This post is about 1000 words and can be read in about 4 minutes.

This is the second part of a story sent to us by a prisoner at a Quebec federal prison, describing a visit to an Aboriginal healing facility. We are publishing it in several chunks because we want to include the voices of prisoners and because it gives a feel for the experience of prison life that outsiders won’t be aware of. There will be two further posts in this story over the next few weeks.

At Tim Horton’s

A few minutes later we were in a left-hand turn lane and pulling into a Tim Horton’s. Laurent said he needed a smoke before we went in. And there I was, standing in a Tim Horton’s parking lot by the drive through watching commuters get their coffee and whatever while Laurent [the accompanying prison officer] had a cigarette. A very normal event for most Canadians, but surreal for me. No handcuffs or shackles, dressed in civies, and no one the wiser. I said “I don’t know what we can get for ten bucks, but I can get you a coffee and muffin or something.” He said “I have my own money. And I am a good guy, so if you go over ten bucks I can cover you.” He finished his smoke and we went in.

He asked “What do you want” and I said I needed to use the washroom first. So we both went to find the washroom and luckily nobody else was in there because it felt a little weird that he was in there talking to me while I used the urinal. They had one of those Sani-foam dispensers for washing hands but there were no paper towels. Instead, there was an air-powered hand-dryer thing and I was stymied trying to figure out how to turn it on. There used to be a big button on those things you could press with your elbow but this one didn’t have a button. Laurent laughed at me and said “Just put your hands beneath it”. I did so and it turned on automatically. I said “I am really out of touch with technology” and felt like an idiot for a moment.

We went back out front. There was a stainless steel hand rail that divided two ‘walking lanes’ for lack of a better description, in front of the main counters. I stood in the lane furthest from the counters and looked up at the pictures and prices. It was dizzying. Turns out I was standing in the lane to the cash register and I was holding up a guy who was patiently waiting for me to move along so he could get to the register and get his order.

Some managerial looking dude in a white shirt came out from somewhere and was waving his arm at me, gesturing for me to move along. Laurent said, “You have to go in there” and pointed at the lane right in front of the counter as the place the non-decisive must go. This was the second time I felt like an idiot within a span of five minutes.

Feeling Normal

But my lost and out of place feeling was overshadowed by the happiness of being in a Tim Horton’s for the first time in my life, and the indecisiveness that overwhelmed me looking at the cornucopia of choices. Should I get the breakfast sandwich, or perhaps some bagels? I could hear the girl on the GPS in my head saying “Select the Belgian Waffel sandwich two feet to your left’. But I continued looking at the pictures on the back wall. Everything looked delicious. GPS girl said ‘Reacalculating… Select the breakfast wrap three feet over from the Belgian Waffel.’. Finally I thought I had better just pull the trigger and make a decision. “I’ll have the breakfast warp” I said firmly to Laurent while thinking, “That wasn’t so hard.”

The lady behind the counter said something to Laurent in French which he translated for me. “Do you want the hash-browns inside the wrap or outside?” I was thinking, ‘What? More choices?” I said, “Inside, s’il vous plait.” And went back to trying to decide between an iced cappuccino, a Frappuccino, or…

What to Order?

The lady behind the counter was speaking again, and Laurent interrupted my train of through with the translation. “Do you want sausage or bacon?”. I was thinking, “Holy moly, are we still on the wrap thing?” “Bacon, please.” It was truly dizzying looking at the coffee choices and I was starting to stress out so in the end I just asked for a large black coffee, and Laurent translated my request. So now I was trying to decide between bagels, muffins or doughnuts or Tim Bits, and there were multiple kinds of each in the class case in front of me. They all looked decadent. GPS girl in my head was working overtime. “Look left, look right, look up, look down, recalculating… look back up because you don’t even know what kind of bagel that is and you need to study it some more.”

I narrowed it down to a muffin but then had to decide what kind. I had my eyes on the white cakey looking ones with red somethings in them, and what looked like apple crumb cake sprinkled on top. They looked really good but I had no idea what they were so I went with what I recognized and asked for a blueberry muffin. The girl behind the counter took one out of the case, and my order was complete, thank God! I went around to the side of the counter while Laurent ordered and then he joined me where we would get our orders. I have to admit that it was more stressful than I thought it would be. It was a different kind of stress than, say, taking a sharpened spoon off a would-be assailant in the max security prison, but it was up there. Then we went to a table and sat down. There we were, with our coffees and breakfasts, sitting down in a Tim Horton’s! And there were those other regular citizen people sitting there with their little breakfasts and muffins and bagels and coffee and none of them knew I wasn’t supposed to be there except for the Parole Board of Canada overruling the negative recommendation of my Case Management Team.

End of part 2. Parts 3 and 4 to come….



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