Working for the North York Board of Education as my first job (albeit short term) in Canada, was quite the experience.
It consisted mainly of taking phone calls from school superintendents regarding maintenance requirements, and relaying it to various maintenance people who were out “on the road”. Also, the maintenance people would call in for various reasons. We also used to stay in touch with traffic conditions, so we could give anybody on the road a heads up on potential traffic problems and could use alternative routes as necessary.
It was theoretically a very straightforward job, albeit having its hectic times however, I had not considered the multi-cultural population especially in the area of building trades! If you can imagine me, with my “straight from England” accent, communicating with Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese with their variations on English… and done mostly over a 2-way radio with the inherent crackles and pops and “dead” areas that were prevalent in the mid 1970’s, then you can imagine the potential challenges!
It was, in fact, a lot of fun because everybody accepted the inherent communication issues within the organization and I simply added another “color” to the culture! There was only one extreme communication issue. It was over the radio with the only Japanese tradesman there and, after trying unsuccessfully to convey a message to me for a few minutes, he just laughed and said that he was coming in to talk with me in person. It was so much easier!
At around 11:30 one morning, one of the guys who worked with me asked me to cover for him as he had to go out for a few minutes. He came back and, a few minutes later made the same request. He came back and said that he would have to leave again and would not be back until after lunch. He also asked that when I get my lunch break (in about 5 minutes time), I should go out into the parking lot and meet him at his truck!
I went out as soon as the switchboard was covered for the lunch hour and looked around for his truck. It was parked well away from other vehicles with the back door open (it was a pickup truck with “camper like” box on the back), and smoke was coming out. As I got closer, I could see him sitting inside and, as soon as he saw me, he jumped down and said “How do like your steak?”
He had a small BBQ in there and had decided to welcome me to Canada in the best way he knew how… offering food!
I knew then that I was going to like Canada!