The Lower 46

We don’t get out much. We didn’t get out that much even in the Before Time, and we almost never got into a Tim Horton’s in the usual run of things. I don’t ever drink coffee and I need a doughnut once every 4.347826 years.

But on our used-to-be-annual lake trip we always stopped en route at a Timmy’s for a bathroom break and a box of Timbits® for our host, and so it was that a few weeks ago we crossed a Tim Horton’s threshold for the first time in a looong time. This floor decal greeted us.


Hahaha. Another entry in what I view as the determinedly-Canadian-but-completely-unhelpful genre exemplified by these two signs, both seen online in the early stages of this pandemic.

Stand two hockey-stick lengths apart.

Maintain a distance of two caribou.

I mean, seriously, as Canadian as I am I cannot reliably visualize one hockey-stick length, much less two. As for the caribou, forget it. I suspect (even Canadian) women of a certain-age-and-then-some might do better being advised to stand one Tom-Selleck height apart; younger ones might do better with one-and-a-quarter Justin-Bieber heights. Men can find their own aide-distance.

As cute as this little sign is, it really is unhelpful. I mean, seriously, I can’t visualize 46 of *anything* laid end-to-end. And if the target is 6 feet, how did we get to a number like 46? That means the number of Timbits® in a foot is not some simple, sensible integer but, rather, 7.6 (the 6 recurring with no end in sight). For those who prefer metric, it seems that each Timbit® is assumed to be 4.347826 cm. Call me a crazy Canuck, but I don’t find any of that intuitively obvious.

Of course, being helpful is not the intent here: It’s about trying to put a smile on my face. The first principle in communication is to establish and maintain the aim. Odd that it should be the same as for war.

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10 Responses to The Lower 46

  1. It’s lovely to see you dancing with the infinity of possibilities of lengths in a doughnut hole. The weeds thank you. And other non-weeders such as I who have failed to patronize Tim’s for pandemic reasons thank you. You, at least, have achieved the aim of putting smiles on faces.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – 🙂 My work here is done. Whimsy is always in short supply. (Some might say, “And small demand!” but bah.)

  2. Tom Watson says:

    46 timbits? That’s neat.

  3. Merit goes to not repeating the obvious, being standing 6 ft or 2 m apart. Plus the whimsical (thanks for the apt word, Laurna) gives us something to contemplate while we wait. By all appearances, whimsy also gives us something to share with friends. Not bad for a safety instruction.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    Tim Horton’s donuts used to be SO good, but now — to me — have an oily taste — so 46 Timbits laid ON THE FLOOR is the appropriate thing to do with ’em.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I do enjoy a cruller from time to time, but not enough to go out of my way for it. Not like, say, chocolate. 🙂

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – as someone who frequents Tim’s at least three times a week, I can say that 46 Timbits do not equal 6 feet, but 46 doughnuts might. Maybe that’s the point. The error is there to get people’s attention and make them think.

    If you liked 46 Timbits®, you’ll really like this. In ancient times, the body ruled when it came to measuring. The length of a foot, the width of a finger, and the distance of a step were all accepted measurements.

    Inch: At first an inch was the width of a man’s thumb. In the 14th century, King Edward II of England ruled that 1 inch equalled 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise. (Edward II would have probably liked Timmie’s.)

    Hand: A hand was approximately 5 inches or 5 digits (fingers) across. Today, a hand is 4 inches and is used to measure horses (from the ground to the horse’s withers, or shoulder).

    Span: A span was the length of the hand stretched out, about 9 inches.

    Foot: In ancient times, the foot was 111/42 inches. Today it is 12 inches, the length of the average man’s foot.

    Yard: A yard was originally the length of a man’s belt or girdle, as it was called. In the 12th century, King Henry I of England fixed the yard as the distance from his nose to the thumb of his out-stretched arm. Today it is 36 inches.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – 🙂 There you go, we could take a historical perspective and stand two belt-lengths apart. I think you’re right. The signs are just to remind us of something we know from elsewhere – and to make us smile.

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