Life Insurance

Accident

Farmer Joe decided his injuries from the
accident were serious enough to take the
trucking company (responsible for the
accident) to court. In court, the
trucking companies’ fancy lawyer was
questioning farmer Joe. Didn’t you say,
at the scene of the accident, “I’m
fine,” said the lawyer.

Farmer Joe responded, “Well I’ll tell you what
happened. I had just loaded my favorite
mule Bessie into the..”

“I didn’t ask for any details,” the
lawyer interrupted, “just answer the
question.” “Did you not say, at the
scene of the accident, ‘I’m fine!'”

Farmer Joe said, “Well I had just got
Bessie into the trailer and I was
driving down the road..”

The lawyer interrupted again and said,
“Judge, I am trying to establish the
fact that, at the scene of the accident,
this man told the Highway Patrolman on
the scene that he was just fine. Now
several weeks after the accident he is
trying to sue my client. I believe he is
a fraud. Please tell him to simply
answer the question.”

By this time the Judge was fairly
interested in Farmer Joe’s answer and
said to the lawyer, “I’d like to hear
what he has to say about his favorite
mule Bessie.”

Joe thanked the Judge and proceeded,
“Well as I was saying, I had just
loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into
the trailer and was driving her down
the highway when this huge semi-truck
and trailer ran the stop sign and
smacked my truck right in the side. I
was thrown into one ditch and Bessie
was thrown into the other. I was hurting
real bad and didn’t want to move.

However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning
and groaning. I knew she was in terrible
shape just by her groans. Shortly after
the accident a Highway Patrolman came on
the scene. He could hear Bessie moaning
and groaning so he went over to her.

After he looked at her he took out his
gun and shot her between the eyes. Then
the Patrolman came across the road with
his gun in his hand and looked at me. He
said, “Your mule was in such bad shape I
had to shoot her. How are you feeling?”

***

Yogurt (noun) Semi-solid dairy product made from partially
evaporated and fermented milk. Yogurt is one of only three foods
that taste exactly the same as they sound. The other two
are goulash and squid.

***

Two Marines boarded a shuttle flight out of Washington, headed for SC. One sat in the window seat, the other sat in the middle seat. Just before takeoff, a Soldier got on and took the aisle seat next to the two Marines.  The Soldier kicked off his shoes, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Marine in the window seat said, “I think I’ll get up and get a coke.”

“No problem,” said the Soldier, “I’ll get it for you.” While he was gone, the Marine picked up one of the Soldier’s shoes and spit in it.  When the Soldier returned with the coke, the other Marine said, “That looks good, I think I’ll have one, too. ”

Again, the Soldier obligingly went to fetch it and while he was gone, the Marine picked up the Soldier’s other shoe and spit in it.  The Soldier returned and they all sat back and enjoyed the remainder of their short flight to SC.

As the plane was landing, the Soldier slipped his feet into his shoes and realized immediately what had happened.”How long must this go on?” the Soldier asked. “This fighting between our services? This hatred? This animosity? This spitting in shoes and peeing in cokes?”

Wasted Days And Wasted Nights

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I may be wasting my days, but I didn’t waste Friday Night.  I went Cruisin’.

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This was Kitchener’s annual Cruisin’ On King Street night.  It’s listed as the largest in Canada.  Last year they had 408 cars, stretched out on both sides of eight blocks of the downtown main street.  Since then, they’ve redone the main drag, narrowing the paved area and widening the sidewalks to make it more “Pedestrian Friendly,” so they had to cap it at 330, although another 15 or 20 classics joined the big drive-through, and then sneaked away, up the side streets.

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I got there early enough to get several clear shots in the park staging area.  One they get jammed together on the street, dripping with gawkers, good photos are hard to take.

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These are a couple of the first cars I owned, from the My First Cars post , obviously.  This first is actually a 1939 Chevrolet, indistinguishable from my Pontiac, except for badging.  Imagine the same size and shape, including the bullet-hole decals – only in Coca-Cola Red.

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This is a 1956 English, Austin A60 that I replaced the Pontiac with.

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Here’s a couple of my favorite type of Corvette, the Scoopside.  The first is a rather blah, cream-on-cream, but the red-with-white scoop shows some flair and contrast.

