The cultural icon that unites Canadians from coast to coast is undoubtedly the fast food chain, Tim Hortons. These cozy little shops sell coffee and donuts, as well as bagels, hot soup and chili, sandwiches and other baked goodies. The hot steeped tea is up to standard and younger customers can sip on hot chocolate or a number of other beverages. Tim Hortons has become the meeting place of choice for friends, the local “neighbourhood pub” where you can linger and visit without fear of being shooed out. They are found in hospital lobbies (the hospital where my daughter works has two!), on university campuses, and now, even in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Toronto Star reported yesterday that Canadian taxpayers would be spending $4 million to maintain a Tim Hortons outlet for Canadian troops for a year. Our local radio station polled people about this expenditure, and the majority of respondents thought it was a good idea. Some suggested that donation boxes should be set up in Canadian stores so customers could buy a soldier a coffee. Buying someone a Tim’s coffee is a common courtesy here. Friends of ours were in a drive-through, and when they came to the window to pay for their order, found that the person in front of them, a total stranger, had paid their bill and had left a message to “have a good day”.
John Stackhouse, a Globe and Mail reporter, hitch-hiked across Canada and then wrote of his adventures in the book Timbit Nation: A hitchhiker’s view of Canada. I heard the author read from his book a couple of years ago, and have enjoyed re-reading my own copy. Tim Horton’s is truly the Canadian road traveller’s mecca. In my community job, bathrooms can be scarce, especially in rural areas, but I can count on Tim’s for relief, refreshment, and a warm place to sit in the winter to do a little charting.