I was in my hotel at the University of Calgary, asking the man at the reception desk to change a Canadian ten dollar bill for a five and five singles.
“Of course!” he said happily, because in Canada everything is said happily, even when it’s twenty below outside.
He opened the cash register, and a look of consternation fell across his face- the kind of look you get from Canadians when they are unable to quickly fulfill your precise request.
“Hmmm…” he said, peering into cash drawer and tapping it with his fingers. He looked up at me apologetically. “Do you only need loonies? Or would you take toonies?”
I had no idea what he was going on about, but clearly Canadian currency had sneaky weird names. Loonies! Toonies! It was like getting tickled.
“Oh, either one!” I said with a dismissive wave, because I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. He looked relieved, and gave me some shiny coins.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I freakin’ love Canada.
When I was doing various interviews in Ireland and the UK, they would ask me where I was heading next.
“Amsterdam,” I’d tell them.
“Oh – behave!” they’d joke.
They said this for a couple of reasons. First of all, they don’t know me personally. My wife likes to tell the story of my bachelor night, when I went out on the town with my buddies Charlie and Kelly, and called her from my hotel room at around 11:30 p.m., a bit tipsy, to confess that I’d eaten an entire bag of Doritos and a tin of wasabi peas while watching Terminator 3.
I’ve spent a lot of time in England – really I have – and I have friends and family there. It doesn’t feel exotic; it feels more homey than anything else. I know London well.
And yet I cannot go to England and not instinctively think everybody sounds like butlers. They could be selling gum, but more often it’s the ones who are giving directions. The guys at the airport. As them where the baggage carousel is, and it’s like you’re the King of Siam.
“Right around the corner there, sir, and make a left. Did you come in from Ireland?”
I tell them I did.
“Your baggage will be on carousel one or two, then.”
How can you not love this country? And why aren’t we all talking like this? I felt like I was about to board a steamer.
Notwithstanding the smell of hot molten plastic emanating from the Crocs™ store, I really like the Denver airport. They’ve got people just to help you get to where you need to go, or tell you which security line is shorter, for example. Though, on the downside, they also have people dressed remarkably similarly to these helpful people who are pushing the United Airlines American Express.
On January 31st, Week 1 of the book tour was set begin. The first stop would be Albuquerque, which I knew was in New Mexico, which I knew was the desert, which I knew was hot.
That’s where the problem started.
“You’re bringing shorts?” Liz asked, watching me move clothes from my drawer into my small bag.
“Just in case,” I said.
“Just in case what?”
I stopped packing, wondering if she was being difficult.
“In case it’s hot,” I said. “I’ll be in Albuquerque for two days.”
She nodded. “Hmmm,” she said. She watched me start packing again. Then she said, “You know that Albuquerque is cold right now, right? Like – freezing cold.”
“It’s in New Mexico!”
This was the beginning of my lesson that protesting that a place shouldn’t be cold does not necessarily make it not cold.