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My daughter, Katie, who currently lives in San Diego, has had the thrilling experience of attending the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She managed to get tickets because her fiancé is Canadian, one of the luckiest people alive, and was able to get tickets through the Canadian Olympic lottery. So they flew to Seattle and drove over the border to British Columbia, happy and excited to be there.
Neither Katie nor Steve, her fiancé, who is from Nova Scotia, have ever been to that part of Canada and they were looking forward to the trip for more than just the Olympics. They are huge outdoor people who spend all their free time hiking, biking, climbing, skiing, diving, kayaking, backpacking, camping, and engaging in numerous other activities that exhaust me just hearing about them. British Columbia is definitely their cup of tea.
They had tickets to the Canadian and USA hockey game, which absolutely thrilled them since Steve, of course, is a huge hockey fan and Katie has become one. Unfortunately, their tickets were not together, a sad twist of fate, but one they were willing to suffer just to be there. One seat was about 14 rows behind the goal and the other was on the tier above. They agreed to trade off every period. Katie's experience in Vancouver had been wonderful by the time the game rolled around, she loved the city and was crazy about the surrounding countryside. Everyone she met was warm and polite and she made a dozen friends just standing in line to get in the hockey arena. She ended up sitting next to a lovely middle aged Canadian couple who expressed regret that she was sitting alone and upon hearing her story, decided to adopt her and Steve for the duration of the game. They were delightful. All was going swimmingly (or skatingly) until the game got going. After the first American Goal, Katie's experience began to become less comfortable.
I should take a moment here to mention that when my kids were young, I made manners, courtesy, graciousness, and restraint huge priorities. These are qualities I believe are essential in human beings and vital if any of us have any hope of living in anything resembling civilized society. I hounded into them the importance of grace in both victory and defeat, and the unattractiveness of hubris and boasting. The lessons stuck and all my kids are famous for their manners. They also are apt to be disgusted and horrified by groups of people behaving badly. The cringe factor is a natural consequence of the whole courtesy thing. Poor Katie was about to cringe.
At first, it wasn't too bad, but as the game progressed, the behavior deteriorated. The American fans became pretty abusive, screaming insults and foul language at the Canadian fans and generally behaving like savages. The Canadians did not respond in kind, and with each nasty insult and crude suggestion flung at them by her countrymen, Katie became more and more horrified. She felt she had to apologize to the nice couple sitting next to her, but they were very gracious and treated her with great kindness. Somehow, this made her feel even worse. By the beginning of the second half she was scrunched down in her seat and had tucked her little American flag into her jacket. She was thoroughly embarrassed and miserable. At one point some American fan near to her made a rather rude suggestion as to what the American hockey team was going to do with the Canadian flag when she finally heard a Canadian respond.
“Yeah, well,” he shouted, “at least we have health care.” Touche.
That response made Katie feel a little better. She commented later that for Canadians, that qualified as trash talk. The nice couple next to her felt that it was not very nice and apologized to her, but Katie told them not to worry, the truth always hurts. Our team, as you probably know, won in the end. Katie told me that she had never felt so miserable about a victory in her entire life. The boasting and carrying on by the young American men behind her finally pushed her over the edge and she turned around and scolded them like a headmistress at Hogwarts, telling them that their behavior was shameful and rude and that they made her embarrassed to be from the same country. She went on at some length, and believe me, when Katie decides to deliver a scolding to a group of men – they listen. She's beautiful, articulate, and deadly. She told me later that it probably was a waste of her time, but it made her feel better and shut them up.
When she met up with Steve she told him how glad she was that he was not the kind of guy who would scream obscenities and make rude comments to the fans of an opposing team.
“Of course I wouldn't,” he said with surprise. “That would be rude.”
That's when she kissed him.
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