs on the side for cash. He was at this garage on this day because he was helping out the owner, whose name is Louis. Louis kept calling me Madam. We're glad we found this garage. Earlier in the week we called Canadian Tire -- the Home Depot/Wal-Mart/Ikea/Car part mega-store in Canada and were told we would need to drop the car off and they would call when it was finished – and it could be days -- for the tire installation.  We decided to call a “mom and pop” place. We're glad we did and now they have a new, loyal customer. Plus they schedule appointments! It was supposed to take an hour but took a bit longer. Anyway...Steve the mechanic is from Quebec and after high school decided to travel in the states. He ended up meeting some girls from Arkansas, attending some college sporting events which he loved and his friends convinced him to apply to college. He did, and his parents didn’t know until his acceptance letter arrived. He attended University of Arkansas on full scholarship and studied engineering. We had an interesting chat about college kids in the US. In Canada they can drink at 18 – years ago it was 17. So for him it was no big deal. He noted the enormous amount of binge drinking and in his case he was in the Bible Belt and it was very hidden – and common there. He couldn’t understand what the big deal was about drinking because after all he had been having a few drinks with his parents since he was 17. Coming from Canada, where they have good beer, he couldn't understand what the fuss was about with watered down American beer. He also thought it was strange that these kids somehow had shotguns in their dorm rooms and yet they couldn’t have beer? Obviously the two don’t mix and that wasn’t his point. His point was that the rules on having guns seemed more lenient than alcohol and for a Canadian – that’s odd. Guns aren’t real popular here. Incidentally most movies we’ve noticed are Rated G (even if they may be PG-13 in the states) unless they have anything to do with guns and violence. Something like Wedding Crashers would be G even though there was a gun scene because it was based on comedy, not an act of violence.

Another “slow down” moment. Last weekend I had to travel to Tucson to meet my brothers and go through our Dad’s belongings. My flight went through Atlanta and I was looking forward to a four-hour peaceful, nighttime flight from Atlanta to Tucson. I really wanted to finish my book and mind my own business. But, I had the opportunity to sit next to Li Lin, a 20-something year old college grad from China. He was in the states working for Caterpillar and traveling with the executives for two weeks – Tucson and Los Angeles being the last stops. He was very excited to sit for the four hours and practice his English. I was patient, because after all, we are living with another language and I know how necessary it is to practice. He asked great questions about the US – how my family has been affected by the financial crisis, how much we spend on a car, the wage of a writer, if I like Chinese food, what books I read, etc. I’m telling you – we covered a lot of ground. He wanted to read the first few pages of my book (Twilight – dumb book in my opinion) wanting to know more about the author (she’s lucky I told him). I learned a lot about China from this young executive. I learned that only wealthy people in China have cars because they are so expensive and that he is amazed that most families in the US have two or more cars. I learned that he had to read most of the same literature books I had read in school, if not more. The Chinese really love American TV and at the same time the government is afraid the kids are losing their native culture because of the American influences. Let’s just say it was a four-hour conversation and it was a real test of the new Slow Down mantra, but it was worth it. What I did find funny was he was telling me that he wanted to shop in the US and bring American things home but “they are all made in China.”

I have since received an email from Li Lin and he wanted to know if we had a blog! He loved Tucson and the open spaces – something he is not used to in China.

The message for us has been to slow down. People here like to chat and learn about others. Whether it’s the cable installation guy who drove and got our pizza for lunch and ate with us, or the refrigerator repairman who was at the house for over two hours talking about government, hockey, you name it. The fridge was under warranty and we were not paying for the time by the way. When the electrician comes to fix some wiring and is paid by the hour, I'm not saying a word. 

While it’s sometimes frustrating that things take a long time – like three weeks for the chimney sweep service to arrive – we’re thinking it’s because they don’t rush. It’s very 9-5 (or 10-4 at the bank) and sometimes that’s not too bad. Unless you are in a hurry. 

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