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After the first dozen pictures, my little digital camera started screaming “Low Battery!”  I had to keep turning it off till I found another worthy subject.  Having to conserve power, I photographed only the older and more interesting cars.  ‘60s and ‘70s muscle cars don’t do anything for me.

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Here’s a resurrected dinosaur from the Tailfin-aceous Period

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I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I did seeing the real thing.  I felt like I walked a hundred miles.  I may not do this again.

McBride

We are all, what we are, because of our life’s experiences, where we’ve lived, the trips we’ve taken, the jobs we’ve had, and especially the people who’ve come into and gone from our lives.  Such a one for me, was McBride.  For about two years of a very formative period, he cut a Technicolor swath through my life.

Bestest friends for a while, we couldn’t have been more different.  Where I was quiet and reserved, he was loud, brash, outgoing and incurably happy.  He just didn’t have a volume control.  Even standing near enough to inspect his fillings, he always spoke as if you were across the room….or across the street.   His personality opened like a big, bright beach umbrella to cover everyone within reach.

Given the same first name as me, and only a month younger, he was born and raised in Barrie, Ontario.  When I lived there for a year, finding that the bank and I weren’t going to have a happy, long-term work relationship, he had moved to Toronto, hoping to find himself, and gainful employment.  When I moved back home for another run at life, he did the same thing.  When I moved to Kitchener, because that was where the jobs were, he did the same.  When we both found that jobs needed education, training and experience, we both wound up taking the same Adult Education course.

It didn’t take long to find that we had his hometown in common, knew the same people, had been the same places.  Besides potential employment, one reason he picked Kitchener was that his older, policeman brother lived here.  He stayed with the couple for a while, but they had a tiny little house, and two young children.  He needed a place to live.  I shared a double bed with my brother, in what was the converted parlor in a rooming house.  Always anxious to maximise her profit, the old Mennonite landlady added a cot, and let him live with us.

When 21 was the legal drinking age, and I was just learning how to wrestle Demon Rum and his friends, McBride was an experienced and dedicated partier.  I would take the trolley-bus home after school got out at 11:00 PM, but it was not unusual for him to roll in at three, or four.  One night he showed up with a big grin on his face.  Just 21, he had put the moves on, and escorted a 45 year old woman from the Secretarial Course home.  He rose to the occasion four times before leaving a happy and very satisfied gal, and walking three miles home.

He never met a beer he didn’t like, especially if it was free.  We were living on the equivalent of Unemployment Insurance.  Once he paid his rent and transport, there wasn’t much left.  He might party Friday night, because school got out at nine.  He might party Sunday night, because we could sleep in and go to school at 5 PM, but Saturday was his day at the Hotel.  Stuffy old Ontario didn’t have bars; they had closely monitored “beverage rooms” in licensed hotels.  Mixed drinks were almost unheard of.  They served beer.

He would spend an hour, Saturday morning, in the bathroom, while the landlady complained about lack of access.  He would emerge, shiny and polished, and ready to start some serious drinking.  A glass of draft beer cost 15 cents, and he was perennially broke.  He would borrow the fifteen cents for the first glass, and disappear for thirteen hours.  I couldn’t spend that long in a dim, smoky room full of noisy drunks, but he did it each and every week.  After leaving broke, he would return with a pocket full of coins and loose bills, drunk, and always well fed.  He always repaid the 15 cents, but never offered more.

Apparently, there were always games of chance/skill going on, penny-toss, the Ring Game, and something called Kadiddle.  I never found out if he cheated or was just a great player.  The first Saturday he left, the phone rang at 1:30 in the morning.  The landlady went to bed about 10.  I heard her get up and answer it in the hall, right outside my room.  Then she banged on my door, told me it was for me, and peevishly insisted that it never happen again.  It was the bartender at the hotel, demanding that I come and pick up the drunk who couldn’t stand, much less walk four blocks home.

The next couple of weeks, on Saturday night, I would move the phone and its stand into my room about midnight, with the cord under the door, as near my bed as it would stretch, and grab it on the first ring, so as not to waken Broomhilda.  Finally, I got smart, and just got dressed and left the house, quietly, at 1:15.

