The winner is Nicole from the USA
Barrie Hopkins has graciously allowed me to share this riveting little story.
I read his column Bits and Pieces weekly from The Wellington Advertiser. That is our free newspaper that is delivered all over Wellington County.
I can honestly say that after finishing this article I was amazed at how easy and abundant my life is compared to Jennifer’s.
You see Jennifer Jones works at Tim Horton’s. Which is Canada’s favorite place to get a cup of coffee. However you will notice that this is no ordinary Tim Horton’s.
And one more thing. While pulling up a chair to read this little ditty. I want you to think of one thing that you are grateful for.
While I’ll let Jennifer Jones tell you her story and then we can talk.
Now for Jennifer and Barrie to explain the rest.
An Insider’s View I Bits and Pieces 01-30-09
Jennifer Jones worked at Tim Hortons in
Kandahar, Afghanistan for six months. When
she wrote this essay, she was a month away
from returning home. I pass it on, word for
word, to give you, as it did her, a greater
appreciation for our soldiers- and our country.
“My alarm goes off just before 5 a.m. I pull
on my bathrobe, pad down the hallway and
open the plywood door to a gravel road and a
line of large rounded tents surrounded by
concrete highway dividers. The sun is already
up, and hundreds of birds have congregated in
the few trees to bid the morning welcome with
their cheerful chatter. It is almost cool, but the
promise of 50-degree heat hangs in the air.
I walk over sand and gravel to the shower
trailer. This early in the morning I have the
place to myself, which doesn’t happen often.
The trailer is ripe with the smells of chlorine
and disinfectant, and I hurry back to my tent
where I’m living for six months and change
into my uniform. I put on sand-coloured pants
and a shirt, my name tag and a desert
camouflage hat. As I arrive at work, there’s
already a lineup, so I hustle in the side door.
My coworkers are bustling about, making
coffee and stocking cups. I grab a hairnet, put
it on under my cap and take my place as the
This is no ordinary Tim Hortons. I work on
the Kandahar military base in Afghanistan.
The store is roughly in the middle of the
base. In the centre is a large sand-and-gravel
field where the Americans play football and the
Brits play cricket. There’s a ball hockey rink
right outside our store where we watch the
Canadian troops play enthusiastic games of
hockey in the sweltering heat. Other food
outlets and stores line two sides of the boardwalk
in the sand.
The store is actually a trailer and in the
mornings, with six people behind the counter,
it’s a busy place. We rush about in a practiced
ballet of coffee and doughnuts, calling out
orders and dodging the bakers as they come to
fill up the showcase. Sometimes I marvel that
we don’t crash one another.
We can often tell what someone will order
just by looking at the uniform. The Canadian
troops usually just want a double-double,
known as a NATO Standard over here.
Sometimes we tempt them into an apple
The Americans prefer honey dips with
regular coffee, whereas the Brits can’t turn
down a Boston cream or Canadian maple.
They’re also partial to French vanilla
cappuccinos. When the cappuccino machine
is temporarily out of service, we almost have
a mutiny on our hands.
“No French vanilla?’ A group of four
British soldiers gasp and moan. “What are we
supposed to do?”
“What will you do when you go home?” I
ask.”You’ll have to start a franchise in
“Oh we’ll just order the French vanilla
online then.” They grin and buy two cans of
the mix to tide them over.
I enjoy seeing our regulars as well as the
new faces that arrive all the time.
Good mornin’, m’love! And how’re you
today?” one of the older soldiers from
Newfoundland lilts. His face is tanned and his
blue eyes sparkle as he smiles. I return his
smile and say,”Just great! And you?”
“Oh, livin’ the dream,” he laughs and
orders his morning coffee. I know he’ll be
back three or four more times before the day’s
The Tim Hortons caps we wear are perhaps
the most in demand.
“Can I have six double-doubles and a hat?”
” How much for your hat, darlin’?”
We hear these questions all day long.
Conversation is mostly casual and
“Make my coffee better than his,” one
soldier jokes, pointing to his friend. Give him
the old stuff.”
“Are you still here? I thought you’d be
home by now! When do they let you out?”
“Of course, we’re the only Tim Hortons
where the majority of customers come in fully
armed. But by now I’m used to the sight of a
soldier with a rifle in one hand and a coffee in
the other. We’re also prone to rocket attacks
on the base, and when the alarm sounds, we
have to get all customers out of the store and
sit in the back until the all clear sounds.
There’s a heavy thud, a feeling of impact and
then the eerie wail of an old air-raid siren.
That’s the signal to get to a bunker, or to the
back of the store, if I’m working.
The first time I experienced this I wasn’t
really scared, but it gave a note of seriousness
to my job that hadn’t been there before. We sat
on the floor and waited until the all-clear alarm
went off like a British police siren.
