News item: Regina city council might change a bylaw that bans residents from running extension cords across the sidewalk to the block heaters of their cars. The cords are a tripping hazard, but frozen vehicles won’t start if not plugged in.
In related news, it’s Victoria Flower Count time.
For those who haven’t heard of the flower count, it’s a light-hearted, good-natured promotion intended to make other Canadians feel even more miserable about the bleak, frozen, featureless, pestilential hellholes in which they live.
Also known as the Festival of Bite Me, Toronto, the flower count celebrates all that is glorious about Victoria at this time of year, or at least what would be glorious were Victoria described by the late Kim Jong-Il.
“While many North American cities are fighting Old Man Winter, Victorians are very fortunate to be enjoying spring temperatures of 10-15 degrees Celsius,” wrote the chamber of commerce when the flower count began last week. “Also, everyone in North Korea is happy and has too much food.”
We who live in the City of Gardens know that the flower count isn’t actually based on real science (if it were, Stephen Harper wouldn’t let us talk about it). We tend to fib a bit in tallying the number of blooms.
In 2012, for example, Victoria’s sixth-coldest February on record led into a flower count week during which the big, red, here-comes-something-biblical Environment Canada warnings never left the Weather Network screen: snow, howling wind, locusts. Yet we still somehow managed to claim two billion blossoms.
Never mind. What really matters is the rest of the country gets the message that we are different, that while they sit gripping their ice-cold Timbits, tears turning to ice halfway down their frostbitten cheeks, here in the lower left hand corner of the country floats another version of Canada.
For this is the truth: If the U.S. can be split between red states and blue, Canada also exists in two solitudes. No, not French and English, but block heater versus no block heater. East of the Fraser Valley — beyond Hope, as it were — exists an entire race of people whose knuckles are permanently scarred from bashing them across the grille of the car as they uncouple extension cord from block heater cord.
They speak an arcane language dotted with curious references to “square tires,” “gas line antifreeze” and “the smell of burning cat hair when the engine finally starts.” Canadian Tire sells 60 per cent of its block heaters on the Prairies, where it has just 15 per cent of its stores.
Even more defining is the Starbucks-Tim Hortons divide. A Canada.com editor named William Wolfe-Wylie recently mapped out an analysis of where the two chains have coffee shops.
“Tim Hortons owns Eastern Canada and the highways between major cities,” he found. “Starbucks owns the urban core.” Vancouver was the only major metro area to tilt toward the latter. (In Hollywood, they joke that you can always tell if a movie has been filmed in Vancouver: There’s a Starbucks in every shot.)
Overall, Timmy’s dominates the Canadian coffeescape. “While Starbucks runs just under 1,200 Canadian locations, Tim Hortons has more than triple that number,” Wolfe-Wylie wrote.
But a quick look at the Yellow Pages shows Greater Victoria runs completely opposite to the national trend: 28 Starbucks between Langford and Sidney, compared with just 10 Timmies. Forget the City of Gardens. Turns out we’re the City of Grandes.
This is an important distinction, as it shows we differ not only in climate, but culture. In national mythology, Tim Hortons is for real Canadians: snowmobile boots, chainsaws, hockey sticks. Sheets of cardboard jammed in front of the radiator of the pickup truck in winter, beer around the campfire in the summer, followed by a shot of DEET.
Starbucks is for people with pink hands, expensive sunglasses and Lululemon gear. They know what quinoa and couscous are, eat tofu on purpose. Starbucks customers have their heads buried in their laptops and iPads; Tim Hortons customers just talk to each other. Timmy’s people build pipelines, Starbucks people protest against them.
Anyway, tomorrow is the last day of the flower count, so hurry if you want to add your totals to the tally at flowercount.ca. Just don’t trip over the extension cord and spill your half-fat vente double-double.
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