Monday, August 27, 2012

Drive Thru Etiquette for Canadian Newbies

I go home with a suitcase filled with Tim Horton's.

My parents visited Clarenville for the first time in February.

They live in Florida.

They aren’t into Skidooing, ice fishing, or snowshoeing, so a quick visit to Canadian Tire was the only authentic Canadian experience they had during their three-day visit. On the morning we left to drive them to the airport, my husband and I witnessed a rare phenomenon.

The Tim Horton’s drive thru was a reasonable eleven cars long.

Usually, the traffic clogging lines generated by Tim Horton’s cows us into going to McDonalds. But on this day, we had the chance to take my parents to, what How I Met Your Mother deemed, “The Most Canadian place in the Universe.”

“Before we leave, let’s grab some coffee and doughnuts at Timmies,” I said.  

The nickname felt informal on my tongue, as if I’d called my parents by their first names. I guess you have to live in Canada for longer than six months to get on a first name basis with Tim Horton’s.

We pulled into the advertisement-bedecked drive thru, and settled in for fifteen minutes of coffee-related musings.

I waxed poetic on how there was really no equivalent for Tim Horton’s in the United States.

Starbucks has an elitist, snootiness that Tim Horton’s rises above, I told them.

I recounted to our parents how on our first trip to St. John’s, the cab driver, the homeless man on the corner, the young couple walking down the street, and a woman in the BMW clasped their Tim Horton’s cup.

“It’s like the great Canadian equalizer,” I intoned knowledgably, blissfully unaware that we were about to commit the three cardinal sins of Tim Horton’s drive-thru etiquette.

Fellow newcomers to Clarenville, I offer you the chance to learn from our mistakes.

For though Canadians are stereotypically the most friendly people in the world, and Newfoundlanders are stereotypically the most friendly people in Canada, that friendliness is built on warm cups of Tim Horton’s coffee.

Come between them and their morning cup, and all bets are off.

It’s like denying a hungry polar bear by its morning seal. Or something. I don’t know, I haven’t lived here that long.

All I know is that when we pulled out of Tim Horton’s and on to Manitoba Drive the irritation we’d caused was palpable, the line was backed up into the street, and we were actually honked at by a customer a few cars back.

So here is what you need to know if you don’t want to anger the caffeine starved townspeople:

1. If you aren’t familiar with the menu, go inside.

Dad wanted to know about each coffee.

Mom wasn’t sure if she wanted a breakfast sandwich or not.

I really just wanted, what we call in the states, a plain glazed donut.

It took a bit of research and questioning to determine that the closest thing to a plain glazed donut at this Tim Horton’s is a sour cream glazed donut, which suddenly didn’t sound as yummy as ten lemon flavored Timbits.

All this muddled conversation with the person taking our order was pushing the normal fifteen-minute wait to twenty.

I’m certain the person behind us was incredulously thinking, “They’re actually ordering food?”

Park and go inside if you think you’ll have questions about your orders.

Pluralizing the word order leads me to the next point of drive through etiquette.

2. The drive through is for coffee only.

I don’t know why they even post the full menu in the drive through.

Posting a menu with only the coffee choices should be part of Transport Canada traffic regulations.

I think most Newfoundlanders follow this etiquette in the morning.

It’s only natural to get distressed when newbies ruin the morning flow with a buttered toasted bagel, a bizarre assortment of TimBits (“7 chocolate-glazed, 1 lemon, 2 honey, 1 sour cream, 8 dutchies, and a blueberry, please”), and a breakfast wrap (“hold the savoury sauce”). Of course this is in addition to their Hazelnut flavoured latte.

Just figure the more things the workers inside need to prepare, the longer the people behind you wait for their fix, and caffeine junkies have short fuses.

Seriously. reports that in March of this year “drive-through rage” caused a man from Grande Prairie, Alta., to cut in line and allegedly wave a gun at the customer behind him.

Tim Horton’s locations across Canada are considering putting double-double lanes in their drive throughs to help everyone in line stay a little more Zen, but even if this happens in Clarenville, JUST ORDER COFFEE.

A lot of hunters live in this town.

3. Know that they only take debit or cash and come prepared.

My dad insisted on paying and tried to use his Visa. Tim Horton’s does not take Visa.

So my parents decided they’d use up the last of their Canadian money before heading back to the states. They scrounged through their wallets for the bills and coins.

Trying to tell the difference between loonies, toonies, and quarters further slowed us down.

If you don’t have a lot of practice identifying Canadian coins, get a Canadian second grader to give you a tutorial. Just don’t attempt to learn while paying.

As we committed this final drive-through faux pas, the honking began.

My husband and I looked straight ahead, not wanting to see which of our neighbors was giving us the evil eye.

Hopefully not our favorite check out clerk at Sobeys, or the neighbor down the street who brought us cookies when we moved in, or the community nurse who taught our prenatal classes.

That is the thing about living in a small town.

You’ll eventually run into the people you piss off and that can lead to a whole lot of awkward.

Incidentally, my dad loved his Tim Horton’s coffee. He had it on his layover in Toronto, and I bring home cans of it whenever I visit.


MerMaidMa said...

hahah sounds like what a trip to any drive thru with my mom is like. i really would pay to see this if it were on video. :)

Jayme said...

Thanks for reading, Lauren! Tim Hortons is the busiest place in Clarenville. I'll try to snap a picture of the crazy line next time we're out. Saw a picture of the baby boy with his haircut. He looks so gown up!!