No Better than First Class… Right?

I’ve traveled first class about half a dozen times in my life.  Almost every one of them was a fluke.  Like the time I actually wore dressy clothes to travel and was handed a new boarding pass at the gate.  Or the time I somehow managed to pay $200 for a business class seat from Frankfurt to Toronto (best $200 I ever spent!).

I can’t afford to book first class.  I don’t have enough frequent flyer miles to get unlimited upgrades. I’m definitely in the category of “economy traveler”! I’ve spent most of my travel time crammed among 100 of my closest friends!

So when I do get that rare opportunity to sit up front with the ‘important’ people, I handle it with the style and grace of someone with two left feet.

The warm damp cloth comes out, presented to me with tongs. I say thank you and look nervously around at my fellow frequent flyers before nervously patting my face and hands with it.


I try to act nonchalant when I order my free drinks, as if  I spend my entire life drinking free booze. Then I try to sneak a photo or selfie of me basking in the ‘First Class Glow’.

Then there’s the time both my husband and I get upgraded and despite having just eaten a full meal during the layover, accept the in-flight pasta dinner and eat the whole thing, washed down with as many alcoholic beverages as the flight length will allow.


You might think that it can’t get any better than that.  But you’re wrong.

I accidentally stumbled across the PRIVATE JET.  All of a sudden, I have somehow stepped it up a thousand notches. I have effectively avoided the pain and hassle of the AIRPORT. That moment when you drive right up to the plane, hop on with whatever you want in your bag: full-sized shampoo, 500 mL of bottled water, nail clippers, a knife.


This is undiscovered territory. But avoiding security is not even the best part.  The immediate take off.  This 15 minute timeline between arrival at the airfield and airborne. It’s almost too good to be true. How can I ever go back to flying commercial?


But I have to.  I have no choice. I’m just not rich enough/important enough/frequent enough.

But now, every time I fly, I wistfully remember what it was like to skip the 30 minute security check, the 2 hour wait, the 45 minutes of trying to cram 100+ bodies into a flying metal tube.

A fleeting memory.

The reminder of what I’ll probably never experience again.  But I’d never trade that one opportunity for anything.  For one exciting flight, I got to experience the best form of long-distance travel until we figure out teleportation…


Zed: Canadian #AtoZChallenge

So which is correct?  The last letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zed” or “zee”.

Americans seem to get quite confused if you’re spelling something and pronounce it “zed”.

To be honest, neither is wrong, really. One is older, and one has been adapted over the years.

The pronunciation of “zed” by Commonwealth countries is closer to the letter’s origins, sounding more like the Greek letter, Zeta. In fact, most languages around the world use some form of Zeta or Zed (French: zède; German: zet; Spanish: zeta).

The United States is the only country that uses “zee”. And some Canadians, due to their proximity to the U.S. and American cultural influence.

Many Americans don’t even know that the last letter of the alphabet is pronounced any differently beyond their borders!

So today’s question should not be “Why do Canadians pronounce it as ‘zed’?”, but rather “Why do Americans pronounce it as ‘zee’?”.

It’s widely suspected that it is as simple as ‘zee’ rhyming with the majority of the other letters ‘tee’, ewe, ‘vee’, double-ewe, ex, why, and ‘zee’.

Later when the Alphabet Song was created, it even made more sense to rhyme the last letter with many of the others!

But – if you’d like to know, I (a Canadian) pronounce the letter ‘zed’ when I’m spelling something. But I pronounce this challenge as the “Ay to Zee Challenge” and I don’t call Jay-Z, Jay-Zed!

YYZ; YOW; YVR: Canadian #AtoZChallenge


Airport Codes.  If you’ve flown to Canada, you may have noticed that all major Canadian airports boast a code that starts with the letter ‘Y’.

‘Y’? You might ask?  American airports look more this the city they are hosted in.  So why do all Canadian airports start with ‘Y’? What’s with that?

Well first of all the International Air Transport Association (IATA) determines and deconflicts three-letter airport codes around the world. Back in the day, airports began receiving names. In the United States, they received three-letter codes that corresponded with their location or airport name: LAX (Los Angeles), MIA (Miami), BOS (Boston), CLT (Charlotte).

So back to Canada.  Airport codes in Canada were apparently named after each region’s radio transmitter codes and vice versa. Canada had secured ‘Y’ for the beginning of its regional transmitter codes, and therefore kept it to refer to its airports as well.