We were so broke we couldn’t afford to spend the afternoon, but he had great plans that we would move into a small apartment.  Back before single-use, plastic food containers, he started bringing home dishes.  If he had an order of French-fries, he put the plate and fork into his coat pocket.  He brought home a vinegar shaker, and a set of salt and pepper shakers.

Including ale, porter and stout, all beer in Ontario was served in a “lager glass.”  Shaped like a Coca-Cola glass, it had a white line a quarter inch from the rim, to assure that drinkers got full measure.  I went to pry him from his chair one night, and he clinked.  He had lager glasses in his pants pockets, across his stomach beneath his belt, down the sleeves of his coat.

Getting into the rooming-house was up two steps, across a landing, then up five more steps.  With me pushing, he made the first two easily enough.  When he took a run at the last five, he got about halfway up, lost his balance and reeled backward.  I managed to catch him and get him headed up again, but I had heard breaking glass.

I got him in reasonably quietly, he collapsed backward on my bed, and I started removing glass and glasses. He had 25 lager glasses, three of five, across his tummy, were broken.  He’s lucky he’s not a eunuch.  I dumped the broken stuff, set the empty ones on the dresser and poured him into his own bed.  When I woke the next day, he was still asleep, but six of the glasses were full of rented beer.

I last saw him about 25 years ago.  He had a regular run from Barrie to Kitchener as a gypsy trucker.  Between road trips and hard drinking, he’d lost a wife, but was still upbeat.  He opened my eyes to a lot of real life.  Have any of you had a “character” like this in your life?

Yay! Olympics!

When I was about eight years old, my father bought a camper-trailer.  Unlike today’s lightweight units, this one was built like a small shed, heavy as sin.  Being trailering tyros, we took along four full-sized concrete blocks to support the corners.  Thank something, that the days of heavy, powerful cars were not past.  I don’t know how we pulled that monster, but from then till I was 14, we went somewhere every summer.

I need to clean out the paint locker at the back of my mind and offer up another story of how a small-town boy had his horizons widened a bit.  In the meantime, this story isn’t about a trip.  It’s about who we saw when our trip was interrupted.

This was the summer of 1953, or ’54.  We had been camping here and there for almost two weeks.  We were moving from north to south, somewhere just east of Toronto.  We almost reached a main east/west highway and were stopped by a Provincial Police officer.  He told us we’d have to go back and around another way, or find a place to park at the side of the road until “She” went through.  She, who??  Queen Elizabeth, of course!  He took pity on a family of campers, and told us how to get down to the little city ahead, and where to park, but insisted that we could not cross the main road until after the parade.

We followed his directions, and decided that, if we were stranded, we might as well get a vantage-point on the sidewalk.  Mom and Dad piled up at the back of the crowd.  Mom was 4’ 11”, I don’t know if she saw anything.  Dad was 6’, he might have.  I was about eight or nine.  I just insinuated myself through the crush until I was right down front.  The crowd ran right to the curb, and wasn’t allowing any room, even for a little kid, so I just stepped off the curb and stood in front.  As the Queen and Prince Philip rolled regally through town, I was only eight feet away from her.  Big F…..ng Deal!  Can we get back to camping now?

It happened again last Friday night.  The wife and I went down to the Rec room, to watch Jay Leno, and there was that damned woman interrupting my planned enjoyment again.  The Tonight show was delayed by an hour for a broadcast of the opening of the Olympic Games.  Well, it wasn’t just her.  I got to see David Beckham, a man who makes his living on dry land, row his boat up the Thames and pass off a fancy cigarette lighter to some other guy, who gave it to a passel of pre-teen arsonists, who managed to start a big fire on the ground.

Get the feeling I’m none too impressed, yet??  How observant!  Actually, as shows go, it was a decent show.  The pacing fireworks as Bend-it’s boat raced up the river, how the individual copper leaves on the ground rose on gas-pipes, to amalgamate and form the Cauldron, the fireworks that went off after the flame was lit, all of these were grand theater.  At least they went off in a timed display, not like San Diego’s 10-second, Fourth of July, boom and fizzle.  But theater was all it was.  Bread and circuses for the masses.  Proof of this is the fact that responsibility for the show was given to a Hollywood director.

