Canada and Me

Oh, Canada! Lately I’ve had a lot of dealings with the place, just over the phone, which have led me to the impressions that Toronto is a nice place, albeit with some bad neighborhoods, and Montreal is a Hellmouth.

Until 2008, I had never even set foot in Canada, despite the fact that I’ve travelled through much of the world, and next to Mexico, it’s the closest foreign country to my home.

But in the Fall of that year, we took a family trip across country, and it was easy to map Canada in by making it our leg between Michigan and Niagara Falls. The experience was surprisingly disappointing.

The Canadian border guard had a Dudley Do-Right hat on, which I thought was marvelously cultural, but he sure was grumpy. He reluctantly stamped all our passports after checking us all out, as if he wished he could tell us Canada was closed today.

We had a long way to go in the day, so it wasn’t likely we’d get to experience much of Canada, unless we decided to stay on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. My personal goal for Canada was to get a donut from Tim Horton’s. To me, Tim Horton’s was a mini-Canada in itself to be truly experienced only within the boundaries of Canada. It’s a legendary chain of coffee-and-donut shops, kind of like Dunkin’ Donuts, but Canadian. For one thing, they’re named after a hockey player! I can’t name a single American hockey player, much less one famous enough to have donut shops named after him.

By the time we reached Hamilton, all the soda I’d drunk had caught up with me. I figured we could have a twofer by stopping in at a Tim Horton’s and using the facilities. Peter found one for us just off the freeway in what looked like downtown Hamilton.

It was far from the kind of Tim Horton’s I’d dreamed of. First of all, when we finally got a clerk’s attention, she told us there were no bathrooms for us to use. Thereupon, all the clerks turned their diligent attention to their drive-through window and ignored us, except for one, who sat sullenly in the corner and pointedly pretended not to hear us as we pleaded for donuts. The last time I’d seen service so bad and sullen, I was in the Soviet Union, but even there I was able to get some food, just served up with lots of sighs and a bad attitude.

I was so put off, we all piled back into the car and drove as fast as we could to New York, where the far friendlier American border guard was amused to hear our story of the bad Tim Horton’s and welcomed us back home. We did cross back into Canada a few times crossing the Niagara Falls bridge after we’d settled ourselves in a motel.

Since then Canadians have dismissed by bad Tim Horton’s experience and how it colored my impressions of their country. I will simply put forth the fact that we are all ambassadors and representatives of our native countries, even — nay, especially — if you’re Canadian and you work at Tim Horton’s.

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