Because of the hot weather, we make a lot
of iced cappuccinos, and I often dance a little
when I make them. I sway back and forth,
moving my hips to the sound of the mixer. I tell
the customers it tastes better that way. It never
fails to get a smile.
There are days when it’s hard to be upbeat,
though. We’ve had six ramp ceremonies since
I’ve been here. A ramp ceremony is when we
send soldiers home in the very way we don’t
want to – in a coffin. It’s a very formal event,
with the troops marching out in formation.
Those of us with the Canadian Forces
Personnel Support Agency are put in our ranks.
We march behind our troops and take our place
on the tarmac in front of the plane that will fly
the bodies home. Other than the sound of
marching feet, all is silent.
A brief service is usually conducted by the
padre, a military minister. We pray, then the
troops salute the caskets draped in Canadian
flags, which are carried high on the shoulders
of other soldiers. A bagpiper follows behind. I
don’t think I’ll ever hear the sound of bagpipes
again without remembering these ceremonies.
Sometimes I cry, a little – for lives lost, and for
families I’ve never met.
When we get back to work the mood is
sombre; soldiers come in with grief on their
faces. They give their order quietly, avoiding
eye contact. I can sense that tears are close for
them. It can be hard to speak in those
moments. Yet most of the soldiers appreciate
our smiles and jokes. When we celebrate life,
it helps us all deal with death a little easier.
I applied for this job in August 2006. I was
wrapping up a contract job with an arts
festival in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ont.,
processing donations and sending out
membership packages. I was looking for
something different to do with my life;
something that would feel like I was helping
out a larger cause. I didn’t think I would get
Im 35, and although I’m not married and
don’t have children, I assumed I’d be
bypassed in favour of younger adventurers.
But I found a range of ages and experiences
when I was accepted into the two-week
training course. One of my coworkers,
Chantal, 24, from Timmins, Ont., signed up
because her husband is a soldier here and she
wanted to support him and their friends who
are serving in this mission.
We work long hours, and there are no days
off. By the end of a shift, I’m tired as I walk
back to the tent, My little room is home, for
now, and though it’s only the size of a small
car garage, it’s comfortable. I have a bedsheet
door and a curving tent wall above my
head. When it rains hard, as it sometimes
does, the tent often leaks.
I miss simple things, like having a
bathroom in the same building as my bedroom
and walls that go all the way up to the ceiling.
I miss picking berries and making pies and
jam. I have a friend who recently died of
cancer, and I wish I could have visited her, or
at least called her more easily and frequently.
I have even missed winter. But at night in
Kandahar, I look up and I see the same
familiar constellations that hang over my
home town of Thunder Bay, Ont., and I know
I’ll be back there before long.
I rest easy knowing that my home is where
roadside bombings and landmines are
unheard of. I have a huge appreciation for
Canada – I always did – but this experience is
This job has given me more patience and
shown that I can live through difficult
circumstances with a smile on my face, I came
here with very little understanding of the
military culture, and I will leave knowing that
our soldiers are proud to serve us this far from
home; they want to make the world better for
their own families and their country.
For the soldiers, being able to feel normal by
ordering “the usual” helps make their tour more
bearable. Just the other day, a soldier told me,
“if it weren’t for this place, I’d have gone crazy
by now.” So when a young soldier comes in
and gives me a thankful grin because he can
finally get an iced cappuccino after six weeks
out in the desert, I feel that, even by just
serving a coffee, I can make a difference.”
So there you have it folks, in words that can
no better paint a verbal picture than Jennifer
Jones just has. And if you think I didn’t have
tears cloud my eyes while typing parts of this,
you are wrong, wrong, wrong.
Take care, cause we care.
Thanks Barrie for allowing me to share her story.
And a special thank you to Jennifer Jones. Your story shone a bright light on how important the small things in life are.
I love finding stories that demand me to examine my life. I am constantly amazed that I still find fault with my fantastic life.
This is what I constantly critize in my life.
My dial up is to slow.
My kids don’t listen to me.
And my wife might not totally agree with my plan.
But you know what.
At least I still have a computer where I can talk to the outside world.
Most of the times my kids do listen and they love me dearly.
And Debbie is on her own journey. She loves me like the first day we met. May be even more. It just might take her a little longer to see the big picture.
But no one is shooting at me.
I do not have to dodge shrapnel.
And there are no bombs going off in the back yard.
Let’s just say that life is good.
And you know what? I am sure you can say the same thing.
I am grateful that Debbie will bring home a large double double from Tim Horton’s.
And I am grateful that Nicole from the USA played The Lawttery of Attraction. Because she is this weeks winner, Nicole will be receiving $75.00. Congratulations Nicole!
P.S. Thanks to Lori, Derek and R.A.L for their donations, $85.00 is the jackpot for this weeks Lawttery of Attraction. But you have to play to win. So enter at