by Mark Hartley
I am a native Texan; too much of the first 40 years of my life was spent listening to arguments about how porous the border with Mexico should be. Mexicans and Texans have traded some hostile glares back-and-forth across the Rio Grande. In contrast, except for when cold fronts blanket Dallas with ice, the Canadians are generally viewed as good neighbors by Texans. The folks from states up north enjoy a better relationship with their international neighbors, or so the sentiment goes.
Twenty-two years ago, I married a New Jersey woman. At least I thought she was from New Jersey. She was born there, attended school there, crossed the Hudson to party in NYC, and dated a football player before I happened to come along. The New Jersey wedding seemed very American to me. But what do I know? I was just the groom, listening carefully to instructions on where to stand and what to say.
Afterwards, we visited some in-laws living in Ontario. It turns out that the wife is a first-generation American. The in-laws were very proud of their Canadian heritage. I had no problem with notion of Canadian nationalism, since everyone was friendly about it.
Then, one day, my new father-in-law gave me a driving tour of the area. In particular, I was fascinated by the system of dikes that the ships use to bypass Niagara Falls. We were passing what appeared to me to be ordinary pastures when he suddenly pointed out, "This is where we beat the Americans."
"In hockey?" I asked, thinking perhaps a rink used to exist in this spot in the middle of nowhere.
"In the war," he replied.
I gazed upon my new father-in-law for a minute, wondering if this was some sort initiation rite for the new son-in-law. I gathered my thoughts for an appropriate reply:
• "Yeah, those sporting events between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma are sort of like a war too." But, like most Texans, I kind of figured hockey is something Canadians usually win — that this pasture would be just one of thousands of fond memories where Americans upended awkwardly on slippery surfaces.
• "Last I checked, we're allies — you should be thankful." The father-in-law had been very generous with the wedding and obviously loved his daughter. It didn't seem to be the right moment to argue that the United States would never lose a military confrontation with Canada.
• "Gee, I didn't know that. It sure is pretty here. What kind of trees are those?"
My father-in-law and I still speak to each other. It's an easy guess about which response I gave. Eventually, we kind of settled into an American routine — traces of New Jersey, Ontario, and Texas co-exist peacefully in a house in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma. I'm not sure what rubbed off on the wife and father-in-law, but it is "Ontario's" perspective of beer and booze that stuck with me.
I entered my father-in-law's life when he was 63 years old. He's 80-something now. As the years pass by, conversations are repeated with increasing frequency. I listen many times each year about how the Canadian government is much kinder to the country's brewers of alcoholic beverages. The United States, on the other hand, puts up an unfair challenge to its beer and liquor manufacturers as a result of too many regulations and tax policies.
I have no idea if Canadian breweries are truly better. However, I have listened to his "facts" to the point where I believe them. On the occasional forays inside a tavern, I will ask if they have "anything Canadian" in stock. The answer is usually negative in northeastern Oklahoma — 933 miles away from the border. Canadian beers and whiskeys taste better to me and are more potent. However, the words "occasional forays" three sentences back are probably relevant. When you consume alcohol moderately as I do, a glass of water from the Rio Grande would probably be quite potent.
What rubs off on you about Canada? I'd like to suggest that their approach to self-regulation should. RDH magazine has a very small circulation in Canada — hardly worth noting. So the articles about the Canadian dental hygienists' approach to the learning curve involved with self-regulation are not for readers from Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, etc. The articles are for readers from Texas, New Jersey, Oklahoma, etc. The articles are for you. The Canadians have done a remarkable job in setting new standards for the profession, policing themselves, and striving to maintain a positive, upbeat relationship with restorative dentistry.
If you will read the articles, I believe you will share my sentiment: God bless Canada!
Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH. He can be contacted at [email protected].