Owned, sponsored and controlled by multi-national corporations, it reminded me of the movie Demolition Man.  Do you know that attendees’ clothing style was restricted and controlled?  If you were wearing a tee-shirt mentioning Pepsi-Cola, you would be prevented from entering, because Coca-Cola bought all soft-drink promotional rights?

Perhaps it’s because I learned early that I can’t compete, but I’ve always been more of a fan of co-operation.  For every competition, there’s only one winner, and all the rest of 203 countries, are just a bunch of losers.  It’s all just a feel-good societal ego sop.  Millions of dollars poured into each country’s athletes’ training and transportation.  Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of hours spent training for this soap opera, and when it’s all over, even if “we” garner a few fake medals, not a job has been created, our GNP has not increased, nor the national debt reduced, and banks still need bailing.

Us vs. Them prevails.  Tribalist chest thumping.  I wouldn’t be so cynical if people watched simply to see top-level athletic performance.  They’ll tell you that’s why they watch, but, the same folks who haven’t even driven past a swimming pool in the last four years, are suddenly experts on synchronized three-meter diving.

These games are supposed to promote international fellowship but their very competitive format prevents it.  It all boils down to, “Our team doctor is better at masking performance-enhancing drugs than your team doctor.”

Some of the “sports” that are getting in are just ridiculous.  One person synchronized swimming?  I could send over a dictionary so they can look up the meaning of synchronized.  And the little girls running around on gym mats, waving sticks with ribbons on them??!  Are they just so chi-chi that they got kicked out of drum-majorette school?  Trampoline?!  I thought the kids down the street were just playing.  Good Lord, what’s next, Tiddly-Winks and pie baking?

Ah well, it is the middle of the summer, and there’s almost nothing else on television.  Everyone can watch what they want but, I don’t watch chick-flicks.  If I watch something by a big movie director, it better have some adult language, rock-‘em-sock-‘em Kung Fu action, car chases, explosions, and maybe a little gratuitous nudity in it.  Why is Victoria fully clothed??!

I’ve kept my eyes tightly closed for a week now.  It’s half-way over.  Soon I won’t have to worry about this meaningless display for another four years.  What’s that??  What Winter Olympics in two years??  Will it include competitive Sno-Cone Serving?  Where’s a good movie when I need one?

My First Car(s)

Most young males just can’t wait until they turn 16, and get their driver’s licence.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  Perhaps it was that I didn’t think that my father would relinquish the family car to me.  My birthday is in late September, and had already passed when my Dad told me that he had found a car for me.  This was October, 1960.   Dad knew a lot of people, some of whom owed him a favor or two.  A man he worked with had a 1952 Morris he was willing to give to me, well, actually to Dad.

A Morris is a small English car.  The Morris Garage was the builder of the well-known MG cars.   Because of the Second World War, there was still a shortage of North American built cars, and the first of the imports were arriving.  I was told that this little car was not in running order, but Dad, the only person I knew, who knew less, mechanically, about cars than I did, airily declared, “Oh, we’ll have her running in no time.”  The owner lived on a farm with several other vehicles available to him, and probably just hadn’t driven this car for a year, or maybe two.  The battery would be dead and the gasoline jellied, but Dad was probably right.

We drove ten or twelve miles out concession roads, put a length of stout rope from bumper to bumper (remember those?), and towed it home.  I steered the Morris, and applied brakes when necessary, to keep from over-running the tow car.  The owner of a local garage was a bit of a snake-oil, wheeler-dealer.  It seemed like we barely got the Morris home when he called to say that he had someone interested in it and offered me a trade.  I told him it wasn’t running but was assured he could fix that.  He would send a truck with a tow-bar to bring it back to the garage, and I should ride along to see what he was offering.

He was willing to give me a 1939 Pontiac touring car, in running condition.  I think that was the first year that they changed the old, three-foot long, floor-shift for the shorter, easier three-on-the-tree column shift.  An old farmer had bought it new and seldom drove it.  A couple of years later he got a newer car, but because of the weight and traction, kept the ‘39 as a winter car.  Back then they used almost no salt on the highways, and he seldom drove on them.  The body was amazing, two tiny holes, the size of a fingertip.

