"We need a green pepper," Joe said as we headed home. We agreed that he'd run into the little local grocery store across the street from where we live. I can go in there but I never do, it's just accessible enough to be called accessible but the size of the store makes it such that it takes work and the cooperation of others in order to get around. I wait outside. So as we near the store, Joe veers off and I head to a small outdoor plaza area.
Just as I go up the ramp to the plaza I make a turn to my right. Doing this I cross right into the path of the man coming behind me that I didn't notice. It startled me when I saw him and realized that I'd cut him off, I said automatically, "Sorry." He, though he'd been cut off, also said, automatically, "Sorry." When he did this I made the remark, more to myself than him, "We're so Canadian."
It's probably a myth that Canadian's are a really polite people, but we are a people that readily apologizes. I once heard two fight attendants joking as they were walking to their gate, "Let's go through Air Canada's gate and bump into people, they'll all apologize to us." And it's true that's what we do. So that was the context under which I made my remark.
But my remark had a different effect.
The man stopped.
He turned and looked at me.
"What did you say?" he said, I could tell he was emotional and I immediately felt badly, what had I said.
"I'm sorry," I said, it's a good go to position.
"No, what did you say? When we almost crashed, what did you say?"
"I said, 'We're so Canadian' we both apologized and that's what Canadians do."
It turned out that he was a recent immigrant to Canada from Syria, he was Muslim, and he had been feeling that he wasn't adapting to the Canadian culture. Our little interaction was the first time he'd been called a Canadian, spontaneously, by another person. "I thought that the only thing that people could see when they looked at me was ..." He never finished, he was overcome.
He stepped towards me to shake my hand, I shook his. I said, "Welcome, eh?"
And we both laughed until we cried.