By Jason Menard
Like many of you reading this column right now, I just put down my cup of Tim Hortons coffee. For many, starting the morning with a trip to the drive through is as much a part of waking us as brushing your teeth – to speak nothing of afternoon and evening trips to the neighbourhood “Timmy’s.”
Buy why? The simple answer is that we, as a society, have chosen to worship at the Church of Tim’s.
Tim Hortons fans are a passionate bunch. Like a favoured family member, they call the establishment by cute little nicknames such as Tim’s and Timmy’s (or, as one particularly obnoxious person I knew used to refer to it as Timmy Ho’s!) Discarded coffee cups dot our landscape like falling leaves. The franchises cursive signage as familiar as our own signature.
In its 40 years, the image of Tim Horton the hockey player has been lost – swept away in the disposed coffee grounds of history. For many, he is no longer a man, but simply a faceless, ubiquitous presence on our landscape. But the question lingers. Why does Tim Hortons – apostrophe challenged as it may be – have such a firm grip on our collective conscious, while its caffeinated brethren, such as Second Cup and Dunkin’ Donuts, continue toil along in relative obscurity, not enjoying the same level of cultural attachment that Tim’s commands.
With some people, their attachment borders on the addictive. In fact, there may be money in establishing methadone clinics for coffee drinkers! A 12-step program? A coffee bean patch? But what inspires this reverence and dedication?
The answer lies in the community. Mass communications, telephony, the Internet, and all manner of technological achievements have made contact with the far corners of the Earth as simple as talking to our neighbour. Perhaps overwhelmed with the fact that the world is literally at our fingertips, we have become more withdrawn. The sense of community has diminished to the point where many of us no next to nothing about the people that live right next door. The act of going to Church, once such an integral part of the Canadian fabric, has since diminished as evidenced by shrinking congregations.
But we, as humans, are social animals. We crave a sense of kinship. To feel connected to the group, we need that sense of shared experience. That’s one of the reasons that team sports are so successful. As a Canadiens’ fan, I can see someone wearing the Habs’ jersey and know we share common ground. Television shows and movies provide that same sense of commonality – the knowledge that while we may be cooped up in our homes, we still are participating in something shared by the community at large.
So today, instead of lining up to receive the Eucharist from the priest, we queue up to purchase our java. And when we look around us and see others sharing the same experience we feel a sense of connection to the greater community. In fact, recent Tim Hortons advertisements have played on that theme, using a travel mug as a symbol of Canada that brings people together even in far-flung parts of the world.
All around the world, various cultures have their comfort foods. They are generally simple, inexpensive meals that inspire memories of home and feelings of security. For many Canadians, it can be argued that Tim Hortons coffee has become their comfort beverage. And, despite its stimulating qualities, coffee is actually associated with taking a break from the hectic pace of life. The languid pace of coffee drinking is the ideal setting for relaxed conversation.
It is ironic that even though we gravitate towards larger cities we lose our sense of community. More people surrounding us only seems to drive us further into isolation and a feeling of detachment. Crowded environments blur into faceless masses. So it’s only natural that we search for those common experiences that make us feel closer to our fellow man.
I was always bewildered by this Cult of Tim. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of their coffee, but I’ll have a cup here and there. But now, instead of looking on in bewilderment at the counter line-ups or in the drive-through, I can look on with sympathy.
After all, we’re all just looking for our place in this life – one cup at a time.
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