Everyone I’d discussed Calgary with used the phrase ‘cowboy town’ within the first couple of sentences. Perhaps I should have kept this in mind when proceeding through immigration / customs.
“Good afternoon” I’d offered, along with my passport and CBSA forms.
“It’s the middle of the day”, countered the guy at the immigration desk. A long pause for some inscrutable computer work and then “Why are you here?”
“I’m attending a conference in Banff.”
“Algorithmic number theory”
This just gets a glare.
“Mathematics”, I elaborate.
“Bullshit“, he declares, “you mean, bull, shit, right?”
This immediately triggers internal panic over my story being blown and a bizarre fear that they’ll search my bags – which I fortunately get in check with the realisations that I’ve told the truth, my case contains nothing but clothes and Ribena, and it’s mathematics, rather than my entry reason, that he considers to be premium-grade bovine waste.
“It’s not the most practical of subjects, true”, I conceed.
“Math-e-matics? Ser-i-ous-ly?” -these two drawled out, then, for good measure, another “Bull. Shit“.
“Well, if they’ll pay me to come to Canada, then it seems good to me”, I meekly suggest.
At this, finally a hint of a smile from immigration guy, a stamp in my passport (the first!), and I’m in.
Despite the fact my CBSA form had at least 4 details missing.
and that, give or take some airport pasta, was Calgary. I’d originally allocated myself a few hours to explore it before heading over to Banff, but flying in I saw just how vast the place is. With no-one to meet, no destination in mind and a third of my weight in luggage, it seemed that heading downtown would just be an exercise in frustration. Besides, the border experience hadn’t exactly warmed me to the locals. I’d never associated Canada with anti-intellectualism, so whilst I’m prepared to write off the insult to my chosen profession as a Calgarian phenomenon, I was in no mood to stick around and experience more of it. Fortunately the shuttle service to Banff were happy to move my booking forward four hours, and so I fled for the mountains.