Parts of me keep leaking out. Nothing terribly embarrassing, exactly, but leakage nonetheless. One of the things that I have been revealing inadvertently is my California connection. You might think this would show itself as a penchant for surfing or a lack of winter clothing or, oh I don’t know, maybe a fondness for marijuana. But, no. My California-ness shows itself in my use of water.
Californians have almost everything a person could desire except water. They get excited when it rains. The reason for this is that they (or, particularly, the almond farmers) have overused their resources at the same time the planet is warming. It’s a very unfortunate coincidence. What this means is that regular Californians are very cautious in their use of water. If they find some water in a glass or jug that is, for some reason, unused, it does not get poured down the kitchen drain. Oh no. They find a use for it. Often the indoor plants benefit from this small but unexpected excess.
My California connection reveals itself in a similar way. I don’t waste water. Well, not much anyway. I never pour water down the kitchen drain. I don’t leave the tap running when I brush my teeth, and I take very short showers; usually about five minutes. This is something that a part of my brain has decided is the right and moral thing to do despite the fact that I am currently living in Canada which has more fresh water than most of the rest of the world’s nations put together. From a Canadian point of view, I am not being cautious. I am being ridiculous.
Another form of personal leakage is in the occasional unexpected emergence of my Englishness. Often this takes the form of musical hall songs and quaint sayings. Recently, my family was playing a board game and the fifteen-year-old was regretting missed opportunities. He was imagining what he might have done if only certain elements had been different. I said, “If we had some eggs we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some ham.” The family looked at me as if I had momentarily lost my mind.
The saying is something my father used whenever one of the family was bemoaning “if only” in any circumstance. My brothers and sisters would have known exactly what I was talking about. Similarly, if I had said “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” they would have nodded in agreement. Another useful adage under the circumstances might have been, “If ifs and ands were pots and pans, there would be no need for tinkers.” These were just things my siblings and I were all familiar with, understood, and agreed with. In my recent experience with the board game, though, I would have had to explain the relationship between beggars and horses, who tinkers were, and the role that tinkers once played. All of that just seemed much too pedantic for a Saturday evening.
A third form of leakage is when I think it is worth arguing with people who write comments at the end of online newspaper articles. These sometimes force me to become Grandpa Simpson. It is a kind of rage against the machine, but now and then I can’t help myself.
Recently, there was an article in the Edmonton Journal about a church and a boutique that had allowed multiple people into their premises without face masks or social distancing. Since I have obeyed all the instructions about proper social behaviour since March 2020, I was personally offended by this and said so in my comment. Well, you would think I was an uncaring ingrate who didn’t understand what it was like to live in the real world. I was told I had already lived the prime of my life and should not resent other people wanting to live theirs. I was regaled for insisting on people wearing masks when there is “no evidence” that they do any good in preventing the transmission of the virus. It went on.
Of course, my comment did not say what the respondents thought it did, but that did not matter. I had identified my age. It had leaked out, and that is what mattered most. Apparently, revealing that I am seventy-one was enough to set them off. They weren’t unhappy with what I had said; they felt they had a right to dismiss me because of my age.
So, be aware of what you allow to leak out, my friends. Sometimes it makes you ridiculous, sometimes it makes you incomprehensible, and sometimes it makes you a target. I’m not saying you shouldn’t let it all leak. I just want you to be prepared for the bewildered, bemused, or blustery responses of less widely travelled, less experienced, and younger people.