There’s a lot to be said for being polite. Society rolls along more smoothly when people smile, wait their turn, hold doors, offer assistance, and just generally mind their p’s and q’s.
Canadians are famously polite.
We certainly have our share of detractors from this stereotype, but I have to say, I’ve heard enough of my fellow Canucks apologize to someone who has bumped into them and seen enough of them go otherwise out of their way to be what some might term excessively polite, to know that there is at least a modicum of truth to this old chestnut.
This commitment to politeness has never been more evident to me than this weekend.
A couple of friends and I decided to make our escape from the blistering heat that has descended on the city like firey locusts as of late, and head to the beach. And, in the spirit of “trying new things” we decided to set up camp on the side of the fence labelled “Clothing Optional” at Hanlan’s Point.
While we didn’t take full advantage of this option, -there are just some bits I don’t want to risk getting sunburned, you know?- I can tell you it is WAY easier to change into/out of swimwear in public when you know no one’s going to call the authorities if you accidentally drop your towel.
So, after taking a moment to adjust to the sight of non-airbrushed men and women happily, comfortably strolling around, swimming, or, my personal favourite, playing bocce, naked as jaybirds, we slathered on some sunscreen, splashed around a bit and settled in for an afternoon of lazing about in the sand.
No sooner had we made ourselves comfortable, than a shadow fell across our blanket and we found ourselves up close and personal with a decidedly naked gentleman holding a volleyball.
Why does nudity always seem more pronounced(and hilarious) with an accessory? Naked with socks? Funny. Naked with a bucket hat? Laugh riot. Naked with a backpack? Stop. I’m crying.
Ever the polite Canadians, we strenuously avoided eye-contact with each other and anything below our new acquaintance’s chin, while shaking hands and making introductions.
He explained that he was visiting from Russia and trying to get a volleyball game going. We thanked him for thinking of us, but told him we would be unable to play as we were fully committed to alternating between floating around in the water and lying around in the sand. I suggested he try asking some people further down the beach who were actually already playing with a volleyball.
Except he didn’t leave.
Instead, he crouched down in front of us, and started quizzing us about places he should visit while in the city, carefully recording our answers in a little notebook.
Gradually our answers became shorter and our tones more clipped as he failed to read any of our social cues and move on. One of my friends fully went back to reading her book, while I wracked my brain to find the politest way to get him to take off.
Eventually, I think I just said something like, “Well, good luck!” and engrossed myself in the contents of my purse.
We all breathed a sigh of relief when he finally moved on to similarly quiz another nearby group of sunbathers, and I had to laugh as I watched them go through the same struggle with wanting to be polite, but wanting a little more distance between themselves and this nude volleyball-toting stranger.
I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he wasn’t intentionally going around trying to make people uncomfortable, and I do understand that not everyone has the ability to read what I would consider common social cues, especially in a culture where many of us would rather suffer through extreme awkwardness than say an impolite word to a stranger.
But looking back, what I don’t understand?
Where on earth did that notepad and pen come from?