Canada

Lost tourists. Help them or ignore them?

By: Jim Bamboulis

Just the other day, I saw a family of 4 standing on the corner of a busy downtown Toronto intersection.

I knew they were visitors. Mom and Dad both had bright, brand new, white running shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I love white runners as much as anyone else.

But besides that dead giveaway, they were trying to figure out how to read a map of the downtown area.

Huddled around the large font map like it was a fireplace, I thought 2 things:

1. Doesn’t everyone these days have a smart phone? Surely, someone in this family has one and could use it to get around.  Isn’t there an app for everything? How easy, more convenient and cost efficient is it to just pull up a map on a phone and determine where to go and how to get there. Maybe they like the adventure of finding their way.  Dad is adjusting his glasses while looking aimlessly between the map and the street signs. Mom is trying to keep Daughter calm. Son is embarrassed by the whole lot of them and just wants to play on a computer.  Maybe they’re looking for an internet cafe.  Toronto is just like any other big city in North America.  It’s a grid system and is fairly easy to navigate around it.  Of course there are exceptions.  Street names suddenly change and some streets even curve to the right, even to the left.

2. Seeing I was almost done my hot chocolate anyway, I thought to try and help these poor souls.

At the end of the day, all of us, at one point have been in their position. We’ve struggled.  We’ve been lost.  We’ve been disoriented in an unknown city. Maybe some of us would have preferred to have had a local actually stop and ask if we were OK, needed help or a dependable route.  On the other hand, maybe some of us have been too afraid, ashamed or too proud to ask for directions.  

All valid reasons.

There have been times where I have walked by tourists without giving it a second thought. There have been other times where I’ve tried to help only to be rejected and told help wasn’t needed or wanted.  OK. Stay lost.  Up to you. 

It’s rare when a visitor breathes a sigh of relief when a local stops and helps. But it happens and everyone feels good after the fact. 

I stop sometimes because at one point during my travels, someone stopped for me. Most times I didn’t ask for help, figuring like a typical man I would figure it all out eventually.  Still someone stopped to help. Not for gain or money.  Just simple guidance, helping the hopeless.  And by doing so, acted as unofficial Ambassadors of their city and country.

Bruised ego?  Sure.  Thankful?  Absolutely!

And that’s my point.  Maybe it takes a Traveler to help a Traveler.

You have to experience the feeling of getting hopelessly lost in a foreign land to understand the need to help someone hopelessly lost in your hometown.

I’m not saying stake out the hotels and hostels to help, unless of course you’re in the travel business.  I’m not saying force yourselves and provide help to anyone you see.  And I’m definitely not saying that we should make this a happy-happy-joy-joy- experience where we all come together to sit in circles, holding hands, singing and dancing to travel songs. 

Ugh! No! 

I’m simply saying, help if you can. Ask, at least. Because one day, you’ll be glad someone helped you when you needed help the most.  Karma, baby.  Karma! 

Your turn.  Are you a helper?  Have you been helped?  Too busy to notice?  Too busy to care?  Too macho to ask?

Bias comments are welcomed.

Tim Hortons goes north

By: Jim Bamboulis

I guess expanding to the United States was a far easier endeavor, not to mention much more profitable, than opening up shop in one of the coldest, most desolate and barren parts of the country, probably even the World. I would also guess that having a location in one of the most war-torn regions of the World, Kandahar, Afghanistan, was also more understandable seeing as several thousands troops are over there, serving and sacrificing. Having a “Timmy’s” on or near the base does wonders for psyche and morale.

I’m talking of course about Tim Horton‘s, Canada’s other sport, if you will. After years of emerging and eventually dominating the coffee shop market in Canada, the powers that be took the plunge into cooler Arctic waters this week, by opening a coffee shop literally in the middle of nowhere!

Nowhere of course being the newest Canadian Territory, Nunavut.

What’s interesting about Nunavut is the fact that it’s the largest in geography of the Provinces and Territories in Canada and yet it’s the least populous. Just think, it’s roughly the size of Western Europe and has a population of just under 30,000 (I didn’t count them, got that from Wikipedia). And considering temperatures get down to, well I don’t know, let’s say ridiculously and unbearably beyond freezing cold, you’d think T-Ho’s would have sent up a well-bundled-up team of men and women to scope out locations where the locals could drop in, warm up and enjoy a cup of java for a low-low price of $1.30 long ago. Instead, it took them this long.

A sample vehicle registration plate of Nunavut.
Image via Wikipedia

Nunavut is indeed the last province/territory without a Tim Horton’s location. So the obvious question is, Why now? Why did it take this long for Tim Horton’s to get there? What needed to happen for Tim Horton’s to see that their product would be well received and consumed in Nunavut? Did the good people of this forgotten, virtually unknown Territory not deserve a dependable, well-brewed double-double in the past?

Does it even matter? Probably not so much.

What matters is the fact that Nunavut, has now officially been welcomed into the Commonwealth. Nunavut, with its rich history, unique perspective, bountiful culture and distinct language has now officially become a “hoser”. Beware the spread of Tim Horton’s Nunavut. Once it grabs hold of you, it doesn’t let go that easily. Good luck trying to ease the grip of a French Cruller or a Chocolate Dip donut. Don’t even get me started on the Timbits!

One bite and you’ll never be the same!

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