The rest of Canada holds the stereotype of Toronto that everyone from there thinks the city is the centre of the universe.
And that stereotype is held for good reason, because it’s absolutely true.
I never thought I had a particularly interesting background, as everyone I knew basically had the same one: Ukrainian with a rural upbringing.
Everyone I know had milked a cow or ridden a pig or been attacked by chickens at some point. But my stock rose considerably when I moved to Toronto; suddenly, I was interesting and exotic.
I can’t count the amount of times I mentioned I was from Saskatchewan, and got the breathless response: “Really?” Usually followed by: “Is it like Corner Gas?”
(Answer: more or less).
But the best part in that change of attitude was hearing their misconceptions about what exactly it’s like on the Prairies. They don’t know anything and it is fascinating.
I spent three summers working at the Foam Lake Visitor Centre. It looks like a log cabin and has indoor plumbing. My friend told me that she imagined it to be, and I quote, “A lemonade stand in the middle of a field.”
I had to tell her that we do have modern buildings and roads and indoor plumbing. Which reminds me of another conversation I had with an acquaintance:
Me (joking): “Oh, we don’t have running water in Saskatchewan.”
Her (in disbelief): “Really?”
They believe anything I say. It’s sort of like being a god.
My stories always get way more of a reaction when the listener has no frame of reference. For example, I’ve told the story of how I repeatedly got attacked by a rooster before my parents were forced to assassinate it many times, but only the Torontonians really appreciate it.
And there are things that I take for granted people know, and then realize that city people don’t.
My friend and I were trying to find an event she was covering for school. We got off the streetcar and knew we had to go east, but we weren’t sure which direction that was.
So I mentioned offhandedly that I would figure it out from the position of the sun. My friend’s response was to look at me incredulously and ask, “Are you a pioneer?”
It didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t a universal thing.
I’ve also been asked, “How did you get around without the subway?” (“We have these things called cars…”), “Have you tipped a cow?” (“No, no, no, stop asking me that”), and “What did you possibly do for fun?”
They give me weird looks when I tell them we pretty much just rode goats and touched electric fences.
Of course, there are some things I missed out on growing up on a farm.
But my Toronto friends will likely never know the rush that comes from riding around in the back of a truck and burning flax stubble with a blowtorch.
And I think that alone makes it worth it.