Larry & Tims’ Excellent Metaphorical Adventure …


Tims and Canada

It’s a Beautiful Horror.

Take a well-honed knife and slice deep into the gut of any Canadian and it won’t be ruby-red blood that spurts out making hot, thick puddles on the cold, northern pavement.


The first steamy gush you see will be a caramel-coloured double-double (2 creams, 2 sugars) mix of Tim Hortons’ coffee.

I’m not just saying this because I own shares in Tim Hortons (heartbreakingly, soon to be owned by Burger King). Nab any Maple Leaf flag passport carrier you meet anywhere in the world and ask them if they bleed Tims. I know their answer.

It’s a universal truth.

Tims serves about 70 billion cups of coffee a day in Canada. I’m pretty sure that number is accurate …

Like millions and millions of others who live in this narrow band of rocky, tree-laden land stretched out like a purring cat on the shrugging shoulders of the USA border, I visit Tim Hortons at least once each week (or day) for a morning caffeine cup.

Every province and territory of Canada has a Tim Hortons, the northernmost cafe buried in the frigid Arctic capitol of Nunavut, Iqaluit.


Iqaluit Tim Hortons


I quaff Tim Hortons coffee. Therefore I am. Canadian. And it’s at Tims (Canadians enjoy a certain intimacy with Tim Hortons … Tims or Timmies will suffice) where our Canuck stories originate.

(BTW: I’m OK with branding myself Canadian, but I don’t wear my citizenship proud and smug as a superiority badge. It’s merely a label, a way of identifying where I’m from but not a whole lot more.

I’m rummaging for ways to bring me closer to the other inhabitants of the world; fiercely calling myself Canadian just creates a separation, a boundary that I want to send tumbling down like the Berlin Wall.)

More important than the coffee or donuts and the Roll Up the Rim contests are the stories that take place. Life is lived large and small in the beige and brown metal chairs and tables.

  • When we gather for weddings and funerals, before we head to the church we congregate at Tims – we hug our relatives, smile in pleasure or jubilation, sometimes weep in remembrance or anguish.
  • When our intimate relationships are melting into a soupy mess, we stare hopefully across from each other at Tims to either mold and press the hot molten wax back into a love candle or blow out the remaining wick’s embers.
  • Tims is the second (or first) business office for many enterprises. I’ll bet that most bank or store robberies are planned on cruller-stained napkins at the local Tims. Yup, big drug deals are negotiated, hit terms agreed upon in hushed whispers between bagel bites, business mergers and buyouts between small businesses thrashed out amid bacon grease.
  • Internet dating first-timers settle down at a Tims’ table to explore and examine their counterpoint under the microscope d’amour, deciding if any possible next drink shared should be wine with white tablecloths and candles.
"You don't look anything like your profile shot..."

“You don’t look anything like your profile shot…”

I’ve written a couple of Tims-related blog posts now – one where I sat next to a murderer, the other a bittersweet reunion between two long- and sadly-separated female lovers. The stories are there for the taking and the cost of admission to the theatre is one small double-double coffee or green tea with lemon.

When I sit down at Tims, I search for the smiles and frowns scattered amongst the tables. I try to tune out the humming buzz of activity at the front counter, the warm yeasty smells, and focus on the resonance of conversation taking place in the small groups of wrinkled old men, middle-aged women in Lululemon ass-enhancing yoga pants, or fresh-faced, young couples.

I glance around at the faces seated at the tables: some head down in their cellphones or tablets, some writing entries into small tan-coloured moleskin notebooks, others chatting and laughing in little grouplets, some young families – the littlest members still in their flannel plaid pajama bottoms, hair toussled as if they just arose from their sleepy slumbers.

The mix of ages, gender, and ethnicity is warmly comforting in its variety and reflection of today’s Canada.

If you want to know the touchstone of Canada and its people, Tims is the place to be.

And in the end, how Canadian is it that when I absorb the stories that float on the donut-scented breeze of this coffee shop, I can’t help but think of Tim Horton the man? After all, he is responsible for sending me a dividend cheque every 3 months to assist in paying my retirement wage.

So I raise my coffee cup to you Tim, the great rough-and-tumble Canadian hockey player who didn’t live long enough to see the mountain of coffee-dom he created and the iconic energy source that pulses through the double-double bloodstream of every Canadian.


Tim Horton2

A Tim Hortons Love Story


All great and precious things are lonely.”

John Steinbeck


Was it a faint hint of a tear I saw at the corner of her eye as I sat down with my coffee?

She was perched upright with her back snugged close to the large plate-glass window so that she was able to view the entire area of the store including the main entry door at the far side.

It’s not every day that I encounter a fractal of emotion when I order a “double-double” at my Summerland Tim Hortons’ coffee shop.


This is me being discreet when I snoop on others at Tim Hortons …

But of course now I’m intrigued, just like I was a number of months back when I sat next to a murderer at the Penticton Tim Hortons.

