Saturday, February 1, 2020

Canadian Tire: A lot lot more than tires

When the triage guy at Canadian Tire booked me in for my left head light repair, he estimated it’d take maybe half an hour, 45 minutes.
CANADIAN TIRED? The service department's waiting room
welcomes you weary travelers

I thought: “Perfect. An hour in the Canadian Tire waiting room! What more could a guy ask for?”

I’m not being sarcastic.  

It was about 10:00 a.m. Forty eight hours earlier, my wife Helena and our three children Ewa, Ria and Michel, along with dozens of other family and friends, had been at St. Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church in the town of Elliot Lake, Ont., about 6.5 hours north of our Toronto home, at my brother Tom’s funeral.

The morning we were to head north, I realized my left low beam didn’t work. I figured if I scheduled right, I could drive during daylight, nobody would notice I had my high beams on and I could wait until after the funeral to get the light repaired.

My plan worked. We arrived back home early Saturday afternoon and Canadian Tire is open Sunday mornings. I welcomed the opportunity.

Lake, division. I hope I never stop forgetting he's gone..
Here’s the thing: After a family gathering like Tom’s funeral, there is much morning-after (mourning-after) quarterbacking to do. You have to contact everybody involved to get their interpretation of whatever everybody else said and did.

“Why did Jim mention Jack’s old boat within earshot of Dirk? He knew it would be a sore point!” 

“Why would Beth get up and say that stuff about her stupid dog right in the middle of the funeral home?” (I’m faking these examples because if I reported what was actually said after Tom’s funeral, mine would follow shortly aftwards. But you already knew that because nobody related to me is a Dirk.)

What better base to contact everybody from than  the forced exile of a Canadian Tire waiting room?

I like Canadian Tire. I still think perfume that smells like a Canadian Tire store would be a huge seller;  I also made up a joke: Do you ever find yourself exhausted after a long day’s drive on icy roads, worrying if you have enough windshield washer and stressing that your head light’s out? If that describes you, you are  ... wait for it ... Canadian tired. 

At Tom’s funeral, I met up with one of his oldest pals — Joe —  who told me that after retiring from a long career with INCO, the mining company that dominated our home town of Sudbury, Joe responded to a Canadian Tire help-wanted ad that said the store was “looking for pensioners.” 

He applied and loves it.  At Tom’s wake, he and I were joking about his red shirt being a chick magnet.

A good funeral has huge upsides. People like me and Joe get to catch up. 

Long-overdue hugs get hugged. 

In my world, you can tell a good funeral because people are laughing. And many saying “let’s not wait until the next funeral to get together” only to say the very same thing at the next funeral. 

Except for the fact that he was the centre of attention, I believe Tom would have given his own funeral 10 outta 10.

But enough about him.

Back to me.

Forty five minutes into my cross-country Carter family check-up, the CT service tech reluctantly informed me that the problem was more complicated than they’d originally thought. Hesitantly, as if he didn't like delivering the bad news, he said the procedure was going to take a little longer and cost a bit more.
He estimated an hour.

I was like, “great!”  

Here’s what my brain thought: “What a world!  Here we are, bumping up against $200 for a measly light bulb and we can afford it without taking a breath.

“Look at us! We can get new head lights put in on a Sunday morning! We don’t have to wait for the shop to open Monday and then for some courier to deliver a replacement bulb. We don’t have to miss work or so much as a coffee break. I don’t have to get my hands dirty. We’re so stinking lucky it hurts! We never even run out of exclamation marks!”

Then I was like, “Tom loves this kinda crap. I think I’ll call and make him laugh...”


I’d forgotten — for half a second — that Tom would not be picking up. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.

I dialed my sister Bertholde instead. I warned her: In the coming months, there’s probably going to be times when I feel like ringing Tom so she has been named the designated call receiver. She was fine with this.

About a half hours later, when the service guy presented me told me the car was ready and the total was less than I'd anticipated, I asked myself whether I should call Bertholde or just let her read the good news here. I opted for door number two.

Coming from me, Bertholde, I guess you won’t be surprised to hear that if you’re talking about replacing headlights — especially after a particularly dark couple of wintry days with a big brothers’ funeral thrown in —it’s really easy to see the bright side.


  1. Again my sincere condolences on the passing of your bìg brother. That is a void which cannot be filled. Nor should it be.
    I too have been cognizant that my list of trusted contacts is also shrinking with time.
    However among the "A" listers that remain are those who would deliver fuel in USA approved containers. Yes, no good deed ever goes unpunished!
    But as a small token of my appreciation, a gold-plated suggestion for your burgeoning perfume empire.
    Bacon scented air freshener!
    Just sayin'.

    1. Thanks Kevin. Your sentiment and advice find a welcome home here. As for the bacon-scented air freshener, it'd be a darn smell better than a Gwyneth Whatserface candle.