Drivers to the north love being friendly and helpful … and apologizing

This column published as "Canadian Courtesy" in June 2019 issue

David Matthews / June 07, 2019
David Matthews

Canadians have a reputation for being all-around nice people, and here’s some proof: Even their car thieves are considerate.

Kevin Freedman of Winnipeg, Manitoba, still wrestles with a guilty conscience 21 years after stealing a car-—and the theft wasn’t even intentional.

In 1998 when Freedman was 17, he needed to borrow a vehicle since his own car was out of commission after a collision with a cow (don’t ask).  

His co-worker, Jocelyne McKie, offered to lend him her Ford Taurus as long as he agreed to bring her back a Slurpee. 

Freedman found the Taurus in the parking lot and, despite some difficulty getting the key to unlock the door and start the engine, was able to run his errands and return with McKie’s Slurpee.

The next day, Freedman and McKie learned that another Ford Taurus had been reported stolen from their parking lot at the same time Freedman was running his errands. But when police arrived to investigate, they found the car parked right where the owner left it, with no sign of tampering. The owner was embarrassed and swore that it wasn’t there earlier.

Remembering all the trouble he had with McKie’s key, Freedman realized that he had gotten into the wrong Taurus and was now an inadvertent car thief!  

Freedman felt so guilty that he nearly turned himself in to police, but his friends talked him out of it. He now hopes that the power of social media can connect him with the car’s owner so he can finally apologize.

 

CHIVALRY IS NOT DEAD

Even deliberate car thefts are friendlier in Canada. 

A recent example occurred in Springbrook, Alberta, in April, when a woman on her way to work encountered a surprisingly considerate carjacker. 

The woman came upon a school bus and pickup truck that had collided. She spotted one of the drivers standing in the road, and her Canadian compassion kicked in, compelling her to stop and ask if he required assistance. 

The man didn’t answer so she asked again, only then noticing the bandanna covering most of his face. 

The man groaned and reluctantly walked toward the woman’s SUV. 

She ran after him, at which point he pulled out a gun. The woman stopped, raised her hands and told him, “It’s yours.”

Instead of immediately making a hasty getaway, this thoughtful thief paused to ask the woman some questions.

First he inquired whether she had any children in the back of the car. She said no. 

Then he asked if she needed anything out of the vehicle. Not wanting to be left in the cold without a way to call for help, she indicated that she’d appreciate having her phone. The carjacker handed it over, along with her purse and lunch bag. 

A uniquely Canadian exchange followed: The victim thanked the thief for giving back her belongings. “I’m sorry,” he responded. “That’s fine,” she replied. 

Police are still looking for the woman’s SUV, though they expect that the thief will eventually return it out of guilt.

 

GETTING HIS FILL

More Canadian kindness was on display in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, this past pothole season (also known as spring). 

After hitting a large pothole on Westville Road, 22-year-old John McCue noticed that the street had more than its fair share of craters after the spring melt. One was so cavernous that it had actually torn the axle right off a car a few days earlier. 

Rather than call the city to complain, McCue grabbed his trusty snow shovel and spent a couple of days patching the holes himself with gravel and fill from the ditches along the side of the road. 

Representatives of the department of transportation, local police and even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police all visited McCue to request that he leave this dangerous work to the professionals. They even threatened to charge him with impeding traffic, but were too nice to follow through.

Local residents didn’t mind. In fact, passersby were so impressed by McCue’s resourcefulness and community spirit that they rewarded him with donations of coffee, legal cannabis, and even cash. 

McCue told the CBC that he plans to put some of his tips toward his living expenses, but not all. “I’m probably going to buy some weed with it, not going to lie,” he admitted. 

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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