One upshot of living in a hostel, or indeed travelling, is that your preconceptions tend to be challenged. That's quite a heady statement to kick-off with, but it's true. I am a big believer in speaking as you find. But also it's important to find out as much as you can before you speak about it.
The case in point: The perception is that Canada is a sensible country; less coarse than the States and devoid of their neighbour's hopelessly overly-schmaltzy, highly-commercial Coca Cola culture.
But, so far, and against type, the cleverest man I have met was American. And the biggest idiot, a Canadian. The American was a 25-year old Cornell University graduate who resembled a cross between an Arabian Vizier and Ming The Mericiless, was gay, and was engaged to Paddy Ashdown's son. I am not joking about the last part - intriguingly, he knew that Ashdown was some kind of English politician, but didn't quite appreciate how prominent he was.
Conversely, however, we are currently in the midst of an invasion by Canadian Idiots. Or as they now known around the hostel, Can-idiots. These are the kind of bellowing, baseball-capped doofuses parodied and loathed the world over, although more readily associated with USA. When they are not wearing said baseball caps at a jaunty "rap" angle, or punching the air and going "Wooh, Yeah!", they are busy displaying a startling lack of geographical knowledge, saying things like "Ryan, you are, like, so awesome, dude" or drinking heavily until one of them "barfs". It's like watching some cheap, straight-to-DVD knock-off of American Pie, or some other risible "frat-com".
Furthermore, the pre-existing Canadian contingent have now become mortally embarrassed about the presence of these new, loping jackasses. Yesterday, my friend from Montreal, Etienne, was giving me a Canadian geography lesson and, amongst other things, describing the differences between Provinces (eg Saskatchewan, Manitoba etc) and Territories (eg Yukon) before going on to discuss that the joke amongst Canadians, from British Columbia to Quebec, is that people from Toronto are idiots. And where are this new lot from, I asked? Yep. Toronto. Thus confirming all of Etienne's suspicions.
They had everyone's backs up on the first night when, after neighbours had complained about noise coming from the hostel courtyard, Miranda's continual bout of late night shushing seemed pass through one Can-idiot ear and out the other. "Seriously. Shut up!" said Miranda "We could get fined $600 because of the noise". "Well why don't we all chip in, and then we can make as much noise as we like" bellowed the drunken Canadian. "Shhhhhh!", shushed Miranda before adding "Doesn't really work like that, Ryan", knowing the council can close down hostels with just the stroke of a pen.
Meanwhile, I was on the sidelines tutting disapprovingly and wondering which unlucky person had to share a room with them that night. Turns out it was me. And is their behaviour in the bedroom any different? Well, if I told you they came in at 2am, turned the big light on, whooped and brayed at full volume, snored and then in the morning woke everyone with their alarm at 7am, even though they didn't hear it and didn't need to get up, I think you'll understand why I hope a mysterious and agonising plague is released upon Toronto.
Since I wrote the above, there has been another development. I wearily plodded home yesterday evening after two night's continually interrupted sleep, and not looking forward to that night either, only to be met at the front gate by the Can-idiots, fully backpacked up and steaming out towards the airport shuttle pick-up point. "Are you leaving?" I said, barely disguising the optimism in my voice. "Yeah" whooped one, before adding that uniquely North American goodbye, "Peace!". Well, actually, for me, peace and quiet.
I instantly hugged Miranda and Etienne and Dan before Miranda told me that even if they hadn't left, she wouldn't have extended their rent past Wednesday anyway. As a result Etienne, Matin and I celebrated by going to bed at 10 o' clock for a good night's sleep. Not all in the same bed, obviously.