This week I was in Woodstock in a snow storm. At lunch hour, I sat with a group of folks who were more local to Woodstock and, despite knowing where I was from, they talked excessively about the local highways and trouble spots, and mentioned hamlets of which I had never heard. Trying to include me, they would check in about if I agreed that ‘highway 59 is terrible.’ Each time I had to say that I do not spend very much time over here and am not familiar.
Later in the day, I was part of a work group in which someone knew where I was from and said, hopefully trying to break the ice, “I hope you don’t tell people that you are from Eastern Ontario because I grew up in Renfrew County and it drives me crazy when people your way say that they are from the east.”
Now, I can’t really explain how geography became such a talking point except that perhaps the weather – and worries about how it is different across the areas we had all travelled from – was top of mind.
The whole collective bunch of interludes did remind me, though, of the challenge of measuring people’s experiences against our own and then making a snap judgement – “not from east,” “completely unfamiliar with the weather patterns in Teeswater,” “not from here,” “not the same as us,” “other.” This was all done without any plan or thought to making me feel like the “other” in the groups. It was just some small talk – and perhaps it almost always is – but it is great to be reminded to check in, take a mini moment to wonder, “how am I including everyone around me in what we are doing, am I excluding by how I am phrasing my input or in my use of acronyms, how can I take a step back and make this time richer by first understanding from where everyone is coming?
I might have had little to add about the safest route to Drumbo; however, as always, I had lots to say. 🙂