With discussions about the safety — and perceived safety — of public places in Canada following a series of summer shootings, you would assume a tourist's written concern about a dangerous situation in a Calgary Park would be taken seriously.
Not so when that concern equates an unfriendly tone of voice with a "life-or-death encounter."
Walt Wawra, a Michigan police officer, recently wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald, describing his discomfort he felt when caught in a "dangerous" confrontation with two men in Calgary's Nose Hill Park without his gun.
(Canada doesn't let tourists bring guns into the country with them. Wawra said that it "felt strange not to carry my off-duty handgun.")
His concern would have been met with understanding had he and his wife encountered gun-toting ruffians. In Wawra's case, however, it appears he was caught in a "dangerous" round of small talk.
"Recently, while out for a walk in Nose Hill Park, in broad daylight on a paved trail, two young men approached my wife and me. The men stepped in front of us, then said in a very aggressive tone: 'Been to the Stampede yet?'" he wrote.
"We ignored them. The two moved closer, repeating: 'Hey, you been to the Stampede yet?' I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, 'Gentle-men, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye.' They looked bewildered, and we then walked past them. I speculate they did not have good intentions when they approached in such an aggressive, disrespectful and menacing manner. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort, but rather concluded it was in their best interest to leave us alone."
Read the entire letter here.
Almost immediately, Wawra become what Gawker called "the laughing stock of Canada." The Calgary Herald even had to confirm that the letter was written by "a real person" after readers started believing the letter was a hoax.
On Twitter, Canadians starting mocking Wawra with the hashtag #NoseHillGentlemen.
Dave Chan tweeted: "A clerk at London Drugs asked me if I was having a nice day. I think she might have wanted to stab me. #NoseHillGentlemen"
Jason Dorn chimed in, too: "Awkward moment at the entrance to Tims, one of those "no you go first" situations, wish I'd had a gun. #nosehillgentlemen"
Even a Calgary restaurant, Taste, joined in, mocking Wawra on its sandwich board: "Have you been to the Stampede? Just kidding. Don't shoot me!"
See the latest here.
Gawker updated the story with more embarrassing details: the two "gentle-men" who approached Wawra were likely promoters handing out free tickets to the Stampede.
Wawra insisted to CBC News that he doesn't regret writing the letter:
"What concerned me is two young men just approached us and stopped us, stopping us by being in our path, and [began] talking to us without even being welcome to talk to us. They just took it upon themselves to yell at us."
[ Related: U.S. man gets 3 years for gun smuggling ]
Some Twitter users took a more serious tone with their criticism of Wawra's letter. Had he been carrying a gun, the situation could have escalated into something serious — and deadly.
Steph Guthrie tweeted: "Think about it: the #NoseHillGentlemen encounter could've ended with two dead young men because of a psychotically suspicious gun owner."
Wawra's letter didn't point to an unsafe Canada, it pointed to an unsafe tourist. Canada's firearm rules for the win.