Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

Baloney Coffee
David Simmonds

First, it was the introduction of the frothy drinks, complete with an explanatory wheel. Then it was the supersizing. Can there be any doubt? The venerable Tim Horton's franchise is slowly transforming itself into a Starbucks. 

Personally, I've always disliked the bitter taste of Starbucks' coffee, and disdained the contrived Italian names they devised. You can't ask for a medium, unless they have an in-house spiritualist. You have to choose among an 8 ounce "Short," a 12-ounce "Tall," a 16-ounce "Grande' and a 20-ounce "Venti." I once had a multi-page "Starbucks Language Guide," slipped into my mailbox, explaining how to talk like a Starbucks insider. Do they really think I'm going to humiliate myself by asking for a "Grande"? No way, I want to talk to Starbucks in my language, not theirs. In fact, my language is clear. Starbucks, back off.

Tim Hortons is now offering latte, but it's not just any latte, it's a "perfect blend of premium espresso made from 100% arabica beans and warm frothy milk," all with a genuine smiley face powdered in to the top. Note the buzzwords: "perfect," "premium" and "100%." I can have it sweetened or unsweetened, to my taste. I can have it with one of their "irresistible caramel, vanilla, hazelnut or milk chocolate" flavours. I can have a mocha latte, blended with "rich cocoa" and topped with a "chocolate drizzle." Better still, I can graduate to a "flavoured latte supreme," with a "decadent drizzle" on top. If I don't like any of those, I can go for more coffee in my latte and call it a cappuccino, a shot of espresso - single or double - or have them water down my espresso and call it Americano. The next thing you know, they'll be giving me sugar choices, white, brown, course or fine or cubed, estate grown, or fair trade; and milk choices, skim or whole or 2 per cent, dairy or non-dairy, range fed or regular, moon jumped or grounded. Being second in line beside someone making a choice will become an agonizing wait: I'll need to drink a coffee while I wait to calm my nerve while I wait to order one and contemplate my bewildering choices.

Another inevitable development, of course, will be for Tim's to start calling its new cup sizes by exotic names. Small, medium, large and extra-large still sound a little plain. Male contraceptive devices have already taken the ideas of a large, extra-large, extra-extra-large and extra-extra-extra-large. My bet is that Hortons will also go for an exotic language, and given its quest for world domination, even though it has just shut up shop in Afghanistan.

I am thinking it will go for a universal language like Latin. A small will be a "Brevis," a big would be a "Magnus" and so on. There is a precedent for this, of course. Wayne and Schuster, gosh, that seems like eons ago, used to have a routine in which they asked for a single martini, a martinus. Their shtick wasn't particularly funny either.

It was bad enough when Hortons phased out the cherry crueller donut, for which I have never quite forgiven them. Now, I despair of ever being able to walk into an outlet again and say, "I'll have a coffee." If I am bold enough, when they ask me what size, what kind and what flavour, I'll say "I'm not telling: I just want a coffee." I suspect I am not alone in having this urge.

For all those of you who like the idea of risking your life savings, here's the proposal. Let's start a franchise called "Just Coffee." There's no consumer choice involved. You get your coffee in a uniform-sized mug, and you put your own cream and sugar in it. Never mind the Vente Splendido decadent drizzle hocus-pocus. Of course, we'll serve donuts - especially cherry crullers. They'd all be the same size: If one wasn't enough, you'd just order two.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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