How to Spot a Canuck: Kerry Colburn

The frenemy is among us. But how can we identify this well-mannered, self-effacing menace from the great white north?

Living as close as we do to the 49th parallel, it's a given that many Canadians have infiltrated their way across that long and largely unprotected border. Many have green cards, respectable jobs, and have even secretly married their way into our native population. But they're almost impossible to spot! They look like us, act like us, and have learned to conceal their telltale vowels and hockey paraphernalia. They are our invisible Canadian overlords, who answer only to their supreme leader, William Shatner.Or at least that's the premise of two short humor books co-authored by Ballard's Kerry Colburn. First came 2004's So, You Want to be a Canadian?; this month brings The U.S. of Eh?. Colburn also has her own bar guide out from local publisher Sasquatch. Though a native-born U.S. citizen raised in Walla Walla, Colburn knows a thing or two about the maple leaf menace, having accidentally married one of these syrup-blooded invaders, Rob Sorensen, who collaborated on both handbooks with her. (Isn't that just like a Canadian—they like to help.)Back when she and her husband-to-be met in San Francisco, Colburn recalls her friends telling her, "I wish I were dating a Canadian." Unlike your American male dating pool, they're prompt, clean, and well-mannered. They don't talk about (American) football all the time. For these reasons, Colburn says, unsuspecting American women are "just predisposed to like [Canadians]—based on nothing!"As Spy magazine did in the '80s, and This American Life did a decade ago, U.S. of Eh? uncovers evidence of covert Canadian usurpation: "No flashy coups, no showing off. Instead, their work is done through the movies we watch, the jokes that make us laugh, the sports we play, the political analysts we trust." For evidence, the book supplies exhibits like Mike Myers and Lorne Michaels (creator of Saturday Night Live), NBA great Steve Nash, and The Daily Show's Samantha Bee, none of whom openly advertise their otherness.Also? The ubiquitous BlackBerry, tool of the business class, is engineered by a Canadian company. That practically makes Redmond a province!Thankfully, Colburn has some tips on identifying these stealthy yet tidy marauders in our midst. "We're not just looking for the earmuffs and hockey sticks," she says. They're too clever for that. But not clever enough to be rude, like us.Colburn recommends looking for "the incredible courtesy and concern" that are hallmarks of the insidious Canadian. A Canadian turns on his turn signal a full 50 meters before executing the maneuver. "And probably offers a nice wave, too," says Colburn.In stores, she advises we be on the lookout for excessive door holding. Also be on the watch for contrition—or what Colburn calls "premature and unwarranted apologies." While an American overreacts to any perceived slight or insult, the Canadian gets out ahead of the incident preemptively. How many times have we been parking in a tight space when we hear someone politely say, "I'm terribly sorry, but your Hummer appears to be on my foot"?At home, Colburn explains, when a telephone pollster or survey-taker calls during dinner, a Canadian will always answer all questions. Instead of "Beware of Dog," placards reading "No Dangerous Animals on the Premises" are sold at many Canadian home-supply stores.So how can an innocent, unsuspecting American woman know whether her potential date has citizenship or not? Unlike American guys who overstate their height and conceal their bald spots in online profiles, Canadians "probably won't exaggerate their own attributes," Colburn says. But, should he slip up and report those attributes in kilograms and meters, report him immediately to the proper authorities.bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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