Dinner call

What kind of alien technology do telemarketers have? They seem to be able to detect the moment that you sit down to dinner – and then the phone rings. Grrr.

I guess telemarketers have a tough time. Caller display means that people can ignore calls from 800 numbers, for example. And the new do not call list that comes into play at the end of September means that they will need to subscribe to the national DNCL list – this could cost as much as $11,280 a year. Consumers can find out more about this list on DNCL web site.

One thing we can expect is a lot less calls during dinner. But the marketing department will find another way to get to us.

Driving tips

Kits traffic circle
Kits traffic circle
Getting your driving license in BC is a major worry for some people so I thought I would go over a few tips on driving that might help.

We drive on the right hand side of the road. You will find it fairly easy to remember. Your steering wheel is on the left side of the car, which is a good clue. Another clue is the oncoming traffic when you are on the wrong side of the road.

For drivers used to driving on the left hand side of the road, you can still drive in the left lane on the highway, even if you are actually going slower than the traffic in the right lane. I think a lot of Canadians secretly want to drive on the left – why else would so many of them hog the left lane, oblivious to the traffic passing them on the right. Being Canadians no one honks or flashes their lights, so you can enjoy driving on the left for as long as you like.

Canadians are generally pretty law abiding. But as a way of giving us an experience of breaking the rules we are allowed to turn right on a red light. This is a thrill.

Of course the thrill can also be risky. Firstly because of the risk of hitting or being hit by someone coming from the other direction (where they have a green, amber or even red light). Secondly because of the pedestrians who are likely to be claiming their absolute right to cross in front of you. And finally the reason the driving examiners are so hot on shoulder checks – there could be a cyclist on your right.

Canadians are a literate nation and enjoy reading. Our traffic signs give us the chance to read while we are driving. These are usually signs with a symbol and then a list of conditions. This can make understanding them difficult and might also explain why some people drive so slowly – they are reading the signs, perhaps mentally translating them into their own language.

An example of this is the no left turn sign that applies only at certain times of the day. There are a lot of these in Vancouver. I recommend that you time your journey so as to hit the left turn just as it becomes permitted. This will annoy the cars behind you but gives you an immense sense of satisfaction. Almost like breaking the rules.

Finally roundabouts. These are a thrill because there are so few of them and most Canadian drivers are completed foxed by them. If you come across a roundabout or traffic circle (a small roundabout) then be prepared for anything. Other drivers may stop half way round and wave you on, or they may not stop at the roundabout at all.

I hope these tips prove useful in preparing for your own driving experience here in BC.

Four way stops

Four way stop sign
Four way stop sign

The four way stop is new to a lot of people – especially from the UK. I am used to them now but I know that many people I meet are confused by them. After a few scary experiences where a british driver has misunderstood how these four way stops work, I now always make sure they know before we set out in their car.

A four way stop is a junction with four stop signs. Each side of the junction takes their go in turn, based on the order each vehicle reaches the stop sign. The trick to using them is to note who is at the other three stop signs when you reach you the front of the line for your side of the junction. The people already there go first, one by one, and then it is your turn. It is a pretty fair system and works quite well.

Occasionally you have problems when people go out of turn, or when they wave you on when it is not your turn. The rolling stop can cause some confusion here too. Make sure you come to a complete stop and then people will know that you’ve arrived and you get to take your turn. 

This evening on our way back from Kits we saw the great advantage of the four way stop procedure when we came to a junction by the highway where the lights were out. Actually they were flashing red – from all directions. This would have caused chaos beyond measure in the UK – and probably most places in the world.

Here? We all started using the four way stop procedure. It was a complicated junction, with more than one lane in each direction, but everything worked well. While we were there traffic kept flowing with only the odd hiccup. There were no horns blaring, no fists raised and no stress. I don’t know where the four way stop came from, but it is well suited to Canada – where fairness and being polite are valued.

Gratuities not included

We went out to a great restaurant this week – the boat house in Horseshoe Bay. The restaurant looks out over the harbour, and the mountains, and you can see the ferries coming and going at the BC Ferries terminal.

The docks at horseshoe bay
The docks at horseshoe bay

The restaurant was pretty busy for a Monday evening, but we still got to sit by the window. Well worth it when you have such lovely views.

We were there to celebrate the new smiling teenager in the family.
We expected the service to be rather poor as we’d imagined they’d lost most of their waiting staff now that the schools are back. But Gwen and Greg knew half the staff in the restaurant from school or university. If Alice had been with us and not at UVic, she’d probably have known all of them as she’d worked there over the summer.
As it turned out we got a waitress that they didn’t know. Not a student and not someone who enjoyed her work. She had zero personality and seemed to be just doing her time. We thought that her sourpuss came from expectations of a low tip – after all Sue and I still have british accents and we did have coupons for free appies. Neither signs that go with generous tips. 
What she didn’t allow for was that most of our kids have worked in restaurants and we know how much they depend on tips. Still it would have been nice to get a smile to go with our dinner.


Canadian teeth are perfect. Sometimes they are so perfect that they look like a mouth full of chiclets. Each one identical, gleaming white and even.

Our dentist here said that Canadian dentists are concerned with the whole lifetime of the teeth. The aim is that your teeth remain in good health and outlast you. And that the dentist, orthodontist and hygienist get to drive a nice car and holiday in Maui.

Ok – maybe I will give them credit for caring for the state of my teeth. But having had our youngest just graduate from braces, we are somewhat cynical about the whole thing. His teeth are lovely of course. But he has had years of misery.

Several times we have been into the orthodontist to discuss progress and see if we could get the braces off early. Each time he warned us of all the terrible consequences of not completing the treatment. Most of these consequences are a long way off – especially if you are a teenager looking for a date! 

Actually they are a long way off for anyone. Your teeth will wear out if they’re not aligned properly. So each time we caved and continued paying our monthly fee (nearly $200) and wondered if our son would ever smile.

British teeth have a bad rep here. “Teeth like tumbled down tombstones.” Perhaps that’s why Hollywood casts British actors as the bad guys – their teeth look scary.

Now that Greg has his braces off, his teeth do look nice. And we see more of them as he is smiling at last. And we too are smiling as we’ve paid for the treatment. Putting him through university will be a snap after this.

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