by Adam Charlesworth
I was genuinely excited when it happened. I was about to attend my very first panel at the 52nd World Science Fiction Convention for which I had paid $200 to attend. It was going to be worth every penny for without realizing it I was about to have (big brass sound) bam buhm bahhhh (gesture wildly) a genuine Western Canadian Experience.
When I arrived at the Babylon 5 preview panel, a few minutes early as I was very excited, there was already a man waiting outside the door.
“I can’t wait for this panel to start,” said I enthusiastically. “I don’t get a chance to see Babylon 5 any more since I moved away from a large urban centre,” continued I with appropriate hand gestures to indicate a great journey. I have discovered that hand gestures allow oneself to really get across a bigger message than just the mundane one your mouth is saying, like, for example, do not the insane gesturing person. I was also about to get a message from my fellow conversationee about just how he felt about everything.
“Dhurr, so it is where that you are living now?” said my fellow Babylon 5 addict with a very pronounced French-Canadian accent. His arms were dangling at his sides but there was a certain tension in their non-activity.
“Northern British Columbia,” said I, foolishly adding, “it is a province on the west coast of Canada. Where is it you are from?” There were no extra movement from digits as I had the feeling that tension was about to erupt. I, of course, knew where he was from the instant he started all his sentences with “dhurr,” but this was an SF con and might have been some American fan affecting an accent just to be weird.
“I am fromm Montrall.” As he spoke he brought up his hands to punctuate his sentences by indicating a completed field goal.
“Do you get to see Babylon 5 in Montréal?” I asked inquisitively, playing with my hair, but secretly preparing to ward off blows.
Now I should clarify at this point that I am not anti-French in any way. I lived in France for over a year and a half of my life and love the culture, the food and the people. I always believed that I was not an anti-Québec bigot because I loved motherland and the daughter should therefore follow as a matter of course. I have discovered that I am, however, a western Canadian.
“Yes, I get to see Babylon 5 in Montrall,” hands crossed in front, voiced raised and sharpened to a point, “but I am forced to watch it on an Ontario station!!!”
I swallow, stepping into the abyss of a debate I thought I would never take part in. My brain reels and speaks to me. “Forced”? says my brain, my hands firmly placed on either side of my temples. “Forced”? it says again.
“‘Forced’? I mean... do no... Québec stations play--” I am hesitating with every word trying to comprehend what has happened here “--Babylon 5?”
“You know that not every station in Québec is in French. In fact, maybe derr is only twelve stations in Montrall that are Québécois. We get the American cable and stations from Ontario, you know!!!” Anger is now out in the open. He is actually mad at me for not knowing the obvious. I foolishly try to placate him.
“We have three French stations in Smithers, only seven Canadian English stations and maybe ten American stations. That seem fair representation for a town with less than one per cent Francophones.” OH MY GOD!!!! I didn’t just that! WHAT AM I DOING-- Quick! Get back to some safe topic like abortion or native fisheries--
“So!” says my fellow Babylon 5 addict, mercifully not arguing my idiotic point any further.
“So, is Babylon 5 available in French?” say I not being able to help myself and lacking a staple gun for my lips.
“No... it is not!” He’s still mad at me says his voice and arms that have clenched into fists at his side.
“Do... French stations ever show programs in English?” I ask, again stepping into the huge gap of logic that he placed between us that I am forced to hurl into over and over and over.
“What!” Anger is now temporarily replaced by a cool rage. “Of course, no French station would show a program in English, as if we have not enough English programs on the rest of our channels, showing all the time English, English, Ontarian shows inside Québec.”
“So,” say I as he opens the door to the panel room filled with people and exciting audio-visual equipment, “how is it that you are forced to watch Babylon 5?” It is too late. He has stomped off into the room to find an empty seat. I finish my sentence realizing that my arms are spread wide and my voice has raised up to follow his departure into the still on-going panel previous to the Babylon 5 preview.
I turn and begin to follow him into the room to continue our conversation when the saner parts of my brain stage a revolution and take control of my motor functions and direct my away from my verbal combatant. I sit down and wait fifteen minutes before some dweeb tell us that although they have the tape of the preview, the presenter had been told that the panel had been cancelled. So they cancelled the panel.
I was happy because I had gained for than any selection of clips could have offered. I had had a bonding experience with my fellow Western-Canadians. (I have never before used the hyphen when referring to myself.) I had met and had been completely bewildered by someone from Québec. There was another Babylon 5 panel scheduled in two hours, in a room without any A/V equipment, but that is another story.
Originally published by Under the Ozone Hole Number Ten – December, 1994