Canadian Pins (the story)
This is not my story, but I am going to tell it. I take any and all responsibility for details that are errors or exaggerations. I was not there at the embassy and have only played a minor role, but this story needs to be told, this story needs to be blogged, this story will make you believe in Canada. But I am getting ahead of myself, let me fill you in.
In Berlin this year, 2008, there was an International Improv Festival, this also coincided with the 30th anniversary of Loose Moose (a theatre in Canada that was formed by Keith Johnson, the creator of Theatresports). Loose Moose was invited to the Berlin festival for the first time, as was the group I am in (if you are reading this Blog, perhaps you already know that our group is called Crumbs, and we have been to several improv festivals in Berlin and throughout Europe). Loose Moose, while sending three players, also had some "hangers on" in the form of Eric and Al (or maybe i shouldn't name names...?). They both wanted to hangout in Berlin (who wouldn't?) and both had not seen Derek in quite some time (Derek Flores had left Toronto 2 years before for New Zealand). Derek Flores had been to Berlin before (having been on Team Canada during the Impro World Cup of 2006 with myself and Jacob Bannigan), Derek had known Al from Loose Moose and Toronto's Second City (it was also going to be Al's 44th birthday and that was a main motivator for him to go to Berlin) Derek had also toured for years with Eric (as the Three Canadians, doing street improv that was arguable the peak of street improv in the world, it was also when Crumbs had first met those guys).
Anyways, Loose Moose were performing shows in Berlin and thought that it would be nice to give people Canada Pins. So, they went down to the Canadian embassy (we haven't even been there, and we have been to Berlin at least 10 times). They were "metal detected" (perhaps not a proper verb, but it works) and then took there three steps to the front desk. Behind the desk is an important figure in this story, behind that desk was a man named Markus. Markus is German and Markus is an intern, Markus is also a man with some issues.
After explaining the story to Markus that they were a Canadian Improv Group here in Berlin doing some shows and their desire to hand out pins to the hundreds and hundreds of audience members, Markus gave them one pin. This was obviously a language issue. Re-explanations happened and all was better now. Markus pulled out a big bag of Canada pins, and then counted out 20 pins. Now the folks at Loose Moose knew that 20 would not do, but were tired and satisfied for the moment. They took their pins and called it a day. of course the 20 pins disappeared faster than any German intern could count them, so they decided to return the next day and get more pins.
This time Markus was more annoyed (this was of course after enduring the "metal detectoring" (okay now I am pushing it with that one). They explained how the theatre holds hundreds of people and that they needed more pins and that maybe they could have one of the big bags. This was simply not going to happen. They asked if they could speak to a Canadian, Markus told them that they could not. Now, I was not there, I don't know exactly how high the tempers flared (if at all) I don't know what words were tossed around. All I do know is that Markus reluctantly counted out 30 pins this time.
We all know that those pins did not last long either. So the plan was drawn out to return again to the embassy, but this time with a weapon often used in the world of politics... information. Internet is a wonderful tool when used correctly. And a quick Google here, a couple of well placed key strokes there and there was the name of the Canadian Consulate (spelling?) in Berlin. Armed and ready, Loose Moose entered the embassy for the third time (right here I need to mention again that here they are entering the embassy for the third time and we haven't even seen the outside of the building). This tie Markus was not at his post and they used the opportunity to talk to a Canadian citizen right away, they quickly dropped the name they entered with and after a quick phone call upstairs they found out that she was far to busy in meetings to meet with them. But all hope was not lost, they explained their case and after another phone call to the always busy Canadian consulate (spelling?) they were promised to receive 1000 pins.
Rejoicing was in order, thought here was a small problem. This problem rolled out of the nice Canadian's mouth like Loonies at Timmy Ho's (Canadian Eh!). She would have to call Markus and get him to bring them. They tried to explain that we should involve Markus simply because of the "problems" they had encountered with him recently... but she insisted, mostly because he was the intern in charge of pins.
The actual one sided transcript of the phone call*
Canadian Embassy Worker- "Hi Markus, we have some people here and they would like some Canadian pins."
Canadian Embassy Worker- "Could you bring up a bag of a thousand?"
Canadian Embassy Worker- (pause)
Canadian Embassy Worker- "Helen already said it was okay..."
Canadian Embassy Worker- "Thank you Markus"
Now some improv players from Canada, more specifically Calgary, even more specifically Montreal and Toronto, had the treat of waiting for Markus to deliver the cargo he most definitely did not want to deliver. And as if right on cue, right at the time that would have made the most sense in an improv scene to have an entrance, in trudged Markus. In his arms, a bag containing one thousand pins. On his face, a smile containing no joy (perhaps not even a smile at all). He handed over the bag and disappeared. Canada has won this time.
So, the pins were spread to audiences and people rejoiced. A smaller bag, of about a hundred, was given to Crumbs to spread as well. The pins on their own are really just a piece of metal with an emblem on them, a countries logo. But the story behind the pin brings the most joy.
Some people wonder why Markus was so tight with the pins. They weren't his, not even his country's. What did he care? Was his internship over the moment all the pins were distributed? Was it simply his Germany sensibilities? (Whatever that means) or was it just that Markus was wired in just that right way to not want to have anybody have anything? Nobody will truly know (without deep psychological probing). What we do know, and ask of anyone who hears the story or has received a pin, is this. Please if you are ever in Berlin, go down to the Canadian embassy, ask for Markus and thank him personally for the wonderful pin.
check out Theatre Ste Catherine here
check out Loose Moose here