Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution. The venerable coffee and doughnuts chain is as much a part of our identity as ice hockey. Almost every red blooded Canadian citizen loves a shot of Tim’s glory first thing in the morning. Almost. I once considered myself a loyal fan of Tim Hortons, someone who would get up half an hour earlier just to make sure that I got a decent spot in the morning coffee cue. After waiting in said line for a good quarter hour and getting that first splash of double double magnificence into my gulliver (and maybe a little bit of sour cream glazed glory), I’d walk into the day a happier man, ready to seize all that life held between her legs. Yeah, the good old days.
No longer. As with all things simple and beautiful, the moderns have rendered the Tim Horton’s morning coffee experience unbearable. When I see people diving out of their cars and running into the cafe to get ahead of me, to get their coffees scant seconds before I do, I have to shake my head in pity. When I see and feel the impatience of people while waiting in line, often taken out on underpaid cashiers, I think it might be time to switch up the morning routine. On more than one occasion, I have witnessed people – usually looking well-to-do and smelling of expensive morning cologne – simply waltz to the front of the line and say, “Sorry, but I’m in a hurry,” and proceed to get their extra-large triple-triple. A few almost-fistfights. Customers swearing at each other and making threats. Collisions in the drive-thru. Unfuckingbelievable.
These days, it’s The Second Cup for me. I’ve had it up to here with the idiots at Tim’s. Not that my quiet insurrection will do any harm to Tim Hortons’ bottom line. But that’s not the point. These days, I just need a quiet morning without the bullshit. At SC, where the coffee is only marginally more expensive than Tim’s (pennies, really), I get to know the staff because it’s not screaming busy in the AM. There’s no line up. I can actually talk to the people serving me without having to worry that some miscreant behind me in line is gonna pull a shank and take me out because he’s sick of waiting. There is the perky bariste whose voice could lift anyone’s day out of the muck. The crusty-eyed coffee wrangler with freshly showered hair and two days of stubble who nods more than he talks always kind of makes my day. Then there’s the manager who lounges about and yaks with the morning regulars (who are so bizarre that they warrant their own post on this website – stay tuned). After only a few weeks of regular AM vists, I’m a regular. They’re teeing up my coffee as soon as they see me walk in. Sure, it’s not quite the same as Tim’s, but I don’t feel murderous and ashamed of humanity when I walk out of the place. I feel like my daily business is noticed and appreciated. I feel like a well-balanced human being.
Author’s Note: I’m on vacation for the next two weeks. Regular postings return on October 23, 2006.
Hands Holding Cup
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?