BIG HAIRY CANADIAN POEMS

CRISIS IN A TIM HORTONS DONUT SHOP

Crystal sun blazes in a cloudless sky. Smudged horizon; you can smell forest fires burning upwind, up beyond the Crowsnest Pass. Inside the restaurant, a long line waits for midmorning snacks: nervous taxi drivers fiddle with refillable plastic cups, housewives on antidepressants shush hyperactive children, roadworkers, pouring sweat, study menu boards displayed above steel donut racks. Along coffee row, two old guys sit beside me agonizing over todays latest mind-blowing dry mouth irritable bowel crisis: Yesterdays energy failure blacking out the Northeast from New York to Toronto and Cleveland. Heat caused the power failure, worrywarts Senior No.1, as if the fiasco had hit beautiful downtown Calgary. Izatt right, dittoheads Senior No. 2. People wuz stranded in subways and trains, browfurrows Senior No.1. Newspaper headlines amplify their daily gutwrenching concerns: POWERLESS shouts the Calgary Herald. BLACKOUT howls the Calgary Sun. Behind the counter, brown and beige clerks with Tim Horton decals arenft particularly worried about New Yorkers stuck in stalled subways, arent clinically uptight over Torontonians trapped in dead elevators. Theyre too busy piling plump honey dips onto plastic plates; too distracted shoving old-fashioned sugareds into Tims handy carry-out bags. Despite surface good cheer, an invisible pressure fills the donut shop. A guy with a gray brushcut and T-shirted belly bulging over black slacks, sways to the counter, pauses, then orders: An extra large double double. He sits beside two large older ladies glued to newspapers while working coffees and bran muffins. Theyre locked into the broken power grid, but yesterday it was probably the wildfires, West Nile fever or the Blaster computer virus. A disquieting ripple seems to run through the restaurant. Something like a tightening engine of knots powered by bad coffee, or maybe a flaming bale of fear sparked by caffeine and whipped by white sugar, grease and chocolate sprinkles. Awaiting donut orders, two house painters in spattered pants hotly deny The Blackout began in Canada. A week earlier, they could have fought over the virtues of gay marriage, the campaign to recall Californias governor, or whether a Los Angeles basketball star raped a Colorado coed. Likewise, the bald guy with the red fringe waiting to use the washroom. Today hes tormented when New Yorkers lights will be back on; Last month he was probably agitated about overpopulation, perspiring over melting ice packs, or paralyzed by the massive loss of species resulting from our comprehensive conquest of nature. The painters are followed by a short East Indian. His pudgy wife sporting two gold earrings sits waiting at an arbourite table. They probably havenft been in Canada long enough to fully appreciate our serious situation to ass-grabbing emergency to full-blown disaster mentality. Neither has gone into full crucifixion bloodsweat anxiety over the power failure. Nor severe heart fear cramps due to AIDS, SARS, Ebola or gay bishops. Instead they sit quietly munching donuts and sipping coffee. Similarly, the young Vietnamese wearing a baseball cap, his soul placid, also appears out of the Mind Gone Haywire Canadians-in-Crisis syndrome. He just stands waiting for his order, resolutely refusing to go postal over an explosion in Liberia, the deepening quagmire in Iraq, or more mind boggling frauds surfacing on Wall Street. Calgary, Friday, 08/15/03