Losing my lube in Canada

Canada1

“Everyone here is no nice!”

I had only been to Canada a few times before, once to Victoria, Vancouver Island as a teenager on a brief family vacation, and a few times to British Columbia during my married Mormon years. Yet now I was on my way for an epic (well, epic on my own terms) five day vacation to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a city I had kind of chosen at random a few months before when I wanted to plan a trip to look forward to.

“They are nice!” Tyler said back, and I thought of the dozens of South Park and How I Met Your Mother episodes I had seen making fun of Canadian niceness.

My best friend Tyler and I had arrived at the airport in Salt Lake City in plenty of time, and we’d been surprisingly moved to the “premier” section of the small plane, a watered down version of first class, with drinks delivered in glass containers with ice, a small pillow and blanket, and a bit more leg room. The flight attendants and many people on the plane were clearly Canadian and proud of it, many wearing maple leaves on their clothing or apparel showing off their favorite Canadian sports teams.

We heard plenty of “Oh, sorry!” and “Hey, no worries” in our interactions. When Tyler accidentally spilled some of his complimentary water on himself, the flight attendant, adorable in a black skirt and white top and with her hair in pigtails, handed him napkins. “Here you go, sorry about that, no worries, no worries.” And he and I had laughed.

“Maybe you’ve finally found your people!” Tyler joked.

I have a weird way of pronouncing certain words. I grew up in south-western Missouri, where they have thick hillbilly drawls, and then spent my teenage years in eastern Idaho potato farming country, where the locals talk more like farmers and hicks, with long vowels and lazy consonants. I have a nice strong baritone voice, but I give those long vowels to certain words, and I have a bit of a drawl sometimes, so I tend to say a few words funny, like “soar-y” instead of “sorry” and “to-moar-ow” instead of tomorrow. I’ve been asked many times before if I’m from Canada. The flight attendant had said ‘soar-y’ and ‘no woar-ies’, causing us both to giggle.

“Maybe I have found my people!” I laughed back, just as we heard a woman from somewhere behind us yell “Oh my Goad!”, and we giggled even harder.

We walked off the plane into the Calgary Airport for our layover, and noticed beautiful artwork along the walls, much of it celebrating local wildlife, like geese and moose. We checked out handsome men in flannel and kept bantering back and forth.

I jabbed Tyler with an elbow. “Is it safe for you to enter the country again? Weren’t you on the Canadian Mounties Ten Most Wanted list years ago? If they catch you, I don’t have nearly enough Moose Bucks to bail you out.”

If anyone was annoyed with the giggling American gay male thirty-somethings, we didn’t notice, just excited to be in a new space. We lugged our luggage down the long line toward customs, our declaration forms and passports in hand, and some very polite agents, one a brown-skinned man with a thick beard and a turban, ushered us through quickly and without incident.

Then we made our way back toward the security line to re-enter the airport for our connecting flight. I slipped off my shoes, unpacked my laptop into its own bin, removed my coat, and then hefted my large carry-on bag up onto the conveyor belt. A nice man ushered me through the metal detector, but then something in my bag raised concern on the X-Ray machine.

“Excuse me, sir, is this your bag?” The Canadian TSA agent (although I’m not sure that it is called the TSA in Canada) was a short man in his early 30s with thick glasses and a large bald spot. “Please step this way.”

He led me to the end of the row as people continued passing through security. He informed me he had to look for something in my bag. “Do you have anything sharp, hazardous, or liquid in the bag?”

“Nothing sharp or hazardous. I do have some liquids in my toiletry bag. But I had this bag on my flight from Salt Lake City to Calgary and everything was fine.” I did a mental inventory of the contents of the bag as he unzipped it. Toothpaste, moisturizer, deodorant. And then I remembered I had packed a bottle of lube. The boyfriend and I keep a large 8 fluid ounce bottle of lube, that cost about fifty dollars, next to the bed, but it was more than half empty. I had packed it for… well… personal reasons (come on, my mother reads this blog) thinking that it was empty enough to be safe.

Sure enough, the man with the bald spot opened my toiletry bag and held up the bottle of lube in front of his face. Then he held it up in the air a bit, as if to show his fellow employees. He turned to me, a bit too loudly, and said, “Well, sir, your personal lubricant exceeds the maximum number of allowed milliliters.” My brain seized a bit, having no idea how to compute milliliters.

“I, um, it was fine on the last flight.”

“It’s against federal regulations.”  He continued holding it up in the air, and I felt my cheeks start to turn scarlet. “You have three options. You can be escorted out through security and recheck your bag, because this personal lubricant is not allowed on the flight, then come back through security. You can choose to have me discard this after you surrender it to me. Or I can give you a mailing package and you can mail the lubricant to yourself.”

Flummoxed and stuttering, embarrassed at the idea of mailing a bottle of lube to myself, I instructed him to simply throw it away, and he placed it in a container behin him as I repacked my bag and wanted to get away from there as soon as possible. He just stood there watching. This particular Canadian had no intention of saying Soar-y.

As we walked away, Tyler kept giggling, teasing me, but I was red faced and wanted to be out of there. I pictured the security technicians watching on their cameras at the American tourist with the giant bottle of lube.

