Notes from Vancouver

We're in Vancouver for this weekend's marathon. We received a common question from a Canadian customs official: "How long is it?" My wife answered politely, "26.2 miles - the distance of a marathon." I guess people think that a marathon just means any long race, and not a standard distance!

Every Canadian I've met has been friendly, courteous and polite. This has always been my experience with Canadians I've met everywhere, on every continent. I'm beginning to understand why they're so polite, and why Americans are not by comparison - Canadians aren't afraid that the world is full of thieves and thugs. We've been taught to be distrusting, to lock our doors, to not give our neighbors the benefit of the doubt. These messages are conveyed to us from the top down: by a President who attacks a country before it threatens us, by CEOs who lie, cheat and steal and get away with it, and by a media that glamorizes violence.

I've seen many people in Vancouver wearing surgical masks, most of them of Asian descent. Its funny, but I suspect that most of them do so out of a superstitious belief that a cotton mask will somehow protect them from contracting SARS. Actually, they're protecting us, now that their mouths are covered when they sneeze, cough and burp.