“Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand.” William Butler Yeats penned these words in 1919, asking: “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Well Bill, after the events of this summer, I think we finally found the answer. It’s been a year with no shortage of apocalyptic portents: trouble in the holy land; mysteriously disappearing airplanes; people everywhere scrambling to dump buckets of ice on their heads at the behest of a now self-aware Internet. But one omen stands out from the rest: a nation robbed of its most sacred treasure, one powerful king dethroned by another, a populace left confused and defeated. Yes, the horror of horrors has come to pass. Tim Hortons has been acquired by Burger King. The rough beast is here.
In a deal worth over $12 billion, Tim Hortons was sold to Burger King to form what can only be called the Byzantine Empire of fast food chains. Though still headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, still maintaining its own operations independently of BK and still, well, virtually the exact same thing it always has been, the news of its acquisition has struck a devastating blow to the very fabric of our society. I’m here to explain away your worries.
As a Canadian, nay, as a patriot, I know most of you feel outraged. Sure, for many of us, Tim’s stopped being a hallmark of Canadian society (if it ever was) when they had the gall to merge with Wendy’s back in 1995, or, for some diehards, when they opened their first store in that godless land to the south in 1981. In fact, more than a few of us (especially that demographic which considers camouflage a fashion statement and the words ‘drive-thru’ a way of life) couldn’t care less which country’s taxes get to be evaded by Tim Hortons Inc. so long as they keep that awful, awful coffee coming our way.
However, I also know I’m not alone in always feeling at home after returning from abroad to a cup of coffee that’s so thoroughly burnt you can close your eyes and imagine what it feels like to die and go to hell. For a great deal of Canadians, that morning double double represents something far more than a quick fix of poor-man’s cocaine. It’s a national institution, a touchstone for every hoser’s sense of pride, a part of our history, our culture, our language and our people.
Try as we might, some of us can’t shake the feeling that something’s been lost in this corporate transaction and perhaps the heritage we had invested in Tim’s has suffered for it. Others, though, scoff and ridicule those who would seek their cultural identity in a doughnut. But this brings us to the point I wish to make. Maybe Tim Hortons is an icon for all things Canadian and really does serve an important social function that binds us together as a people and a community. Alternatively, it could just as well be the case that it’s no more than a well-to-do coffee joint interested in making a profit any way that it can. In fact, the latter is far more likely, but that doesn’t matter so long as we keep telling ourselves otherwise.
So long as we can keep the myth of Tim Hortons alive, so too will live the Canadian spirit as we know it. Maybe one day it will be shown that all our cultural icons—our great heroes, our great victories, our great moments—have as much to do with being Canadian as do Tim’s god-awful breakfast sandwiches. The point isn’t whether or not those stories are real. It’s whether or not they help us get along as a country. And if that means finding meaning and identity in a commercial chain of coffee shops, owned by a fictitious king of meat-based products and french fries, owned by a group of investors based in Brazil, so be it.
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