The Knot Man
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
- Mark Twain
We met John on our last morning in Lunenburg. We had previously noticed him from a distance each day, sitting on a corner across the street from the main area where people walked, under a large umbrella which shaded him from the hot sun. He was there all day, every day, working away behind his little sign that said "Knot for Sale." We both felt like he would be a very interesting guy to talk with and on our last morning in Lunenburg we went over to say hello.
John started learning how to tie knots in 1968 when he worked on a research vessel. He said they were at sea for a year at a time, only going to shore briefly every 33 days to stock up on supplies. He said when you're out at sea that much you either learn some kind of hobby or sit around looking stupid and, after trying a few different things, he found he truly enjoyed tying knots. He said, "When you find something you love, don't stop doing it."
He is a seventh generation Lunenburger and he worked on the research vessel until four years ago when he retired. He said he is loving his retirement and coming out to sit on the corner every day, tying knots and meeting interesting people. He laughed and said that some are more interesting than others.
I asked him about all the different kinds of people he meets. In hearing a few of his stories, both the good and the not-so-good, it's no surprise to me, folks, that the only people he has met who have been rude to him were from the United States (and said they were, though Americans are pretty easy to spot). During my trip to Europe in 2013, I often saw Americans behaving in ways that were offensive to others; many of them acting as though they were entitled to special treatment or privileges, and lacking basic sensitivity and respectful behavior. John had a man walk up to him, look over his work for several moments and then say to him in a nasty tone of voice, "You know in America we have to work for a living" and then walked off. He shared a few other stories like this of rude behavior and a sense of entitlement like the American woman who pulled off the road right next to his stand in a BMW and started yelling "Hey! How much for the knots?!" while motioning for him to come over to her car. She was doing this while he was already helping another customer who was at his booth. He politely let her know he was busy with a customer and would be right with her but she kept interrupting and yelling, trying to engage him regarding prices, etc., without ever getting out of her car and waiting her turn. She felt it was okay to interrupt that transaction (in a rude way) and keep interrupting. He said it made for a very uncomfortable and stressful situation, even for the other customer. There were many stories like this and I have seen it for myself. If it were a rare thing, it wouldn't bother me so much but it is, sadly, very common. Obviously, I know it's not all Americans; my son and I are certainly not like that and I have many friends who would never behave in such a way; however, it is far too common. To be clear, John was sharing his experiences in response to me asking him more specific questions and not as a complaint of any kind. He was very kind about all of it.
As the discussion of our world and how others treat one another deepened, he shared something else that he experienced and found very interesting, and so did I. He said that the research vessel he worked on all his life was under Columbia University so the ship was labeled American. When they would dock for supplies at different places all over the world, he said that once people found out everyone on board was Canadian, the treatment toward them would change drastically and they were welcomed with bigger arms and a much more generous spirit. It was such a change that all of the crew noticed it everywhere they went. He said he had no idea that Americans were thought of in such a different way, even way back then but they experienced this, repeatedly, first hand.
In spite of these interactions and the ones he has sometimes at his corner shop, John greets everyone with a very welcome spirit and open heart. He said he loves people and doesn't let things get him down. This is obvious for he is a very joyful, open-hearted man who is enjoying life and the people he meets (most of them, anyway). ;-)