On a whim, I decided I would drive to Canada today (March 30, 2014). I had gotten up early enough that I had plenty of time to make it there and back. I decided I really wanted to try their Maple Macchiato. There wasn't a lot of traffic on the road and I made good time on my journey north. However, one slow point was the border. If you don't know, you can wait twenty or more minutes, waiting to cross the border. I was prepared though. I remembered my passport. As I waited in a long lineup to pass the border patrol, I had enough time to use both my Starbucks mobile app and my in-car navigation to figure out that the closest Starbucks to the border: It was (as far as I could tell) the store at 1730 - 152nd Street, South Surrey, BC.
I watched as the car immediately ahead of me went through the border crossing booth quickly. The border patrolman must have spent less than a minute on the car ahead of me. I was optimistic that I would soon be on Canadian soil.
Though the episode trying to get into Canada didn't quite go so quickly:
Mr. Border Patrolman asked, "What's your business in Canada today?"
I didn't have any business. "I'm just a tourist." I said, and added "Just visiting for the day."
This wasn't enough of an answer for him. I handed him my passport, as he continued to question me: "Ma'am where are you going today?"
"I'm going to Starbucks." Apparently this wasn't enough of an answer either.
"You're going to Starbucks? I mean where specifically are you going?"
I glanced at my in-car nav for the address: "Well, I was planning on going up to Vancouver but I don't want to drive that much. I might just go to 1730 - 152nd Street. I think it might be the Starbucks closest to the border."
Norah Jones played softly in my car. It was that CD that everyone has heard a million times, and once sold at Starbucks. I still had not satisfied Mr. Border Patrolman, who continued to clutch my passport. "So, you're coming to Canada to go to Starbucks?"
I clarified some more: "Well I really want to try the Maple Macchiato. We don't have that in the U.S. We got the Vanilla Macchiato instead. I thought it would be fun to try maple. I might try it and turn around and go home."
The border patrolman lightened up a bit, "Oh yeah. I've heard about that. It's been out like three or four weeks now." At least I was talking to a fellow Starbucks customer, it seemed. But as I watched the clock in my car, I realized that I was taking much longer than the car that had been directly in front of me.
"Hey WAIT A MINUTE" Mr. Border Patrolman had this look of revelation on his face. "Are you like that guy - oh what's his name - you know the guy that's visiting every Starbucks in the world? I've seen him come through here many times, always going to Starbucks. I remember one time he told me he had to get to a store before it was closing." The Border Patrolman in the blue uniform now posed like the Thinker, with one hand on his chin, and said "What was his name? He's changed it before!"
I knew he was talking about Winter. He was doing a good job of describing Winter. "You mean Winter. I'm friends with Winter." At this point, I hoped that there might be some beneficial guilt by association. If Winter could freely come and go to Canada, I thought I should be able to as well.
I now toyed with Mr. Border Patrolman: "Yeah, you know Winter and I are two FAMOUS customers." In reality, I don't think for a minute that there is such a thing as a "famous Starbucks customers", outside of people who are famous for other reasons and coincidentally Starbucks customers, such as Ellen DeGeneres or Sheryl Crow.
"Do you have a special routine when you go to Starbucks? I remember Winter said he has to drink at least one cup of coffee from every store he goes to." I was completely impressed. The Border Patrolman was doing a very good job of describing Winter. I knew that he had gotten that right. "There's no special StarbucksMelody routine," I had to tell him.
At this point, I was sure that the car directly behind me had to be wondering if the border patrol had done a warrant check, and discovered outstanding Bench Warrants and had called for local law enforcement. We were taking a long time. He continued to talk at me. Mr. Border Patrolman was completely nonplussed at the one mile long lineup of cars directly behind my Honda Fit.
"You know where else has a Starbucks?" Mr. Border Patrolman asked. I tempted to reply with "everywhere" but since he was the person wearing the uniform, I opted for indulging him instead: "Where?"
"Disneyland! I just got back from taking my family on a vacation to Disneyland, and there's a Starbucks on Main Street now!"
No wonder it takes more than 20 minutes to get through the border crossing into Canada, I thought. This conversation is never going to end. "I think that Starbucks on Main Street is probably an improvement!" I was tempted to tell him that having grown up in Orange County, I remembered well the old Carnation Cafe on Main Street. I assumed that Starbucks replaced the Carnation Cafe but I really didn't know.
There was more. We weren't done yet. We were now approaching ten solid minutes of conversation, as I had to completely explain to him I had a blog too. Finally Mr. Border Patrolman said to me, "Hey, since you know Winter, have you ever seen his passport?"
"No I haven't"
"He's got this contorted expression on his face! He said he did it just to be funny! It's hilarious!" I had to admit "that sounds exactly like something Winter would do."
Finally, I was allowed entry into Canada. You can't make this kind of stuff up.
I got turned around trying to get to 1730 - 152nd Street, and instead found my way to the Starbucks at 3288 King George Highway in Surrey:
The store was decorated with balloons for the at-home coffee event sale! The register barista was asking every customer if they wanted to buy four pounds of coffee and get one free. I was left out from being asked if I wanted to buy four pounds of coffee! I was impressed with her consistency in telling every customer about the sale. I think I gave away that I was a tourist pretty fast. I realized I had no Canadian money on me and so I asked the register barista if it would be okay if I tipped with American dollars. I was unsure if that was considered bad form to tip with the wrong currency. The register barista said that they'd be glad to get American dollars as tips. "People do that all the time, since we're so close to the border." And of course, I did get my Maple Macchiato:
The cups have both French and English on them! And by the way, the tables at this Starbucks had green tablecloths on them. The Maple Macchiato was delicious. The flavor reminded of maple syrup that goes with pancakes. The most amazing find at this Starbucks was the delicious lunch wraps. There was a Chicken Caesar, a Thai Tuna, and a Zesty Quinoa Bean wrap. I ordered the Zesty Bean one and impressed at how good it was. It had a little bit of cheese and a very mild chile flavor. It wasn't too spicy at all. Perfect. I want these wraps in the US!
This Starbucks has not converted to La Boulange food items. It's been a long time since I've looked at a non La Boulange pastry case. I was too full to buy an Oat Fudge Bar but they sure looked good!