An Excerpt from Brit Happens: Or Living the Canadian Dream by James Mullinger
Goose Lane Editions
From the highs and lows of London to beginning anew in New Brunswick, Brit Happens (Goose Lane Editions) tells gut-busting stories of success and failure and the unpredictable grind of stand-up comedy. It also offers a laugh-out-loud look at life in Atlantic Canada from the region’s funniest outsider-turned-local. In this excerpt, Mullinger confuses Saint John and St. John’s with high-stakes consequences resulting in an airport sprint. Fortunately he was not alone.
After two months of dating, and another night of drinking, Pam suggested I come and visit her family in Canada for Christmas. And with my alcohol-induced bravery I said, without thinking, “I would love to.”
She said she would travel home first in mid-December and that I could follow shortly after, just so she could “warn them what you’re like.”
So she flew home on December 19, 2000, and I flew in three days later, arriving in the evening.
“I’m here,” I squealed excitedly over the phone.
“I can’t see you,” she responded. “And it’s a pretty small airport.”
Now I would like to do everyone considering travelling to Atlantic Canada a favour and issue the following travel advisory. There is a city in the Canadian province of New Brunswick named Saint John. Carefully note the spelling. This is very important because there is a city in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador named St. John’s.
So I had journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean to be with the love of my life and impress her parents with my intelligence and wit, and now she was speaking to me on the phone at the airport in Saint John, and I was speaking to her on the phone at an airport one thousand kilometres away in St. John’s.
Why the hell are there two places with almost identical names? And so close to each other. (Although not quite as close as Sackville in New Brunswick and Sackville in Nova Scotia. Two hours apart. Identical names. Go figure. Who was naming these places? I imagine some white, colonial place-namer who was absolutely overworked and simply ran out of good ideas. And, yes, the first time I was booked to perform in Sackville, New Brunswick, I did indeed drive to Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.)
It’s not just me. In early 2020, I was flying back from some shows in Montréal and I was dutifully at the gate for my flight to Saint John. A voice came on the loudspeaker saying, “The flight to Saint John, New Brunswick, will commence boarding in fifteen minutes. The flight to St. John’s, Newfoundland, is at the opposite end of the airport.” No word of a lie, fifteen people got up and started running. I then posted on Facebook that I had seen this, and the next time I was at the airport a few weeks later, the security guy told me that on that very flight someone had landed in Saint John when their intended destination was St. John’s. Every time we have visitors coming from overseas to stay with us or clients visiting the region, they always plan their trip to St. John’s. And it makes absolute logical sense to assume that the St. John’s International Airport is the airport that belongs to the city of Saint John. And it makes no logical sense whatsoever that the Air Canada website doesn’t ask you if you are absolutely sure about