A colleague (I don’t have many who think this way) recently bemoaned the fact that his cab driver “I think he was Lebanese or something,” was not happier and in a more positive mood upon receiving a twenty per cent tip. “You’d think the guy could be a little happier about living in this country.”
I held my tongue since we have descended down this rabbit hole before, whether it be injustices of native land claim treaties, building out-of-town compounds for the homeless or the intricacies of increasing minimum wage. I tend to change the subject or give an informed view quoted from a respected publication, although I don’t arm wrestle to the bitter end. I usually just say something like “well that’s just stupid,” and like a benign golden retriever he backs off to find another bone to chew.
I was on a café terrace recently with my dog, catching up with a dear friend. A man in the far corner offered free-of-charge comments towards our corner of the terrace. Regarding my dog he had this to say: “no wonder Disney called the dog Goofy.” I thought about what he said, trying to find some redeeming kindness in it. Naïve, as I am, to some people’s innate crabbiness.
My dear friend and I continued to chat while my dog “Hugo” graciously accepted pats and compliments, lapped some water and rejected a piece of rhubarb square I offered him. He barked intermittently––the kind of bark that says I am here. The kind of bark that is isolated, happens once every few minutes and no one pays much attention to.
The man in the corner––I’ll call him the ‘dog whisperer’––continued to offer his sage unsolicited advice to the terrace: “He’s bored, he just wants to play.” (Thank you, after seven years I think I figured that one out). I hadn’t seen my friend in ages. My well-exercised, love-of-my-life, attention getting, centre-of-my-universe dog, in the shade, with water, and all the comforts of life, could suffer for a few moments.
My dear friend, who happens to board, raise and train guide-dogs, said that the man is always offering free-from-the-corner advice on how to treat their latest charge, with no knowledge of seeing-eye-dog training protocol.
This all got me to wondering about explaining the event to my cab-riding colleague. I might take great pleasure in saying something like “A white man, sitting on the terrace this morning was very crabby and didn’t mind interfering in my conversation to advise me on dog rearing protocol. I’m sure he was at least third generation white Canadian and had no reason whatsoever to be so bitter. I mean this country has been so good to him and his ancestors, and he is white after all. He is living in Canada, the greatest country on the earth. What could he possibly have to be cranky about?”
My cab-riding colleague might then look quizzically at me and wonder what the Sam Heck I am talking about. Well think about this. What if the corner of the terrace man had been Lebanese? Or from India or Pakistan? What if he were Native, or Black? Would he be given the same wide berth for bad behavior? I won’t answer that because I have been thinking about it ever since the incident, and it has been bothering me.
What if my cab-riding colleague’s cab driver had been white? Would he have been subjected to the same scrutiny? The same happiness quotient? Might he just be a white guy having a bad day? And what about Trump? What if he were Black? Would he be given the same carte blanche look-the-other way leniency that he seems to get?
Take any of your recent top headlines and change the skin tone, the background, the colour, like I did as a kid with my big sister’s Vogue cut out dolls. See what you come up with.