Home » Stories » Daisy in Canada (3) – HST not included?

Daisy in Canada (3) – HST not included?

I searched for my phone to check the time.

5 am?!

I had slept for at least 10 hours, but that’s not what my body told me. It felt heavy and my eyes were burning. Nevertheless, I was wide awake and didn’t want to lie down any longer. I climbed out of bed and walked to the window. I watched in amazement as the thousands of lights on the buildings and streets lit up the darkness. The apartment was ten high, not nearly as high as most of the buildings around us, but high enough to give a fairly spectacular view. At least, for someone like me from a village in Brabant—the south of the Netherlands. I took it in for a moment. This was pretty cool. Then I quickly grabbed my phone and snapped a photo to text Amber.

Amber:
Wow!

I sent back:
How come you awake?

Amber:
Um, because I’m in school?

The time difference… Of course.

Amber:
De Leeuw s back on trck. Ranting about politics.

Me:
Enjoy!

Amber:
Civics isn’t the same witout u.

I always wondered how people could still make typos with autocorrect on their phones. Admittedly, I liked linguistics and that’s why I noticed it even more, but still; how difficult could it be with this technology? Since the light from my phone had a nasty effect on my eyes in the dark, I switched on the light. The little sleep I had, had helped me forget some anger. I actually liked one thing about this room; my queen-size bed.

A knock on the door startled me. 

“Are you awake too?”

It was my mother.

“Yes.”

“Would you like to help us decide what we’re going to do this week?”

I shrugged—not that my mother could see that. This week my parents were still free so we could “acclimatize”, according to my mom. Whatever, a week’s vacation always sounds good to me. I put on a green sweater with “awesome” on it and opened the door to the living room. What I saw there was just pathetic.

“Give me that iPad,” I said as I walked over to my father and freed the iPad from my father’s fumbling.

“Let’s start with breakfast today,” my mother said excitedly. She pushed off in the rocking chair and rocked back and forth, her legs in the air.

Okay… Don’t get too excited, Mom.

***

We had chosen Bonjour Brioche, a small breakfast slash lunch place in the eastern part of town. Our apartment is in the West End so we ordered an Uber, or well, I had installed the app on my parents’ phone and set it up so now we were “crawling” through the city. Apparently, trams in Toronto share the road with cars, which means you’ll soon be stuck behind a tram that stops every now and then to let people in and out. The inefficiency. You would think that a newer country like Canada would have learned a thing or two from the public transport in Europe—a separate lane for the streetcar, for example. While I was in the middle of a mega irritated sigh, I jumped when the Uber suddenly turned right. While the light was still red! My father remarked, “It’s allowed here. As long as you stop before you turn.”

“Seriously?” I asked.

My father nodded affirmatively, “I don’t understand why we don’t have that rule in the Netherlands. So often we are unnecessarily waiting at a red traffic light when you want to turn right.”

“Okay,” is all I said. Overall, a few things struck me in traffic. On the highway, cars overtook us from all sides. I had just completed my theoretical driving exam in the Netherlands, so I was sure that was not allowed there. My father had said that it wasn’t allowed in Canada either, but that people didn’t care that much.

What struck me even more is that the traffic lights are placed after the intersection. A much better spot in my opinion. That way you don’t have to force your neck into an unnatural position to see if it’s green. They also honk a lot here. As if there wasn’t enough noise already from all the sirens and cars with ridiculous exhausts.

“Wow,” my mom said as we crossed a bridge. The river Don Valley, a sign read. I saw no river but a lot of bare trees in a valley below us and a highway with traffic jams. It looked impressive.

Not much later, the Uber stopped in front of our destination.

“So I don’t have to pay?” my mother asked.

“No mom. You’ve already paid, haven’t you? Why else did you enter your credit card details? And you saw the price before you booked, right?”

“Oh yeah. So modern.” She turned to the driver, “Thank you very much.”

I got out and looked around. There were cables above the ground in the Netherlands too, right? I thought of the big poles with cables standing along the highway and crossing meadows, but that was very different from the wooden piles above the ground here.

“What’s that?” I pointed to them.

“Electricity cables, Internet cables,” my father replied. My father had read a lot about Canada. He knew so much.

“Why aren’t they under the ground? Now it seems like we are in Indonesia or something.”

My father shrugged. “That’s the way they do it here.”

***

“Here’s some water,” the Bonjour Brioche employee set some glasses on the table. “Are you ready to order?”

I ordered the French Toast and my parents a Benny which was an Egg Benedict. When the food came I immediately sank my teeth into it. Maybe it was because I was so hungry, but hallelujah, that French Toast was delicious. After gulping down the last bite, I sat back completely content. Bonjour Brioche was only a small place, with five tables and a counter where you could pick up bread. But it was cozy. It reminded me a bit of Europe and that was not easy in Toronto. Everything looked very American, the street signs, the giant cars, drive-throughs, fast food chains on every corner of the street…

My parents asked to pay.

“The water is not on the receipt,” my mother pointed out. “Excuse me, you forgot the water,” she corrected the waiter.

“That’s courtesy, Madam. You’ll never find a place in Toronto where you have to pay for tap water.’

“The Netherlands can learn something from that,” my mother said. “What is this then?”

“That’s HST, honey,” Dad explained.

“Right, that’s not included here, is it?” she verified. My father nodded.

“Would you like to pay with card or cash?” the waiter asked.

“Card.” My father took the ATM hesitantly, “Can you make it $75?”

The waiter stammered a little, “But this is the price.”

“I like to give a tip,” Dad explained.

The waiter looked relieved, “You can add it on the machine”

“Can you show me?” he asked him. Together they fiddled with the ATM. Enthusiastically, Dad suddenly exclaimed, “Gosh! How handy. You can just choose a percentage here.”

That was indeed handy. No shame when you suggest the amount for a tip. No pressure to think about what you want to tip right at the moment they’re pulling out the ATM.

“How much tip is normal here?” my mother asked.

“At least 15%,” Dad replied.

“What?” I exclaimed in amazement. “15%? Are they not paid enough or something?”

“Usually, they get minimum wage. The tip is very welcome,” Dad said.

“What if you don’t tip?”

“That’s not very nice.”

“What a poor system,” I disapproved. “Their boss is too stingy to pay enough, so the customer should sort it out. Easy way of running your business!”

“That’s a way to see it,” my mother said.

“Well I’m right, am I?” I snatched the receipt from the table. “Look, you pay almost double with the HST that comes on top, and then you also have to pay a voluntary tip. Yes, those are contradictory words together. “It’s idiotic!”

My father sighed and looked at me, “Daisy, you will encounter more things that work differently than in the Netherlands. Just because they’re different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Remember that.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I brushed off my father’s comment.

Finally, my parents figured out how absurdly high they wanted to tip and we left. Again with the Uber, back to the apartment.

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