I love the way almost all salespeople in Canada interact with customers. At times I wonder if there is a secret competition with fabulous prizes for the person who performs the most amazing feat of helpfulness (hey – the spell checker reckons that’s really a word!)
I have already mentioned the food places, and in particular a certain coffee chain. It seems to be no problem to order the Special Combo of the day and then mix it around or “swap out” bits. “Can I change the coffee to French Vanilla?” “No problem.” “And swap the donut for a biscuit?” “Sure.” “But – that’s not a biscuit. That’s a scone.” “Oh, you mean a Cookie.” By this time, the order looks nothing like the advertised special, but the sales lady is still smiling and, after taxes are added, I never really understand whether I paid the original price anyway.
This strange focus on the customer isn’t just restricted to fast food places. As predicted, I have started the first of a list of projects that I suspect has been created specifically to keep me occupied while the mother-daughter stuff rolls along. Shelves! What father can resist the opportunity to build some shelves, especially when they use the sneaky ego assault “it looks a bit tricky, so we’ll understand if you don’t want to do it …” Right, so where do I get shelves in Surrey? Of course – Walmart! Nanette and I grab the GPS and head to our new most favouritist (all right, that’s definitely not a word) store in the world. I know how to get to Walmart – the GPS is to make sure we don’t get lost in this huge store.
We eventually locate a display of shelves that exactly meet our needs. There’s some confusion about the price so we grab the nearby sales lady, who I will call Millie. Millie looks at the conflicting price signs and comments “ah, they’ve done it again! I’m sorry, but the higher price is the right one. Would you like me to drop 10% off everything eh?” Sure. The girls have really big plans to keep me occupied, so we tell Millie we want all five of the shelf sets she has in stock. No problem. I gasp as tiny little Millie, who looks about 45 kilos/years grabs some of the heavy boxes and loads them onto her stock cart. She then proceeds to roll them to the checkout, haggles with the operator and a supervisor about the discount, and then takes them to the car park before smiling and returning to her post.
Now, let’s talk about border crossings. Fuel is way too cheap in the US so Kirsty, like many Canadians, does a regular run across the border to refill. Nanette and I decide to join her on one of these late night flits. We have the brilliant idea that this will save us time when we cross the border again next weekend, as we will have already done the paperwork. It’s about 10:30pm when we arrive at the main border crossing and find that most of Vancouver has had the same idea. It takes over half an hour to finally reach the guard gate. “What’s the purpose of your visit to the United States?” “Ah, I’m just getting some gas and my parents want to get their visas.” Frown. “You don’t come to the border just to get visas.” Leans into radio-mike on shoulder. “Red mini-van.” Frowns again. “Park over there and go inside.”
We’re relieved that the line “inside” isn’t too long. The officer looks at our passports. Nanette is OK. Kirsty’s previous ninety-day approval expires next Saturday and, what a surprise, the approval I got back in April expires on Friday. “Can’t we just get new ones please Officer Sir?” Hands us the form. “Read this section.” Ok, clause 102, subclause 37 part B – oh. “Like it says – no extensions.” “But I can just get another ninety days the day after this one expires?” “Yep – that’s not an extension. See you on Saturday.” I understand that these guys do a tough job and are probably overworked. Maybe I should write to Mr Obama and suggest that, if he needs more people, I know a lady called Millie.