A lens into a more diverse place

Cast of Kim's Convenience

You positively gotta love Canada.

Besides the obvious, they seem to produce a lot of good, high-quality television that’s…nice. Very approachable shows that give us Americans a glimpse into their so much more diverse society.

We’ve done a lot of bingeing during the pandemic and two of our fave Canadian imports have been “Anne of Green Gables” and “Kim’s Convenience.” “Kim’s” is particularly endearing to me personally — it’s a great representation of race, gender, and the love a family has for each other and their native culture, transplanted into Toronto. As the parent of a daughter from Asia I love it, but it reminds me of when I considered becoming a Canadian.

Back when I was a very young System Engineer for Coburn Optical Industries, I was one of two people in the U.S. who had been trained in how to install/work/troubleshoot the ophthalmic coating systems we were selling to optical labs. One of those early installed systems went to Hakim Optical, located in Dundas Square in Toronto. This is only a block or two from Eaton Centre, and is the Moss Park neighborhood that we see in “Kim’s Convenience.”

Their SATIS (Swiss) system (built by Omsag S.p.A. of Milan) was misbehaving, and my boss was in Italy at the factory. So Mr. #2 (me) was dispatched from Oklahoma to Toronto.

From the Sikh cab driver to the Iranian expats who ran the lab, to the Jamaicans and Koreans, I immediately fell in love with Toronto. I had been to Montreal about a decade earlier, but this to my mind was different. And better. Being that it was the late 80s, it was also my first exposure to Toronto’s CityTV network — which had a slick look of “if Max Headroom had not been so dystopic.” It was one of my first realizations that the future would be “unevenly distributed” and arriving earlier in places other than Oklahoma.

Before my troubleshooting visit was over, Mr. Hakim had offered me a job. My life would have been VERY different had I not been a loyal “company man” and stayed on.

Sidebar: on the way into Canada, I was detained by Canadian customs because when they asked the purpose of my visit, I said: “to fix a machine.” I was moved to a side room, where I waited for quite a while until a customs officer instructed me that the PROPER answer was “to train Canadian staff how to fix a machine.” I said, yes — of course, that’s what I meant. To which he said: “Okay…off you go. Enjoy your stay in Toronto.”

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