Tim Hortons: The Hero We Need

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Issue 13, Volume 111

By Anisa Gao 

I really don’t wear much during the barren New York winters, but when I do, it’s always this sage green fluff-lined hooded coat with canvas-like pockets and marbled brown buttons the size of nickels. My head still tells me it’s autumn, even with the occasional sight of morning frost and icicle-lined bumpers—symptoms of a Canadian spring. It’s the perfect season for a cup of tea, but my headache demands something cold, and the school day ahead of me isn’t planning to disappear anytime soon. For now, I don’t mind the stares I get for being a kid up at 6:00 a.m. because the night I spent filled with rushed papers and messily written notes craves a taste of a true piece of New York City.

I rush past 7-Eleven, trying to think of a witty insult for the establishment. I shake my head back awake, drilling myself for trying to pick a fight with a convenience store. Desperation kicks in as I approach my target franchise donut shop.

The grotesquely neon pink and orange make me trip over my laces as I try to ignore the Comic Sans font Dunkin’ Donuts chose for their logo. However, it’s the audacity, the sheer spunk to put beautifully butchered snowflake stickers on their pathetic windows, which forces me away from the beastly donut shop.

My legs begin to move, easing from a light fight-or-flight jog to a steady gallop. I know I wouldn’t be caught dead buying their crunchy ice coffees after spending most of my life sipping on the wonderfully smooth slushie that is the Tim Hortons Iced Cappuccino. It’d be a reputation-ruining dishonor, not only to myself but also to my stomach, which would truly be horrified to wake up drowning in bitter sludge.

Other than a minuscule selection of donuts, a few breakfast sandwiches, and their coffees, Dunkin’s menu pales in comparison to Tim Hortons’s delicious sandwiches, commercially cute Timbits, and wide assortment of baked goods, ranging from seasonal icing cookies to the wonderful but discontinued ginger molasses cookies.

The scent of wonderfully dipped donuts and toasted potato wedges enters my mind as I find myself in the surprisingly empty sector of Penn Station. But this magical place is far from dormant as the smell and sight of maple sugar and caramel are exciting and lively to both my nose and eyes.

Even the person who knocks into my side cannot distract me from the abstract warm sepia and striped khaki against a true northern red that serve as the backdrop for the brush script font. Noticing the missing Roll Up the Rim™ signs lets my heart down a bit, but the plastic cup the employee hands to me scoops it back up into my chest.

It drops back down almost immediately. The drink is oddly foamy at the top and melting at the bottom. Someone a kilometer away can see that the drink is horribly mixed with its syrupy layer separated from the ice, but I take an adventurous sip anyway.

It’s absolutely ghastly. There are no subtle hints of skiing on a winter break or field trip to a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. I check under the cup, looking for a sticky note saying “April Fools’.” Where’s my daily serving of licking icicles or shot of freezing my tongue to the flagpole?

I can’t believe it. It simply isn’t possible to reduce such an art form, a masterpiece, to a sludgy, over-caffeinated mess. The caffeine begins to kick in, making my heart drum rapidly against my throat. Hands sweaty and feet twitchy, I feel my coup de grâce as I remember that I’m not in my local Torontonian Tim Hortons but a train station in New York City.

The Americans have done it again. The Stanley cups should’ve been enough, but no, they went ahead and ripped the last bits of my childhood away, not caring where their greedy hands wandered.

My nails begin digging into the skin of my palm. My brows furrow as I watch my skin redden at an alarming rate. My eyes trickle up the condescending drink freezing my other hand. It’s all that I can see, so I begin to panic as my arms feel a leap of adrenaline, pulling toward nowhere as if I am standing in front of a stomping caribou.

The employee waves a hand at me, trying to hand a mediocre cup of joe to the crummy teenager up at 6:00 a.m. because she forgot about her project deadlines. I’m suddenly not on my way back from school in February, dying for a drink before my train arrives. I’m hours early for first period and barely grasping at the plastic cup as all I can think about is how much I want to taste the familiar notes of maple syrup and caramel again.

When I recount that vivid memory of getting an iced cappuccino at the Penn Station Tim Hortons, I wish I never stepped foot into the establishment. That funny taste of dark coffee and chunky ice shards biting my tongue back never seem to leave me alone, reminding me of why Tim Hortons is such a scarce sight to see in America. On that fateful day, as I digested the off-putting taste of cream and sugar crystals, my mind wondered if I could ever have a piece of my childhood in the comforts of the hectic Big Apple. I could possibly invest in expanding the American branches of Tim Hortons and improving the menu variety, but I stop my derailing train of thought as I recall that I am someone who is barely passing half her classes.

I start my journey back to my house as I try to recount European History vocabulary terms under the rising sun on a cool winter morning.