Things Americans Don’t Know

(Originally published on my old LiveJournal.)

It’s pretty cool, symbolically speaking, that the 1947 Roswell Crash, the seminal event in UFO mythology, happened on America’s birthday, the 4th of July. (OK, there’s actually disagreement about exactly when the crash happened, but that’s kind of to be expected since really it didn’t happen at all.) But what if them little green butt-probers crashed their saucer a few days earlier… and a little farther north?

Canadians are generally indistinguishable from Americans. The only way of telling the two apart is to make this observation to a Canadian.
—Richard Staines

I guess it’s the whole invasion of the body snatchers syndrome. They look like us, but they’re not us…They’re a little off in some way that you can’t understand and you can’t pin it down. That makes it all the more unsettling… and disturbing. … If William Shatner is Canadian, I might as well be Canadian.
—an American, in the Who’s Canadian? episode of NPR’s This American Life (which I highly recommend to any Canadians who aren’t hip to it)

July 1st, 1947. High in the Canadian Rockies, an eerie light streaks across the sky and crashes into the crystal blue waters of Kootenay Lake, just outside the sleepy town of Boswell, British Columbia. A few days later, an army press release insists: it was un ballon de temps, nothing more. But why is the eccentric undertaker who witnessed the Boswell Crash now building a glass palace entirely out of embalming fluid bottles? (That part is for real – check it out.) And why does everyone who visits the crash site come back somehow… different?

But not that different. The alien replicants are quiet, placid, emotionless, with a pale gray pallor to their skin. In other words, they fit into Canadian society perfectly. Prime Minister Mackenzie King ignores the warnings of his dog and his dead mother and meets with a delegation of “citizens” from Boswell. He emerges changed. The pod people spread across the land.

Naturally, nobody outside Canada even notices.

When whistleblower Igor Gouzenko escapes to tell the unbelievable truth—The Great White North is Grey!—it gets one column inch on page 28 of the Buffalo News. (And bumped from the TV news by a fire in Tonawanda.)

Thus the infiltration of the United States begins. Mysterious “brain drainers” slip across the border and disappear in the American melting pot. It’s easy; they’re so unremarkable! A little dull, maybe, and lousy tippers, and the occasional vowel dipthong (tip: it’s not “aboot”, it’s “ab-[schwa]-oot”) might give one away. But usually they can get by claiming to be from Minnesota. Many rise to positions of influence or fame. And even though they look just like Americans, their alien eh-dar (rhymes with gaydar) lets them instantly recognize fellow members of the hive mind.

And so America is changing as the alien tendrils spread. Vinegar cruets have appeared in diners across the U.S.; nobody can remember putting them there. Callers on talk radio shows now ramble on and on about their mint gardens and butter tart recipes instead of ranting about liberals like they used to. And all the drivers at intersections with 4-way stops are stuck, waiting for every one else to go. Will America wake up to this silent invasion? Could the amputation of Florida stop the cancer’s implacable spread? Keep watching the skis!!!

*I already referenced “Dead or Canadian,” the category on the old MTV game show Remote Control. “Things Americans Don’t Know” was kind of Canada’s snarky answer, a (ridiculously easy) category on the MuchMusic game show Test Pattern.

I leave the evident differences between Remote Control‘s host Kari Wuhrer and Test Pattern‘s host (the late) Dan Gallagher as an object lesson in the differences between American and Canadian TV. Which reminds me:

They give awards for Canadian television?!? Oh, Rob, don’t you know that just encourages them?
—my buddy Joe


  1. No fair making me laugh out loud at work. They’ll think I’m having fun.

    This is my favorite so far. I spent a year in Canada, and I came back perfectly normal. Now you’ll excuse me as I go to have some breakfast: a Molson XXX and some Timbits.

  2. Good one Rob, but how do we know this one isn’t true already?

    And what would the players do (assuming this was a game)?

  3. “Keep watching the skis” is either a very clever line or one of the most hilarious typos in the history of text.

    What I want to know is, how would this change Tim Horton’s? Would Krispy Kremes be assimilated?

  4. Having an excuse to battle and expose Canadians for the frauds they are wouldn’t be motivation enough for a campaign? 🙂

  5. I wish I could either take credit for “keep watching the skis” or attribute it to the vagaries of chance. In fact, like all too many of my best lines, it is from The Simpsons.

    The first Krispy Kremes have just opened in Ontario. It remains to be seen who will emerge victorious from the donut war.

  6. I picture a series of three zones, much like the Three Linguistic Zones of North America: the Northern zone with Dunkin Donuts, the Central zone with Tim Horton’s (I know, it doesn’t make sense geographically, but that Buffalo-Chicago-Minneapolis linguistic arc pretty much perfectly emulates the Canadian accent as well) and the Southern zone with KK. And yes, way too much spare time this morning.

  7. Ah. The Simpsons. Well, if you’re gonna borrow lines, take ’em from the best.

    Krispy Kremes in Ontario? That’s just wrong. KK should be confined to America and let Tim Horton’s rule the roost in Canada. Bloody American donut imperialists….

    Hmm. Donut imperialists. I sense a goofy Unknown Armies or Urban Arcana campaign idea….

  8. WARNING: Blue skying here. It may not make sense.

    The Know-Nothing Party of yesteryear has morphed into the Do-Nothing Party of today, a sect of Zen Imperialist-Isolationists who plan to utilize the awesome power of American Inertia like a slingshot to power their campaign: a global hegemony of pop culture and doublethink that will make all of the world American and, thereby, rationally isolationist.

    Their sign is the donut, grand symbol of American sedentary thoughtcrime and a nifty pun as well. Do-Nothing, Do-nutting. When referred to by their enemies with a Brit Bent, they tend to be called the Do-Nutters.

  9. I was thinking of something like the Avatar of Corpulence, spreading the fat through the criminally-sweet and addictive Krispy Kremes….

  10. I like it too. Any Know-Nothing references are cool by me. These guys could also be called the Do-Naughts.

  11. Ah ha! Foolish Americans! Each time you talk about or consume the sugared deep fried dough, HE comes piping out of the darkness ever closer. D’hou Nut! D’hou Nut! D’hou Nut! Your name beckons like the cream filling in a Miskatonic Crème doughnut!

    The scariest thought is that for the better part of three years, Rob and I could talk about nothing other than doughnuts (reference DRNA). And then we got girlfriends …

    Excellent posting, MacD. Keep that Canadian propaganda coming!


  12. The scariest thought is that for the better part of three years, Rob and I could talk about nothing other than doughnuts

    It’s true. Those stories are probably worth telling sometime. But notice that it wasn’t me that brought up the donuts here…

  13. You know, if you’d log in to LJ as before posting a comment, you would get my replies emailed to you. And other people could follow the link back to the RSS feed of your weblog.

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