Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Get to Know Your Fellow Commuters: International Edition

...what types of salad dressing do you have?

- (in heavy Italian accent) Uhh, we have oil and vinegar on table.

- No, I mean like ranch, thousand islands. What are my choices?

- The oil is right here.

- I guess that means Eye-talian dressing?

(this was an actual conversation between a group of American tourists and a remarkably restrained Italian waitress overhead recently outside of Rome)


The Holt family has recently returned from Italy (this fact should explain the lack of output from us here at the WWNW). While there is much to love about that fine country there was one very disturbing aspect that reminded me all too much of home. We were staying in a small Tuscan town just outside of Florence. After a number of days filled with adventurous and often frustrating attempts to navigate the area by car we decided to take the train into Florence (notice I am not using the Italian name for the city. There is very little in the world more annoying than someone who comes back from a trip and shares their new found 10-word foreign vocabulary with their friends and co-workers. "The coffee was so much better in Bartthhelona." It's all very Madonna/Paltrow-esque).

Our party included my wife, her mom, her aunt, Charlie and I. As we walked on to the rain I assumed that someone would vacate for any, or all, of us. Father with baby in arms, new mom, Grandmother or Great-Aunt are all people with a claim on seats that clearly subordinates that of the median train passenger. This group appeared to be a particularly able-bodied one yet, no one got up. It was a full ten minutes of pacing up and down the train before the single decent person on the crowded train did the right thing and offered up her seat.

I'm reasonably confident that even the miserable crowd on a typical Bloor-Danforth westbound morning run would have at least a couple volunteers gave up their seat. Quit clearly, in Italy TTC stands for Treno full of Total Crap. The most surprising aspect of this collection of asswipes on rails is how much they worshipped young Charlie everywhere else we went in the country. We could hardly walk a block without being stopped so some starstruck local could fawn over little Charlie. It was as if we were pushing a 9.5 kg George Clooney around town. Men and woman, young and old, it was as if these people had never seen the world's cutest and smartest little blonde toddler before, that is, unless it required the sacrifice of standing for a 25 minute train ride. On that train she, and the surprising amount of stress she was putting on Daddy's back, might as well have been invisible. These are, for the most part, wonderful people accept when seating is involved. Then everyone's inner Mussolini shows up.

What was the big deal? Italians stand around a lot. They drink coffee standing at the counter. There are no public benches anywhere. Doorways are full of people smoking while standing. I saw little old ladies trekking up Tuscan roads. It is quite evident that they have learned to cope very well in the absence of a chairs. The seats weren't even that comfortable. So to all but one of the passengers on the Filigne Valdarno to Florence route last week, voi suck!

Other than that, Italy was wonderful. Thanks for asking.

I came home to one very troubling sight. Where the Hell did all these "diehard" Montreal Canadiens fans come from? When I go away is no one keeping an eye on this place? By the number of car flags seen around town you'd think Marty McFly had gone back to the Plains of Abraham and seriously messed things up.

There are a couple of possible explanations for this contagion of habs fandom. Firstly, the "closeted" Habs fan now feels free to flaunt their deviant proclivities given that Leaf fans have been demoralized by three straight years of missing the playoffs. While bothersome there's really no solution. As Leafs fans we have no ammunition to berate legitimate Canadiens fans with, even if they are being more boisterous now that the hometown team has been vanquished.

The second explanation (and most likely both of these are applicable to some degree) is that these are Leaf fans who are just jumping on the Montreal bandwagon because they're the only remaining Canadian team. This is quite simply ridiculous. Would Yankee fans support the Red Sox if they were to face the Jays just because their teams both played their home games in the same country? This is more of the misguided nationalism that I have lamented in the past. Would Canadiens fans don the blue and white if we made it farther in the playoffs than they did? If you believe that, well, you're an idiot.

In sports, former enemies don't band together to take on greater foes. This isn't Revenge of the Nerds 2. If you are a fan of the Maple Leafs you cannot also be a fan of the Canadiens or the Senators. I heard the same sort of absurd talk last year when Ottawa made their run to the finals. If Ottawa was in a seven game series against the combined stars from North Korea, Iran and Syria I would have bought an "Axis of Evil" jersey. Yankees fans can't support the Red Sox. People will souls can't support the Patriots. It is unnatural behaviour. Your contempt for your rival should far outweigh any potential allegiance you may have based on something less pertinent like geography, religion or culture. Ethnographers and paleontologists have been chronicling this for centuries. It's science, look it up. So unless you are a legitimate fan of the Canadiens, and the Canadiens alone, take that damn flag of the car and go watch a Jays game, you treasonous fool.

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