Here are just a few.  Note that regional airports don’t all follow the ‘Y’ theme, but the majority of the international terminals do.

YOW: Ottawa (McDonald-Cartier International)

YYZ: Toronto (Pearson International)

YVR: Vancouver International

YEG: Edmonton International

YHZ: Halifax International

YXE: Saskatoon (John G. Diefenbaker International)



Camp-X: Canadian #AtoZChallenge



This place had many different names. S25-1-1, Project-J, or STS-103 but was unofficially known as Camp-X

This place was located near Whitby/Oshawa, Ontario and was a joint effort between the Canadian and British governments.

In the 1940’s.


What was this place?  A paramilitary training camp set up just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Many insist that Camp-X was key to many of the successes by allied forces during the war.

According to Wikipedia,  more than 500 allied units were trained at Camp-X during the war.  The camp was also responsible for the creation of Hydra, a station responsible for coding and decoding important communications  during the war.

Ian Flemming, James Bond author trained at Camp-X.  It’s often suspected that Bond is based on Sir William Stephenson, Canadian and Winston Churchill confidant responsible for the establishment of the centre in 1941.

Camp-X was only declassified in 1995, allowing us a peek into a secret spy training facility that might have been key to the outcome of the Second World War, right here in Canada.


Whadd’ya At?: Canadian #AtoZChallenge


In the Canadian province of Newfoundland, there is a different culture than the rest of the country. It’s born of British and South East Irish settlers with a dash of Scottish, and because of that – and the fact that Newfoundland is an island – the ‘Newfie’ accent is quite noticeable!

Not only is it noticeable, it can be hard to understand by people not from ‘The Rock’!  I visited Newfoundland once, and have made friends with Newfies over the years and it is a wonderful province plus they are wonderful people!  But we can’t understand them!

Check out this example and see if you can figure out what they’re saying:

Remember the movie ‘Snatch’ and Brad Pitt’s Caravan character?  The Newfie accent is not like Pitt’s.  But I bet many might mistake the two!

So, “Whaddyat” is a Newfoundland greeting.  It means “What are you doing right now!”

And the answer to “Whaddyat”, is always “Dis is it”.  Meaning “This is what I’m doing.”(referring to whatever you’re doing)

It’s only one of many Newfie slang terms, but a great one.  So great that it’s been made into a song!

We never say “hello” or “how’s it going?”, “good day” or any of that
We just look at them and nod our heads and wink say ‘Whadd’ya At?’

Viola Desmond: Canadian #AtoZChallenge


When I asked my friends for ideas for V, W, X and Y, my brother – high school teacher, adult night school teacher, diversity advocate and all-round great guy – suggested Viola Desmond.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was originally going to be my ‘V’ topic, but I plan to write about it anyway outside of the #AtoZ Challenge.

I didn’t know who Viola Irene Desmond was – so this was also a great learning project for myself.

You might say that Mrs. Desmond was the Rosa Parks of Canada. But she was about a decade ahead.


Viola Desmond grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but the real start of her plight happened in New Glasgow, NS in 1946.  When waiting for car repairs, she decided to treat herself to a movie, buying a ticket at the local theatre and taking a seat in the main auditorium. However, as she soon discovered, that particular theatre had segregated seating.  White folk were allowed to sit in the main auditorium while Black folk were forced to sit up in the balcony sections.  She was ordered to move, refused, and ultimately charged and jailed overnight.

The charge?  Tax evasion.  The balcony seats were 1 cent cheaper.  Viola was accused of sitting in an area to which she hadn’t paid.  Not for defying segregation in the theatre.

She decided to fight the charge in court with the help of her pro bono lawyer, Frederick William Bissett, but they lost the case.  Viola then chose to close her salons in Nova Scotia, study business in Montreal then settle in New York City.  She died at the age of 50 and buried back in Halifax.

Finally, in 2010, forty-five years after she died, the Nova Scotia provincial government issued a formal apology for the incident and the Lieutenant-Governor granted her a posthumous free pardon; acknowledging that Viola was innocent and the charges were made in error and clearing her name.

In 2012, Viola appeared on a Canada Post commemorative stamp:


Ukrainian: Canadian #AtoZChallenge


Did you know that the largest population of Ukrainians in the world outside of Ukraine and Russia is in Canada?

