OPINION: Can Donald Trump make Canada great again?
Something strange is happening.
As a Canadian who has lived and worked in the United States for more than 15 years, I've always felt like a bit of an outsider, with my strangely pronounced words and a deep knowledge of maple syrup.
But with Donald Trump's commanding lead in delegates and polls for the Republican presidential nomination, I'm finding that a new dynamic is developing: Americans are coming up to me, shyly and sweetly, and asking how exactly to get out.
In classroom terms, it's as if the quirky nerd in the corner suddenly became Homecoming King.
When one friend first raised the question, I laughed. After all, people always make these kind of dramatic proclamations during election season.
So I thought she was kidding. She wasn't.
"I'm 100 percent serious," she said. "I'm going to wait until around June to see if he's winning in the polls - and then I'm going to ask you what to do."
No wonder Google data editor Simon Rogers reported that, as Super Tuesday results rolled in, searches for "How can I move to Canada" spiked by 350 percent in just a few hours (later rising by more than 1,000 percent).
The prospect of a Trump-branded White House truly scares some people. Enough to make them actually consider a frosty future north of the 49th parallel, filled with hockey pucks, Tim Horton's coffee and Montreal bagels.
Some of my Canadian compatriots in the United States are even foreseeing some ripe romantic possibilities. One New York City lawyer I know has just seen her value on the dating market skyrocket - she has a Canadian passport and can move back to Vancouver whenever she wants.
As such, she is willing to consider the right American gentleman. But rest assured: The standards just got raised.
"For the right offer, I will consider giving my hand in marriage to a smart, funny, catch of an American man looking to flee to Canada," she said, tongue-in-cheek. "And by the right offer, I mean we need to fall in love. We'd better get started."
An added bonus: The country's immigration minister recently said he is planning a new policy of offering permanent residency status to all spouses of Canadians, immediately upon arrival.
Other Canuck friends are noticing the trend, too. One recently attended a literary conference in Arizona. A hot topic among attendees? "Moving to Canada if Trump got elected," she marvels. "Republicans didn't like him any better than Democrats!"
It should be noted, though: My American friends seem to assume, because of my mere Canadian-ness, that I somehow hold magic keys to the country, and can open doors for them. They envision simply walking through those doors, and then skating happily along Ottawa's Rideau Canal with Justin Trudeau and a piping mug of hot chocolate.
So let me be clear: I do not run the immigration department. I don't know Justin. I am a freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn with a beagle.
There is a process - a path to citizenship, one might say - just as there is in America, involving countless forms and background checks and waiting periods. (Memo to self: Perhaps build a wall?)
As Trump continues to rack up more states, Canadians are starting to sense the rising panic south of the border. One Nova Scotian even did some expert trolling on social media recently, inviting those frightened of a Trump future to come start a new life in Cape Breton.
But for my frantic American friends, I did feel it was my moral obligation to ask the Canadian government whether these masses of Trump refugees could get some special dispensation, and move to the front of the line.
Sorry, hosers - no dice. "All applicants who apply to Canada's immigration programs are treated equally no matter where they are from," a government spokesman replied dryly, pointing potential applicants to the Come to Canada website.
Anyway, maybe none of this shall come to pass. Maybe Trump will lose the election and return to Celebrity Apprentice to fire Dennis Rodman or Gary Busey, and we can all go back to our regularly scheduled programming.
But maybe not, eh?
Chris Taylor is an award-winning freelance writer in New York City. A former senior writer with SmartMoney, the Wall Street Journal's personal-finance magazine, he has been published in the Financial Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CNBC.com, Fortune, Money, and more. He has won journalism awards from the National Press Club, the Deadline Club, and the National Association of Real Estate Editors. The opinions expressed are his own.