Then Tyler tapped me on the shoulder. “You realize that man back there is totally going to take that lube home and–”

“No! No! Enough!” And finally I giggled again, ready for a weekend of new experiences in the land of nice.

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Easter with the athiest

Statuette of Hotei (Buddha)

I divided up the ham fried rice and sweet and sour chicken into three equal portions and served them to my sons on small plates, keeping the larger portion for myself. The restaurant was eerily quiet, just two other people quietly munching their food across the space.

My sons tore into their food with their usual enthusiasm, all cuteness and wonder at the world. My four year old, A, likes to play up being helpless when he wants attention. “Daddy, the bites are too big,” he mutters, though the bite-sized portions are the size of a thumbnail each. My seven year old, J, dramatizes everything. “Oh my gosh, this food is so good!”, though at best it was just barely noteworthy.

And here we were, a gay dad and his two boys have Easter dinner in a nearly empty Chinese place in a back neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. And it was perfect.

We munched quietly for a bit before A pointed over my shoulder. “Dad, who’s that fat guy?”

I was initially horrified, thinking he was talking about an overweight man behind me. I turned around to see a large Buddha statue across the countertop. He sat, his usual mirthful smile carved into place, his eyes closed, legs folded underneath him, his hands comfortably resting. He was surrounded by carved wealth, coins and pearls and gold nuggets.  No wonder he was happy. There were several miniature candy bars stacked around him, as well as loose change, quarters and dimes and pennies.

“That’s Buddha.”

“Who’s Buddha?” A asked, dropping more rice than he was chewing.

“Well, a lot of people believe in Jesus, right? Many other people believe in Buddha.”

J nodded. “We learned about him in school. Americans believe in Jesus and Chinese people believe in Buddha.”

“Well, not quite. Some people in America believe in Buddha, and some believe in Jesus who live in China.”

A furrowed his brow. “Maybe everyone should just believe in Jesus.”

Oh great, a young Republican in the making, I laughed to myself. “Well, buddy, everybody has a right to believe in whoever they like. Jesus, or God, or Buddha, or Allah, or Jehovah. There are lots of different kinds of beliefs.”

“Well, I probably  just believe in Jesus.”

I scratched his head. “That is just fine with me.”

A’s cheeks were full as he continued, eager to share his vast Biblical knowledge.

“Did you know that Jesus had a mom named Mary and a stepdad named Joseph, but his real dad was Heavenly Father. That means he had a human for a mom and a god for a dad. I’m glad that my mom and my dad are both human, dad, cause if you were a God I would never get to see you.”

I have cultivated a special way of laughing around my sons because they don’t like to be laughed at. I clench my stomach tightly, close my mouth and eyes, and laugh through my nose, soft, my stomach usually shaking. My word, these precious kids and their amazing little words.

“Yeah, buddy, I’m very glad to be a human, too.”

A kept yammering, not slowing his eating at all. “Do you believe in Jesus, too, dad?”

“I used to.”

“But now you don’t?”

“Not really.”

“But why?”

I shrugged. “Just cause, buddy.”

“Yeah, but why?”

They were both looking at me now. I’m regularly flummoxed by my sons, never quite knowing how to answer those questions about where babies come from or why some people are homeless. I always want to be direct without being too grown up.

I thought for a moment. The truth is, I no longer use labels. I used to be fiercely and defensively Mormon. Now, I don’t really have an affiliation. I try to be a good person with integrity who is kind to others and responsible for my choices and actions, but I don’t like the labels at this point, and I don’t go to any church. My sons, meanwhile, go to the Unitarian Church now with their mother, and most of their family on either side is Mormon.

“Well, some people are Buddhist, some are Mormon or Methodist. Some are Muslim or Jewish. Everybody is different. I guess I’m atheist.”

“What’s atheist?”

“Well, that means I don’t believe in Jesus or Buddha or Allah or anyone. I just like to be a good person.” There was a moment of silence as we chewed our food. “Today is Easter, right? What is Easter about?”

J smiled. “Family.”

A shot his hand up in the air. “Yeah, and eggs and chocolate and the Easter bunny!”

“Easter is in the spring. We use symbols of spring, like grass and baby chicks and bunnies and eggs, all signs of life and a new season. We celebrate it by dying eggs and hunting baskets, but it is really a Christian holiday, all about new life. Do you know what happened to Jesus on Easter?”

J got a sad look on his face. “He died. I don’t like it when people die.”

“Yes, but then they put his body in a tomb, and three days later, he came alive again.”

A punched his hand in the air. “He’s like an Avenger!”

My stomach shook with laughter again. “Yeah, he kind of is.” And I thought back to the Super Best Friends episodes on South Park, where various god figures band together to fight crime.

J looked across the table. “Dad, pass the fing-fongs.”

I laughed out loud this time and handed him the won-tons. We finished our meal, and on our way out of the restaurant, we stopped to admire the Buddha statue again.

“He sure has a lot of money,” J observed.

“Yeah, buddy, they all do,” I muttered to myself.

As I strapped my kids into the car, A placed a hand on my cheek, turning my face toward him. “I’m glad you aren’t a god, daddy. I like having Easter with you.”