I still didn’t have my licence and wanted to fix up the car for when I did.  My sister had moved into a house directly across the street.  They had a two-car garage they never used, so I wintered my car there, one space for the car and the rest for work area.  With some friends, I filled the holes and some edges, and then thought about painting it.  It came black; most of them did.  A guy in the same grade, in the next town, had one that he had painted a dark blue.  I decided on Coca-Cola red.  A cousin had got into construction and had spray-painting equipment.  We sanded, cleaned and masked it, and he sprayed it red!  I sent away for some fake bullet-hole decals from a comic book, and we put them on the passenger-side windows.

As spring progressed, I first got my learner’s licence, an adventure for another blog, and felt I should have the car ready to go when I passed my driver’s exam.  I borrowed a trickle charger, and had the battery up to full strength, but nobody had told me about gasoline jelling when it sits over a winter.  I tried to start it, and tried to start it….and tried to start it, and recharged the battery.  I gave up temporarily, thinking I needed to enlist some auto-mechanic assistance.

A couple of days later, Mr. Wheeler-Dealer called me again.  He’s got somebody who’s interested in the Pontiac, and would like to trade me a fully working 1956 Austin A-30.  I told him that I’d painted it red, and couldn’t get it started.  Not a problem, he’d get it started.  He towed it to the garage, we signed some papers, and I owned the Austin, which was a four-year newer, upscale cousin to the Morris.

I drove it all day, but when it started to get dark, I couldn’t find the light switch.  Three of us in the car and we couldn’t find it.  I quickly drove back to the garage and explained the problem.  He reached into the car and turned the lights on for me.  The ignition key went into the center of the dash, just above the ashtray.  Around the lock was a decorative little chrome ring.  All you had to do was give it a quarter turn, which I might have done, had it been marked “lights”.

It was a wonderful little car which I put a lot of miles and a lot of MPHs on.  It had a hydraulic clutch which leaked a drop of (brake) fluid each time a shift was made.  Under the hood, there were two master cylinders, one for brakes, one for the clutch.  Despite disassembling it twice, we could not locate the leak.  I learned to drive it with a couple of paper towels under the clutch pedal and a can of hydraulic fluid in the glove compartment.  The air filter was an empty Johnson’s floor-wax can filled with fine steel wool, dipped in oil.

These were rough-and-ready cars, with none of the smooth sophistication of modern automobiles.  They were fun to own and drive though.  If something went wrong, there were cheap and easy ways to fix them that didn’t involve a recalcitrant computer.

Perhaps ten years later, in our late twenties, my brother and I were reminiscing about the “good old days”.  I wondered out loud what might have happened if I had managed to get the big Pontiac up and running and never traded for the Austin.  There was a strange look on his face.  What!??  He went to a trade school, although he didn’t take auto-mechanics.  During the winter, he thought he’d do me a favor and clean my carburetor.  He took it apart, soaked and brushed it and reassembled it….and had a part left over.  You saw that joke coming, didn’t you?

He took it apart again and put it back together, and found the home for the lost part….but had two different ones left over.  Are you laughing yet?….and he threw them away!  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  He pumped gas on the weekends for Snake-Oil Guy.  After wasting hours of his labor and causing him to have to obtain and install a different carb, he never told him why it happened.

Canadians and Americans: Similar Differences

Whewww….finally back to blogging.  Two weeks of flu, followed by a week and  a  half  of  Christmas/New  Years/shopping/wrapping/baking/cooking/ visitors/cleaning.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be, because they are ADHD-driven, but I am still impressed by those among my favorite bloggers who managed to pump out a post a day or better.

I will have to make an appointment with my Optometrist soon.  What I took at first as merely a symptom of the flu continues to linger.  I fear I may have blown an artery in the retina of my left eye.  I now have an ongoing circular area in my vision, not a blind spot, but the other day when I looked at a snowbank, there was a yellowish circle on it.   I have normal-for-me low blood pressure, so maybe there’s another cause, hopefully treatable.  Enough about me, why are Canadians and Americans the same, only different?

