Wicked Ideas

Lumbering Drunks With a Heart of Gold – Jan Wong’s Maritimes

St. Thomas University journalism professor Jan Wong ignited an online furor today with a column in the Chronicle Herald. Read it for yourself here: http://thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/1163516-wong-big-foot-gives-lesson-in-manners-on-fredericton-flight

Wong paints a grim portrait of her recent agonies while flying from Montreal to Fredericton. Worried that her meringue puffs and armrest space will be threatened by the lumbering, drunk Maritimer in the seat beside her, Wong, with a mere glance, convinces the flight attendant to stop serving alcohol. With that, it seems, she saves herself, her meringues and perhaps the entire flight from the antics of the drunken brute beside her.

Except, of course, when the flight ends, our lumbering drunk redeems himself by letting Wong exit the plane first. And thus we learn an important lesson about Maritimers from Professor Wong. Within our gruff, poorly spoken, inebriated exteriors, we have hearts of gold. We may be drunks, forced to travel elsewhere for work, but we can be polite drunks, if there is someone with the moral certitude of Wong to guide our behaviour. In fact, as Professor Wong concludes, in our simple, childlike way, we Maritimers can be more polite than the grownups in suits who populate the airports of Upper Canada.

Online reaction to the column was swift with Tweets labelling the column as “lazy”, “insulting” and “garbage.”

What do you think of Wong’s column? Are some Maritimers too sensitive to this kind of simplistic stereotyping? Or should people expect more from a veteran journalist like Wong?

Allan Gates


  • This was a pretty routine story, I hope the CH didn’t pay a lot for it. I imagine the Maritimers she was travelling with probably worked in the oil fields, which has it’s own subculture. I think this story does more to highlight the author’s biases and opinions more then about people living in the maritimes.

    That being said I have heard from numerous “outsiders” that we are the most polite and outgoing people around.

  • I liked her story and respect her for publishing it, as it is uncomplimentary to herself. Watching people in similar circumstances, I’ve seen their faces reflect the same prejudice she confesses. She reminds us that first impressions are often wrong, and gives us something uplifting to remember the next time we experience that strained atmosphere on the last leg of a long journey.

  • This is likely the least controversial of Jan Wong’s many articles. She often reaches a bit too far in generalizing. There is even a Wikipedia page (separate from the Jan Wong page) called Jan Wong – controversy.

September 2018
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