Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'll take ‘Huge Blunders' for $200, Alex

I saw this article/podcast in the Globe and Mail this morning and it really got me thinking about a few incidents in my life where describing myself as a Newfoundander did not exactly put me at an advantage. I often wondered about how the situation would have played out had I kept my place of origin out of the picture. The best example I can think of is a decorating show my husband and I appeared on. That story will have to wait for another day, because it is one that requires booze to tell. Lots of it.

The writer of the globe story, Trevor Janes, appeared on Jeopardy awhile back. He has lived and worked in Ottawa for the past 20 years but is originally from the Rock. However, while filling out the contestant information sheet for the show he wrote down that he was from Ottawa. He explains: "Besides being a mild-mannered software developer, I'm also a giant, gushing Jeopardy! fanboy, and I knew that Alex Trebek had once lived in Ottawa. Hoping to share a brief connection with a famous person I admired, I wrote Ottawa as my place of origin. I figured that back in Newfoundland, my parents and relatives wouldn't mind, and nobody else who was watching would even know. We taped the show and I began the two-month wait for the broadcast."

Not surprisingly, months later as people from home watched the show, expecting to see the home boy represent, some were surprised and perhaps hurt to learn he did not say he was from the Rock. Mr. Janes takes great pains in his story to apologize for that error in judgement, and I have to admire him for that. It is an interesting read, and some of the reader comments are quite telling. They range from the usual "Just another Dumb Newf" rants from some knuckle dragging dingbats, to the reassuring "Don't sweat it" comments. I thought about weighing in and then decided to do that here instead.

I wonder, has being from Newfoundland ever held you back in anyway? Affected people's perceptions of you?


Ron Gallant said...

Its always nice to see a fellow Newfoundlander on TV. It always makes me a little proud. The reality of this story is, we need to chill a little. People always seem to be able to find fault in anything anyone does. Sad.

Glen Dennis said...

I'm just waiting for the day you post while drinking... always loved the decorating with lobster pots story... nevery did see the episode... only have the stories to keep me going.

nadinebc said...

Oh Glen, that won't happen any times soon. I need quite a bit of booze...

Steve said...

While I've personally felt the change in someone's perception of me when they discover I'm from Newfoundland, I've never held back because of it. I've always been proud to declare my roots.

Signed: Anonymous ;)

Table Mountains said...

maybe someone can screech trevor in when he comes [s]home[/s]back for a visit.

BayGirl said...

I agree Steve. I have experienced that from time to time myself and the reactions have varied. I have actually had the misfortune to encounter a few people who were quite bluntly rude about it. I can tell you one thing, though...I certainly learned to neutralize my accent fast to simplify my life and prevent those preconceived notions of idiocy that some people evidently carry. I never hid where I was from, and am also quite proud of it...but I have become very adept at blending in in public and at work until I know people well. It's not that I mind my accent - in fact I embrace it and speak it freely among friends (and when I'm on the Rock or even on the phone with fellow Newfoundlanders it comes out full force, of course) - it's just that I would rather someone get to know me first and then form an opinion rather than hear me talk as I would at home and assume certain things about me.

Todd G said...

Great post.

I left St. John's the summer before my senior year of high school and moved to Alberta with my mother. Huge culture shock. My old school has a total population of 800 students and my new institution held a graduating class of 500. Total population: 2,700 students. I was a little foreign capling in the expansive Atlantic Ocean.

However, my biggest shock was when I finally started to meet people there toward the end of my senior year. I played provincial rugby for Newfoundland and used my tenacity to score a starting role for my school team.

After one practice, I asked one of the guys if he ever wanted to hang out and play some pool. His response? "I don't hang out with Newfies." I won't lie. I broke down in tears when I was alone.

You might remember my post about the n-bomb in http://liamgosset.blogspot.com/2006/03/salt-of-earth.html
and my pride as a Newfoundlander.

Nothing holds me back from telling people where I am from. And that origin is a very distinct, very rugged island in the middle of the rough and frigid Atlantic Ocean. I like to think my blog title says it all: Just a Boy From Newfoundland.

Long may your big jib draw.

nadinebc said...

Todd, when my husband and I were looking for work in Toronto we had a few interesting encounters. Once as we waited in the foyer for an interview we overheard HR in the hall: "Two Newfie programmers? No way! Do they have computers on the Rock?"

Todd G said...

Oh my. Get ready for a long one.

I must share this special moment. I once dated a woman in university who was Trinidadian. I flew across the world to meet her entire family during our first Christmas together. On my own. No backup. Only the hardy can do that.

I arrived after a 35 hour milk-run from Calgary-to-Salt Lake City-to-Atlanta-to-Trinidad and Tobago. I was exhausted. Her parents welcomed me with a plate of food and a stiff glass of Trini rum. Christmas music played in the background.

I sat there, eating a banana leaf filled with rice, drinking a sweet amber rum, when I finally focused on the music.

My girlfriend had a roommate. Who was from Grand Falls. Her father, naturally, played Newfoundland music. So, my girlfriend brought home a Christmas compilation of his music for her father. It took him seconds to fall in love with the sound.

It is pure bliss to sit and eat exotic food and drink fabulous rum, at a small table in a hot and gorgeous West Indies Archipelago. But that bliss is enhanced when you are a boy from Newfoundland listening to the comforts of home.

Our reach is far and wide Nadine. Far and wide. Everyone and I mean everyone: knows about our island. Why? We are humble. How many times do you get excited when you hear about Newfoundland on the national news? Or see the word Newfoundland in print? Or marvel at the pride in your voice when someone asks where you are from?

Computers huh? Interesting. Considering we sent the first wireless message across the Atlantic.

Long may your big jib draw.

nadinebc said...

That is really sweet! BTW, I am originally from Grandfalls.

You can't get any more proud than I am of being a Newfoundlander. I think that is why I am so bothered by other people's slights and bias.

Steve said...

Todd, I just reread your salt of the earth post. I linked to it in a blog posting of my own soon afterward. In my post I give you credit for finally converting me away from easily accepting the term "newfie" in everyday (or anyday) conversation. I also stole your joke!

The pride factor when you hear about Newfoundland or read about it somewhere outside our shores is a good point. Just this week I watched Benjamin Button and noticed a mention of Newfoundland in there. I stopped the PVR and replayed it for my wife. Just because we were mentioned!

Todd G said...

Steve, my one faithful reader.