America was settled largely by middle-class merchants and religious protesters.  From the beginning the average was weighted toward individuality.  When the good land and good weather eventually ran out,  Great Britain settled the northern half of the continent with the excess population of farmers and sheep-herders.  These were the order-obeying drones, accompanied by just enough second-and-third son lesser nobility to keep them in line and remit the taxes.  The United States revolted and fought its way to independence.  A hundred years later, Canada got hers by asking nicely.

Before globalization the two nations came from the same founding countries, but different social influences, both pre-existing and later experienced, have created two neighboring countries with the same language and ethnic heritage, but often interestingly different outlooks on the same situation.  America has drones, and Canada has free-thinkers, but the bell curves don’t come down in the same place.

The American population, over the years, has become polarized on just about every issue.  There are just Democrats and Republicans, and never the twain shall meet.  Even people who voted for the likes of Ralph Nader or H. Ross Perot couldn’t take them seriously.   The Canadian Parliament has a multi-party goulash, not quite as bad as the on-going Italian fiasco, including Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, a single Green Party rep. and the Bloc Quebecois party, whose publicly declared mission is to secede from Canada (and still we politely let them run, and sit in government) but whose real agenda is to get more money and political power by blackmail.

Two things happened recently which pointed out the divergent results to a common problem.  First, Coca-Cola offered a plan by which they would donate money to help save habitat for polar bears.  They would imprint special white-on-white cans, showing polar bears on a snow/ice background.  For every can sold, they would donate five cents.  In the US, it was like the Boston Tea Party all over again.  Bitch, bitch, bitch!  We don’t like it! Stop the campaign!  Give us back our red cans!  When they’re white, we can’t find the Coke on the shelf!  They look like Diet Coke!  They look like generic cola!  Even, it doesn’t taste the same!  Thousands of letters and emails convinced Coca-Cola US to terminate the campaign.  The same day I saw the announcement of the cancellation in the US, I was watching some Canadian TV and saw an ad which stated that the same scheme which had just been halted south of the border, was doing so well in Canada, that Coca-Cola.ca was expanding it by two million cans, probably to get rid of the ones they couldn’t sell in the States.

The other business announcement which had me shaking my head at American management in the Canadian market was one from McDonalds, which said that they intended to take away the coffee-selling crown from Canada’s own Tim Hortons donut and coffee shop chain.  Control of Tim’s was bought about ten years ago by Wendy’s, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, an exurb of Columbus.  I never thought that the two were a good fit, but Wendy’s used it as an excuse to start putting up Tim Hortons in Ohio and Michigan.  That’s why Edward Scissorhands Hotspur can get a Tim’s across from The Greene in Dayton.  Wendy’s finally realized what I felt all along and sold control back to the Canadian corporation  On my last trip to Detroit I looked up Tim Hortons in the phone book and found TWO in the metro Detroit area.  Better than the time before when there was zero, but here in Canada, I could pass two Tim’s on the way to the community mailbox.  A recent news item in the paper listed a robbery at a Tim’s “on Victoria St.”  A quick mental review placed at least three along the ten mile stretch.  You have to be a bit more specific.  There are probably five to ten Tim Hortons for every McDonalds in Canada.  I sit in the middle of a half a million population zone.  After years of dithering because they only put up a shop for every two hundred thousand people, the American chain, Krispy Kreme built an outlet locally.  Just over a year later Tim Hortons built one, literally across the street.  Just another year later, the backup at the Tim’s drive-thru is out to the street, and the Krispy Kreme is gone and a family restaurant takes its place.

There is no serious competition for Tim’s from Second Cup or Country Style, both coffee/donut shops like Tim’s.  If you like tree-hugger pastries, there are a few Williams coffee pubs, and enough Canucks are rich/preppy enough to keep the occasional Starbucks going.  There’s one inside my favorite bookstore, but Canadians WANT their Timmy’s.  For the last five years, during the first week of December,  McDonalds has been giving away a free small coffee to anyone who come in and asks.  If you want a medium or large, the charge is, free, plus the difference for the size.  The lines at Tim’s haven’t gotten any shorter except when they open a new shop two blocks down the street.  I don’t think McDonalds stands a chance on this, but what do I know?  I’m not an American market researcher.