Tims has become the quintessential microcosm of Canadian existence, probably like Dunkin Donuts if you’re American, or Gloria Jean’s if you happen to live Down Under.

I curiously examined the inches-away-from-elderly lady (we’ll call her Linda) with dyed light-coloured hair; the network of heat-wave like wrinkles around her eyes and forehead told a truer story of her age. Scuffing her tan-toned shoes nervously over the tile floor, her eyes furtively scanned back and forth.

What was making this woman feel so distracted and out-of-sorts?

As many of us often do when we’re seated in a restaurant, I pried into my neighbour’s life and tried to piece together a sense of a story.

Here was an older woman sitting by herself but obviously expecting someone or something to happen. Nervous anticipation was written all over her face and body language. She turned and wiggled the narrow gold band on her finger uneasily.

It didn’t seem likely that she awaited a friend she met daily or weekly.

She was too old to be waiting on a business meeting or a job interview.

Perhaps a visit from a son or a grandchild had her feeling a bit edgy – had there been some family tension lately? Possibly she wanted to discuss how she would be dividing her estate when the end of her days arrived.

Or maybe … she was a widow awaiting the arrival of a man who had expressed an interest in her companionship. But there was that tear in her eye that left me wondering.

I sipped the steaming coffee, enjoying its smooth creaminess and feeling a bit guilty about having stirred in two Splenda sweeteners instead of the one I had promised to restrict myself to – too bad they were finished with the Roll-Up-The-Rim contest, not that I ever won anything anyways.

Then it occurred to me that there could be a person or two in my midst that was spying in on me at my table and wondering what my story held.

The watcher being watched.

I looked around at the other tables and their occupants suspiciously. Spooky.

But I snapped to present reality when I detected the woman’s eyebrows raise and her eyes lock onto a similarly elderly woman slowly passing through the door at the front.

I could feel it –  this was it.

The story would unfold now.

Book unfolds

This new woman (let’s call her Rose), similar height, similar age but with short cropped salt and pepper hair peered anxiously around until she spotted her acquaintance and, smiling tightly, hustled over to the table.

There was a girl-like shyness about Linda as she rose stiffly and was engulfed in the arms of her friend.

Then, the tension melted away and they sank comfortably into each other’s arms, like long lost lovers reunited … and … I began to realize that this WAS the story.

Let me tell you the rest – at least as I imagined it.

two women hugging

Decades earlier, the two had been nurse co-workers in Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

Working as part of a team, they were set in tense situations frequently while patient after patient entered their lair. It was hard – exhausting, physically and emotionally – work.

Their camaraderie and closeness grew over the months and years. Then one night, after a particularly tense crisis event, their friendship spilled over into a romantic interlude – the surface tension burst and developed into a relationship that continued on for months.

A covert operation.

It was a forbidden love in a society that told them what they were doing was so wrong, and yet they couldn’t step back. Their passion and affection wouldn’t be denied, just guiltily hidden from an unaccepting and hostile world.

But the step back did finally occur when Linda’s father suspected what he didn’t really want to know.

His solution to this “problem” was to forcibly introduce suitable young men into this daughter’s life. And … buckling into the pressure of her family, Linda eventually succumbed and agreed to marry the least disagreeable of the suitors.

Linda brokenheartedly and reluctantly cut her tie with Rose, married the young man and moved away to the small idyllic town of Summerland in the interior of the province.

The next 40 years were spent raising a young family, nursing at the local hospital, and living the quiet, desperate existence of a life of lies to herself.

Meanwhile, Rose passed her years in muffled isolation, immersing herself in her nursing life and occasionally allowing herself the stinging pleasure of remembering her one passionate connection. A mixture of melancholy and happy reminiscence encircled her days.

Rose retired and spent her hours gardening, reading and volunteer in a local nursing home when, one day, a letter arrived.

She could almost hear her heart beating as she opened it and read the bittersweet words from the pen of a decades-long-gone-lover.

It told her the story of a woman recently widowed who had found Rose’s address in the pages of the retired nurses’ website. It told her of a life spent with a husband and children –  days of school meetings and routines, and days filled with happiness and sadness.

And then, at its end, it asked if an opportunity to meet once again was possible. A gathering of old “friends”.


And so this is where you and I came in.

I gulped back the last drops of lukewarm coffee, rubbed my moist eyes and smiled as I watched them speak in soft tones and with long, lingering looks.

The last thing I saw as I pushed the door open to depart and return to my own life, was the two, their hands extended across the table, firmly holding on to each other as if they would never let go … again …

A great and precious love had been pried apart by an unaccepting world that had finally turned into a place of welcome.

I could feel the cavernous sense of lonely dissolving like sugar in aromatic coffee, leaving only the delicate sweetness swirling in its wake.

Holding hands