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Oh, Canada

Walkin'

From the icy climes of the oil pipeline protest camp of Standing Rock, North Dakota, this week’s column finds us in sunny and hot Playacar, Mexico, or as I refer to it, the land of the endless buffet.
An alert reader may ask, how can you, as an environmental activist, travel so far for pleasure? Aren’t you worried about the ozone? The polar bears? Florida? Life as we know it?
In English my answer is, yes, but I’m not going to crawl in a hole while everyone else has a blast. We need a worldwide concerted effort to combat this problem of man-made climate change, but more than half of the people don’t even believe there is a problem. These would be the same people who believed that cigarettes are not terrible for your health, but they’re not around anymore because they’re dead.
In Spanish, I’d just say, no se.
Our trip was to begin on Jan. 3, but thanks to the heavy-handed business model of American Airlines it started a day later as our flight was cancelled for being one passenger shy of maximum profit. Have a complaint? Simply call the toll free number and marque dos for English.
American Airlines, by the way, is the same outfit I flew to go to a wedding in Philadelphia a few years back. On the leg from Chicago to Cedar Rapids, the plane sat at the O’Hare terminal for nearly an hour jam-packed with travelers when a uniformed employee of the airline came aboard and joined in a conference with the pilot, co-pilot and steward.
The conversation went on for quite a while but at last it broke up, the pilot went back in the cockpit and made the following announcement: “Folks, it’s been determined that we’re 200 pounds overweight and we need one passenger weighing at least that much to get off. Any volunteers?” I looked around and realized that everyone else on the flight must be on his or her way to audition for the role of Tyrion Lannister or an Ewok extra. All eyes turned toward me but just as I thought I’d be shamed off the flight, the pilot came back on the intercom. “Ha, ha folks, we just did a recalculation and we think we’ll be alright after all. So fasten your seat belts, put up your trays, turn off personal computing devices and prepare for take off.”
Luckily, for this trip I’d purchased traveler’s insurance so I demanded and got a full refund. Then I booked basically the same trip using Delta Airlines and everything went smoothly.
But this column wasn’t to be about crappy airline service; it was supposed to be about how much more fun Mexico is if you speak a little Español.
I know this because I speak a little (and understand much less) from my days as a non-traditional (old) student at the University of Iowa. But you don’t have to be a college educated sophisticate like me to get along with the locals.
All you have to do is learn a couple of short phrases and you’re good to go.
The first is “hola, como esta” which means, I think, “hello, how’s it going.” Just say it and then shake your head politely to any response you get. Eventually, you’ll wind up with a beer, trust me.
The other phrase used to be “Estados Unidos,” which used to be the politically correct way of answering the question, where are you from? You see the Mexicans don’t like to hear you say you are Americans because they have this crazy notion that they are also American, albeit Central American. No, they much prefer to hear you’re from the states united as it were.
But nowadays, with our TV personality-turned-president Donald Trump boasting about building walls and having Mexicans pay for it, the last place in the world you want to say you are from is the United States. Yes, it’s finally happened, we’ve managed to piss off even the Mexicans.
The good news is that instead of remembering two words you can get by with one: Canadå.