LYNDEN, Washington -- From guitar licks to speed polka, Weird Al Yankovic gives high-energy concert performances. His music gets fans of all ages on their feet, cheering, clapping, stomping. He’s used to plenty of noise from crowds.
Yet Yankovic’s face registered surprise at the overwhelming response to one of his spoof songs at the Northwest Washington Fair when he performed there. He began:
Don’t want to be a Canadian idiot!
Don’t want to be some beer swilling hockey nut!
And do I look like some frost-bitten hosehead?
I never learned my alphabet from A to Zed.
The crowd simply roared.
Yankovic’s song was “Canadian idiot,” a parody patterned after Green Day’s “American Idiot.” It ends up being a subtly pro-Canadian number or at least anti-anti-Canadian (“Sure they got their national health care / cheaper meds, low crime rates and clean air / Then again well they got Celine Dion”), but
that’s not why the audience was cheering.
Nothing accelerates Whatcom County residents from zero to rant faster than a single mention of our neighbors to the North. As I discovered several times while researching this article.
“Canadians,” I was told, “are cheap”; “don’t tip”; “can’t drive”; “don’t know how to park”; “are rude”; and “should get a freaking clue,” to clean it up a bit.
When locals here criticize Canadians, they mean mostly residents of the lower mainland of British Columbia, who pour over the border and pick the local stores and shopping malls clean like locusts.
Thanksgiving night, several relatives decided to beat the Black Friday rush by going to Target early, since certain big box retailers had made such a show of being open for business. The parking lot was a sea of Canadian license plates.
Shoppers faced hours-long lines.
Canadians had made a special trip to another country specifically for the deals and so waited it out. Many Americans cursed them under their breath and went home empty handed.
And don’t get me started on Black Friday.
Last year, Bellingham made international headlines because of a Facebook page suggesting Americans Only hours for the local Costco. Canadians duly professed outrage and a pro-Canadians-at-Costco page was created. At press time, the anti-Canadian shoppers page had been “liked” 4,810 times to the pro-Canadian page’s 62 anemic attaboys.
With such ferocious retail devotion, driven by Canada’s significantly higher prices and a Loonie about on par with the Dollar, you would think local businesses would side with these new customers. Yet the shrewd businessman’s take on the Canadian invasion is more circumspect.
Retailers recognize the inflow of Canadian cash has boosted profits and helped to buoy Whatcom County through some hard economic times. At the same time, they recognize Canadian demand has created scarcities and disputes over such staples as milk, of all things — in a border county awash in dairy farms.
Canadian demand for milk often outstrips the daily refrigeration capacity of supermarkets, making for very angry Americans. A police officer speculates that if locals were to expropriate a gallon or two of milk out of the carts of Canadians before they got through checkout, he doesn’t see how that would be a problem.
Au contraire, as our bi-lingual neighbors would say. We’ll look at that problem in greater depth next week.