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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 05.04.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Something else with that?

Among my quirks is an aversion to drive-thrus, and for a couple of reasons, none of them, surprisingly, having to do with the lazy way restaurants spell "through."

It has more to do with what the drive-thru represents in our culture. The drive-thru says, "Your need for saturated fat and sodium is so pressing that, no, please, don't get out of your car, don't stretch those flaccid muscles ever-so-briefly, don't waste your valuable time coming to the counter. Just drive around and we'll pass the food to you. Honestly, if we could roll down your window for you, we would. What's that? Electric windows? Perfect! Have a nice day!"

Mostly, though, I don't like drive-thrus because so much can go wrong. With my terrible French and burgeoning deafness, I need the face-to-face interaction that a drive-thru can never provide.

Driving back from our Easter weekend Monday, we stopped at Ange-Gardien, whose Chamber of Commerce realized years ago that all those travelers motoring along the province's arteries were equipped with arteries ripe for clogging. Ange-Gardien: Home of the Heart Attack.

"Are you getting a coffee?" Deb asked me after we'd loaded up the children with their take-out orders of grease.

"I guess so."

"Good. You can get me a tea, too."

"Okay," I said, heading to Tim's.

"And a jelly doughnut."

I started to park.

"Aww, Dad, take the drive-thru," groaned the children.

"I hate the drive-thru," I said.

"Come on..."

Reluctantly, I turned into the drive-thru lane. "What's 'jelly doughnut' in French?" I asked. I turned to Deb. "You order the doughnut," I said.

"Forget the doughnut," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Bienvenue au Tim Horton. Est-ce que je peux prendre votre commande?"

"Un moyen café avec lait," I said. Is it "avec lait" or "avec du lait"? But if I say "du lait" will it sound like "deux lait" and make my coffee too milky?

"D'autre chose?"

"Un thé avec lait."

"No sugar," said Deb.

"Pas de sucre," I added.

"C'est tout?"

"Et un beigne jelly."

There was silence.

"Pardon?"

"Un beigne jellé au framboise?" I said hopefully.

At this point, had I ordered inside, I would have been gesturing wildly at the trays, and the clerk would have understood my desire for a strawberry-filled doughnut, despite the fact that I had clearly said "raspberry." Sadly, my gesturing and panicked expression were useless in the drive-thru.

The voice on the speaker then said something elaborate about "beigne," "frambroise" and possibly rolling up the rim to Rimouski, to which I answered (of course), "Oui."

"You're probably going to get sugar in your coffee," said Deb as I drove forward.

We retrieved our order at the drive-thru window, though nearly without the doughnut -- or maybe I hadn't ordered it after all. Maybe what she'd said was that they were all out of raspberry doughnuts but only had strawberry doughnuts, and she had taken my "oui" as polite commiseration.

"Oh, ton beigne!" she said and handed over a small bag.

As we pulled into traffic, Deb unbuckled and leaned over the seat to take care of snack distribution. I took a sip of my coffee. No sugar! Ha!

I edged into the intersection to get back on the highway, waiting for an approaching car to pass. The light turned yellow. I couldn't gun it -- Deb was unbuckled, the van was filled with precarious hot liquids and gravy. The car passed. I accelerated into my turn just as the light turned red.

The cop's lights went on almost immediately.

"Shoot!" I said (except it wasn't "shoot.") "Deb, buckle up! Buckle up!"

A $90 ticket later, I pulled back into traffic.

"That wouldn't have happened if we hadn't gone through the drive-thru," I grumbled.

Deb rolled her eyes again. She looked inside her Tim Horton bag.

"That's not a jelly doughnut," she said.

I rest my case.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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