Although it is suspected Ukrainians came to Canada prior to 1891, but the best documented movement of Ukrainians into Canada happened then as Canada was advertised as a great place to settle for those wanting to escape famine and strife from the Austo-Hungarian and Russian rules.   It’s believed approximately 170,000 Ukrainians came to Canada between 1891 and 1914. Canada was also advertised as a great place to settle and farm by Canada’s Minister of the Interior – hoping for expanded agriculture in the prairies.  This is likely why the largest Ukrainian communities are in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Now, even though Ukrainian immigrants were needed for Canadian agriculture growth, during the First World War, the War Measures Act allowed the government to intern any person who originated from any ‘enemy state’ (sound familiar?).  As a result, about 5,000 Ukrainians were interned in various work camps across Canada.  Some weren’t released until almost 2 years after the war ended. In 2008, the Government of Canada established a $10 million fund called the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund (CFWWIRF) aimed at providing monies to commemorate those who had their liberties taken from them during the war. Some of the projects have included documentaries, monuments and interpretive centres.


Commemorative plaque and statue at the location of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, Banff National Park. Source: Wikipedia

Another large wave of immigration happened after the First World War when the Canadian government again opened immigration to former citizens of the Austrian Empire.  This saw another 70,000 Ukrainians come to Canada.

Ukrainian Canadians have a very unique culture, distinct from their European heritage and are very proud to protect that culture. The Ukrainian language is still taught in prairie schools, and Ukrainian dance is practiced regularly in these communities. Which I find funny because my Ukrainian husband refuses to dance.  Anywhere! 😉

Tuque: Canadian #AtoZChallenge



A knitted hat with a small or no brim.  Only in Canada.

It comes from the Middle Breton word toque, spoken by the immigrants who founded New France (now known as Québec).  When I write it, I spell it as toque.

I don’t even think about it when I say it.  If I’m referring to a knit hat (winter hat) I call it a ‘toque’.

My American friends call it a ‘beanie’. Calling it a toque also helps me meet random Canadians around the world.

Me in Telluride: “I wish I had worn my toque today”

Random stranger in Telluride: “Excuse me, but are you Canadian?”

Me: “Yes I am, how did you guess?”  (LOL)

So without further ado,  here are some of my favourite toques!!

Stompin’ Tom: Canadian #AtoZChallenge


Stompin’ Tom Connors (1936-2013) was a Canadian folk-singer well known for music solely focused on Canadian culture, Canadian lore and Canadian history.  He was a talented musician and we are lesser without him.  Instead of writing a whole bunch about Stompin’ Tom, I’m just going to share some of his best songs.


Bud the Spud – based on Prince Edward Island’s fame: “the spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig. They’re from Prince Edward Island!”

The Good Old Hockey Game – Canada’s most famous hockey song! “Someone roars! Bobby scores! At the good old hockey game!”

Sudbury Saturday Night – “Well the girls are out to bingo and the boys are gettin stinko We think no more of INCO on a Sudbury Saturday Night” (INCO was a Canadian mining company and the world’s largest producer of nickel – most mined in the Sudbury region)

Canada Day up Canada Way – “O Canada, standing tall together! We raise our hands and hail our flag, the Maple Leaf forever!”

Robertson Screws: Canadian #AtoZChallenge


Did you know that Canada has a screw that’s mostly unique to our country?  It’s called the Robertson screw] or “square-head” screw.

First manufactured in Milton, Ontario (where my aunt and uncle lived when I was a child) in 1908 and patented in 1909, the fastener remains named after its inventor, P.L. Robertson.

Robertson screws look like this:


And they look like that because Mr. Robertson cut his hand using a spring-loaded screwdriver and decided to design a safer screw.

Of course, there’s also a screwdriver.

Image (2)

You can find Robertson screws and screwdrivers in the United States, but sparingly.  Apparently Mr. Robertson did try to pitch his great new invention to a company in Buffalo, NY, but gave up after they couldn’t come to an agreement.  His screws were then used in the manufacturing of Canadian Ford cars and the savings incurred were noticed by Ford Motor Company in Detroit.  However, Henry Ford wanted ownership on decisions about how the screws were used and Mr. Robertson didn’t want to let that power go.  So – today, Robertson screws and screwdrivers are mostly a Canadian ‘thing’.