My North American culture shock: Houston

Earlier this month I spent some time in Houston, Texas and Montreal. The annual Christmas broadcasts for my syndicated radio shows always tape in a destination outside of Manitoba. This year there were two locations instead of one. Both provided interesting experiences for a Canadian prairie boy.

Houston was the most shocking visit. Nothing terribly bad happened. The tourism board flew me out there and I basically got paid to vacation while talking about the trip on the radio. Generally everything is rah-rah the destination but there are downtimes when we get to shoot the breeze.

I was staying at a fancy hotel that was part resort and part country club. While having dinner and drinks with an executive from the property we started to discuss the inevitable: politics and the differences between our countries.

She guessed that at least a quarter of the patrons in the restaurant had a gun on them. I can’t say my jaw dropped but I did have a noticeable reaction. After all, we don’t think like that in Canada. I don’t get dressed to go out and think, “Hmm, which gun goes with this outfit?”

Not that we were in a saloon that could break into a gun battle at any moment but there was something unnerving at the thought of sitting amongst people that were armed – you know, just for the hell of it.

My explanation of the discomfort was, “If I didn’t feel safe dining in a place, I just wouldn’t go there. I wouldn’t take weaponry just in case.”

Born and raised in Texas she didn’t feel the same way but she acknowledged she could understand where I was coming from – and maybe just said that to put me at ease.

From that point on (I had three days left in Houston) no matter where I went or who I passed I quickly played the does-he/she-or-doesn’t-he/she game and looked at every person, wondering if they were carrying a gun.

Otherwise, the visit to Houston was pleasant. You can check out the highlights at houston.jbonair.com.

Next week in this column I will tell you about the ignorance I experienced in Montreal that had me thinking, “This is happening to me in Canada?”

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