“They suck!” The shout was aimed at me. I was at my favourite local ‘newsy’ location, the depanneur, (or corner store for Ontarians).
I’d been catching up on issues with the area’s know-everything’s. You know the type. Three retired guys who always appear in possession of just a little more information about the neighbours than agrees with your comfort zone. I’ve asked whether they roam the roads late at night and peer through un-shaded windows and not been completely brought onside by their semi-mumbling replies. That and the body language. I read somewhere while doing show-prep, that when someone quickly looks down and to the left while answering a question, it means the person is not being completely truthful. These guys look down and to the left when you’re just starting the question.
Anyway, I looked around for the voice behind ‘’they suck.” A man in his 50’s was pointing at my sweater. Now, I usually forget what I’ve put on in the morning to top off the mandatory bottom part of my daily uniform, one of many pairs of jeans. As you get older you acquire several pairs of your favourite type of pants, with different waist sizes. Don’t even ask.
My sweater? I had to look down. There was the Habs logo. “Hey buddy, you’re in Quebec, in a store full of guys you don’t know and all of us are Habs fans. Really?”
What saved him from the direct attention of the depanneur crew was a) the Habs do suck right now, and b) he didn’t commit the cardinal sin of admitting to being a Bruins fan.
We eventually laughed it off and he was on his way.
Our conversation though changed. We began to talk about how people are territorial, how we are tribal. Me, the Anglo speaking with a group of Francophones who over time have become my friends. They admitted that it took time to warm up to me (not unusual, some would argue by default) because, well, I’m Anglo and compounding the sin, arrived from Ontario.
We talked about political correctness, about how we’re all expected to immediately drop all tribal expectations in a diverse society and how Quebec is the Canadian example of official pushback through its French language primacy legislation and determination to retain Quebec/Francophone culture.
I’m running out of space here and I don’t intend to deliver a thesis. However, there’s a fundamental aspect to human nature which makes us all, at least initially, tribal. Try this. Are you an NDP supporter? Ready to vote Conservative? Nothing tribal there, eh?
That I’ve been accepted into my depanneur group is proof inclusion into the existing tribe is quite doable. In fact, mes Quebecois amis are quite sorry I’m about to pack up and head back to trillium territory.
That semi-joking “they suck” shout in a corner store got an honest conversation started about something significant.
Written by: Roy Green