LifelineT. SHER SINGH
Saturday, September 1, 2012
I’ve figured it out: there are just about two unadulterated pleasures left in life as we know it today.
The first is Tim Horton’s, the second a massage.
The latter I won’t get into today. I have no intention of depriving you of an opportunity to let your imagination wander, and give you a feast of titillating thoughts.
The first one is what I want to talk about today.
It’s a brand name for a chain of coffee shops that have been growing like dandelions across this fair land. Some seeds have blown down, across the 49th Parallel, and taken root in the US as well. Some have reported sightings of it as far as Afghanistan, believe it or not.
I’m not here to promote the brand. For a simple reason: they’re not paying me. Not even a free cup of coffee.
So, let’s talk in generic terms. The name now represents an idea, no longer limited to the original object. Like ’thermos’ for a vacuum flask. Or ’fridge’ for a cooling box. Or ’george bush’ for an idiot. Or ‘mulroney’ for a politician who takes cash bribes.
Tim Horton’s is everywhere.
There was a time, especially when we first moved to Canada in the early 1970s, when the honour of being all-pervading - reserved in Sikhism for God only - was given to banks. Real banks, not ATMs.
Not only were they to be found on every corner of every cross-road in the land, but it had been decided by some very bright people that since each street corner actually had four ‘corners’, none of them should be wasted. So, we had four banks on every street crossing.
To be fair, I hasten to make it clear that Canadians aren’t stupid. Sure, there were four banks at every traffic light, but they were branches of four different banks, not just one. The reason was simple: Canadians simply do not like having to cross the road to make a deposit or withdrawal.
The advent of ATMs, however, made a dent in this time-honoured Canadian innovation. We have nevertheless continued the tradition the best we can under the circumstances.
So, what to do with the empty corners now, was the dilemma, once the corners came vacant.
The void was filled, not without much thought, I should add.
Four gas stations at every street corner was the brilliant solution. Again, to avoid any misunderstanding, they belong to four different brands … even though it’s true, the profits do end up ultimately in the same pockets. (In Texas, I’m told.)
A brilliant idea, I must say. You never had to make even a turn or negotiate a stop-sign, leave alone have to cross traffic lights, to fill up the tank. It certainly helped deal with the oil glut the world was suffering from ever since the Arabs had started digging in their backyards.
Now, in the 21st century, we have added a whole new dimension to our culture of instant gratification.
All you have to do is ask, “Is there a Tim Horton’s around here?” and one appears instantly within your vision. I don’t know how they do it, but believe me, it woiks.
The other day - and I swear this is true - I was in Buffalo (that’s New York state, in the U-S-A!) - and I said to myself, “Wish there was a Tim Horton’s around!“, and voila! one appeared right then.
It happened in Michigan too, not too long ago, believe it or not, as I crossed the border from Sarnia into Port Huron on my way westwards.
Here in rural Mount Forest where I live, yes, we have our very own Tim Horton’s. A village of 5000, and the good lord has made sure we are not deprived.
I’m relieved though that it isn’t around the corner from me; it’s actually situate at the other end of the - er - town. Which is good. Forces me to walk a bit every time my body craves for a cuppa.
A few times a day, I’m afraid.
It begins around 3 in the morning, when I stumble out of bed. I check the weather channel, dress up accordingly, and then get my morning walk … yes, to Tim Horton’s. It’s the only thing that could make me walk such a distance. Can you imagine the net impact on my body if the Tim Horton’s had been closer, say, around the corner?
I am indebted to it for many more reasons.
It wakes me up, just getting there. Then, as I step in, the aroma unlocks my brain. The hot liquid then kick-starts the grey matter … and weird thoughts flow out unabated. It’s kind of psychedelic, if you ask me.
Frankly, I’ve often wondered - and I bet you have too, when you read my pieces - what they must put in the coffee at Tim Horton’s.
I love watching people come and go at the shop at different times of the day: remember, it’s the only excitement we get to have here, north of the Saugeen river.
At 4:00 in the morning, it’s Dave who can’t sleep, ever, because of an ailment, and walks the streets all night long - and day too - to avoid boredom. The long-distance truckers. Farmers and far-hands. Torontonians rushing to cottage country further north from us. Or back. Commuters. Gossip cliques of retirees. Internet moochers. Tired housewives. Employees on breaks ... or on a salary. Baby strollers. Escapees from the nearby hospital, complete with walkers and, sometimes, IV life-lines.
The queues at the till … and the drive-thru … swell during peak hours, and ebb and flow with the movements of the sun and the moon during the rest.
Looking at them, there’ve been times I’ve wondered, and others in town have whole-heartedly joined me on this: if we can have hi-speed internet, why can’t we have a hi-speed coffee line at Tim Horton’s?
I mean, if you’ve ever had to spend a full five minutes waiting for your turn at Tim Horton’s, you’ll know exactly what I mean!
Conversation about this article
1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), September 01, 2012, 8:27 PM.
It might appear sacrilegious. I know little of Tim Horton's. It has not taken root in Malaysia yet. It portends to reach our shores one day. We have Starbucks, White Coffee, etc. within shouting distance. I wasn't a coffee fiend except for the brief interlude during college days when it was mandatory to visit the local coffee house. In those days in Ludhiana only tinned Polson's French Coffee was available. My first real experience was in 1947 to visit the hallowed India Coffee House in Connaught Place, New Delhi. The first experience was its bitter taste but considered necessary for the initiation. The aroma in the coffee house itself was rather pleasant. Later on, as a tea planter and tea maker, coffee was banned as we then served the very best home produced tea. Since we had a tea factory we would often get loads of visitors to see the tea manufacture. One much important aspect was the tea tasting. This was done ceremoniously by our tea maker every time a new batch was produced. It was akin to wine tasting. We would also invite the visitors to taste. They would face the 20 odd cups of tea with the brewed tea leaves on the side and take a sip from each cup. Then I would have the tea maker show how it was really done. He would take a good sip, swirl it around in his mouth and face heaven-wards, but with closed eyes, and then spit it out. "But, we drank," said the visitors. "Yes, that was expected and encouraged," said I, "to ensure that nothing untoward happens to the tea Master." On the massage front, in Punjab we had no tradition of therapeutic massage spas because of the possibility of complications. The service was provided, if and when needed, by pehalwaans (wrestlers) who served as part-time masseurs. They would visit your home to give you a good oil massage and work-out for your tired or achy limbs. One Sunday morning, I remember, when my uncle - then, the DPI Punjab - was getting his weekly oil massage. A familiar Sardar appeared, asking for a safaarashi (recommendation) letter. My Mama ji had a great sense of humour and ordered him to take off his clothes and join him for a massage. The hapless fellow had no choice but to comply and was given a good rub down. After, he was told to come to the office the next morning for the letter he wanted. The poor Sardar, following a vigorous and painful rub, asked: "Pehalwan ji, would you be available to give such a massage to my enemies, if I needed you?"