Laughter has no accent.
After the final match of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Tennis Club’s mixed doubles tournament last Saturday, I rode my bike downtown to have a double-scoop ice cream cone from the Stagecoach. Maple Walnut this time. Still less than five Canadian dollars, with the local discount.
This has been my personal tradition after each tennis tournament for about twenty years.
A great way to unwind, to let the tension drain away and just watch the world walk by on the sidewalks of our wonderful little Canadian town. It was crowded and our wide main street was busy with cars and motorcycles. Some very loud and macho, enjoying a day’s ride around Niagara. Or a quick trip to the liquor store.
Once again, the flowers are planted and I defy anyone to find a more beautiful setting. I found half of a bench to myself amidst the foliage and watched and wondered.
Where was everyone from? How did they find their ways to NOTL? For a day trip or as part of vacation? So many accents, so many clothing styles, so many happy faces. Parents loving their parents and their children, some people keeping to themselves, others smiling hello.
They walk, saunter, stroll, amble and trek. What no one does is stride or hurry. Our Queen Street seems to encourage people to slow down and smell the flowers. Just wondering, if Queen E kicks the bucket, do we have to change its name to King Street? What’s the inevitable protocol?
It was a hot afternoon, so before I finished licking the first scoop, I had to continuously use a paper napkin to keep the fingers on my cone holding hand clean. The challenges we have here in Canada, eh? Why not buy a cup of ice cream, you ask? Are you kidding? What kind of a person goes downtown for an ice cream cup? Bizarre.
Young children in strollers, thinking their thoughts. When I smiled at them or waved at them with a funny face, sometimes they responded. Kids haven’t learned any bias, and are open to anyone saying hello. No stereotypes about age, clothing style or skin. Just someone to smile at while slobbering and drooling (them, not me).
They haven’t learned to read all the negative signs on the store windows and doors. “No this, no that, no outside food or drink. No dogs, no mask — no entry.”
They aren’t too concerned about the dozen or so rules and regulations posted at Simcoe and Queen’s Royal Park. But really, is anyone?
And finally, after a two year hiatus, I rambled over to another Pride parade in Toronto. A short drive to Burlington, the GO train, four stops on the Yonge North subway and into the exuberant pandemonium of our new world. Colourfully coloured clothing, sometimes very little of it on the parade walkers and handmade signs that each year bring a tear to my eye. During the ongoing global deadly pandemic, very few masks and no physical distancing.
The respect and love saying, “We are all on this planet together. Let’s get along and let loose.”
My favourite signs in the parade this year were “Labels are for canned soups,” and “A queer Ukraine is a free Ukraine,” and “Love is too beautiful to hide in the closet.”
Now I will ramble to a closing suggestion. This weekend, make it a point to smile more, even at strangers. If they smile back, maybe have a welcoming conversation. When people travel, most of them just love to chat with a local. Whether it be on a street or in a park, in a restaurant or in a pub.
Most travellers like to ask a local for a suggestion or a direction.
Show some love and friendship. It will usually be returned.
Make NOTL famous as a town that sincerely welcomes visitors.