“I can just tell . . .”

I was leaning on the counter at a nearby Canada Post Office, addressing a package to Missouri, when a man strode up to the two cashiers with a letter. He was shocked at how much it cost to send it express to the States. “I don’t understand why it costs 23 dollars just to send an envelope. When you send things from the States it costs next to nothing. I just don’t get it. Why does it cost so much? It’s the same country.” The clerks didn’t know and when he left to get some cash they rolled their eyes at each other. One said, “He should call customer service. Don’t ask me.”

When I approached the desk to weigh the parcel, I asked the cashiers if they thought price-challenging guy was American. I was curious, as an American in Canada myself. The older clerk said, “Yes, I’m sure he was. I can just tell.” “Was it the attitude?” “Yeah, though you can’t say that about all Americans.” The younger postal worker, who turned out to be from North Carolina, agreed. I said, “I’m from Missouri. We’re pretty laid back, too.” I think it’s good to ask why, but not in a “this is how we do it in the States” way. And why did the guy seem offended that Canada was a different country with different postal prices? Did he think Canada Post had no right to set its own prices?

I saw the postal customer as I walked home. I wish I had worked up the nerve to ask him where he was from and how long he’d been in Canada. I imagine he could have told me a lot about his impression of Toronto and if he was going to pay the 23 Canadian dollars after all.

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