I'm American, and I've been living in Canada for four years this month. Four years and I still don't fucking get it: your strange culture of plastic-bagged milk, an identity intertwined with a single ice-based sport, a people known primarily for one [admittedly boring] defining characteristic—politeness. My Canadian editors have constantly put up with my American antics over the time we've worked together. A patriotism that waxes and wanes so volatilely from avoiding my home country for six months at a time and openly considering renouncing my American citizenship, to taking my vacation time to go to a desert in Texas and get a USDA stamp tattooed on my ass.
Speaking of citizenship, I've accepted the fact that I will never have one of the Canadian variety. I have a work permit and will be applying for my permanent resident card (Canadian for "green card"), but since the only additional advantages a Canadian citizenship would grant me would be an extra passport and the right to vote here, there's not exactly a point. (If Trump, Donald becomes the next American president, I may have to reconsider of course.) Anyway, since I'll never be a true Canadian despite my intentions to stay in this beautiful country of the north for the foreseeable future, I allowed my coworkers to put me through a series of Canadian hazing rituals to ensure I become the most Canadian I can without actually being granted a citizenship.
I started off my morning by waking up and listening to CBC Radio One, some show called The Current while I put on my "Canadian tuxedo"—an outfit of all denim. The radio show hosts were going on about how robots are going to steal farmers' jobs, and before I knew it, it was time to go get my assigned breakfast: a double double and Timbits from Tim Hortons. On the way there—and in fact, on my way anywhere during this tyrannical day—I had to listen to the Tragically Hip's greatest hits. It was certainly tragic and not exactly what I would call hip, but editors' orders are editors' orders. I liked "Grace, Too" though.
Tim Hortons holds a special place in the greater Canadian identity. I stand by the fact that overall, it's not that great, and Dunkin Donuts is better, but I guarantee someone is going to read this and drag me for claiming so. They get pretty defensive over "Timmys" (as they lovingly call it) here. A double double, the satanic brew that it is, is a two-sugar, two-cream, all-swill coffee. Since I am a full-blown caffeine addict, I had to drink the whole thing to ensure I wouldn't be going through withdrawal while being hazed the rest of the day.
Next, the bagged milk. No one has ever been able to explain to me why this liquid dairy product is primarily available only in a plastic bag in some parts of Canada. I've gone over the potential reasons in my head before... Could it have something to do with recycling? Is it just easier to produce that way? Does it keep for longer? I may never know nor care enough to find out. Nonetheless, I found myself transformed into a baby cow in VICE Canada's kitchen being fed milk straight out of the bag by VICE Canada's deputy editor.
I had already gotten through the bagged milk portion of the day, surely one of the most trying tasks I would be put to. Next, the associate editor, Amil Niazi, invited me into a meeting room at the office to help pitch a tent. I've been "camping" before—OK, actually, mostly just getting fucked up while in a tent—so this couldn't be bad. I spent all of 20 minutes getting in the way of this clearly superiorly skilled tent-building Canadian. I grew up in Pennsylvania—which literally has the word "woods" in it when translated to English—so this was embarrassing. Probably like 90 percent of their country is the fucking wilderness, so naturally, Canadians are better at the outdoors. Let's just give them that. Feeling sorry for me, Amil kindly invited me into the tent of her making and provided me with Canadian snacks: ketchup chips (why not just dip regular chips in ketchup?), Smarties (fake-ass M&Ms with an unoriginal name stolen from another American candy), and Crispers (neither chips nor crackers, but sus all the same).
After I was safely back at my desk and listening to a CanCon playlist Noisey Canada kindly helped me make containing Drake, Broken Social Scene, and City and Colour, I had nearly allowed my naturally strong American pride to recover from the camping debacle.
It was only then that the VICE.com managing editor, Josh Visser, arrived dragging a large sports bag that looked and smelled like it had a dead body in it, along with some hockey sticks. "It's time to play some shinny!" he said to me. If you have ever met me you know, other than my one-time stint with competitive cheerleading as a teenager, I fucking hate playing sports. If I think about high school gym class, my eyes glass over and I go into a trance-like state.
Naturally, my coworkers had found a pile of rubble in a parking lot to serve as a makeshift hockey net and told me I would be playing goalie. I was informed that this position is what is usually given to a younger brother or someone you don't like. Interesting. Josh had me get down on the ground as he strapped me into some used kids' goalie pads (backwards, I would later learn) and into 20-year-old, never-washed shoulder pads. Since I was born in New York, he thought it would be sweet to give me a Rangers jersey to wear. Really touching. We all took maple syrup shots, and for about 20 minutes, he and one of my other coworkers took turns hurling plastic balls at me. The small, bright orange balls seemed innocent enough; I didn't actually think I could get injured considering I was armoured up. Josh at one point took a slap shot straight at my solar plexus—the ball made a loud noise and I screamed a little, but it wasn't until later in the washroom (Ew, I hate that fucking word. Why am I using it? I really am assimilated, aren't I?) lifting up my denim button-down shirt that I noticed some gnarly bruising.
After, I had a donair ordered to the office. This is basically like a gyro, but spicy and sweet (apparently the sauce is mostly condensed milk and sugar)—the Maritimes, where Josh is from, is obsessed with these sandwiches. I ate half of it and, after apologizing profusely, threw it away, but it got me thinking. Why is Canada so obsessed with sweet stuff? Everything I ate today has been sugary as fuck, yet Canadians talk shit about how unhealthy Americans are all the time. Why aren't ya'll fat as fuck? (Editor's note: hockey and the outdoors, duh.)
Before I left the office, I was tasked with watching Canadian Heritage Minutes. These are one-minute videos that are apparently supposed to teach Canadian people about their "rich" heritage. I learned through these that apparently white Canadian guys in suits invented basketball (Why aren't ya'll so obsessed with that sport then...?), about a v. serious explosion in Halifax, and I thoroughly enjoyed a video based on the phrase "burnt toast."
Once I had learned all there surely was to know about Canadian history, the editors took me out in the parking lot, and we chugged Molson Canadians. After all of the garbage Canadian food I ate all day, my stomach was just fucked. I ended up spitting up half of my beer, and retreated to finish my last task for the day: a "Canadian Hat Trick."
From what my managing editor tells me, hat tricks are just when you do three great things together. (He also mentioned something about Gordie Howe, but I dunno.) For my hazing finalé, I smoked BC bud, ate poutine (yet more surmountable proof that most Canadian dishes are bad for you), and listened to Rush's 2112.
If there's one thing I learned after a day of Canadian cliché hazing, it's that I can say definitively: I don't get Rush.
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