I have no idea how many times I flew to the Ronalds Printing plant in Montreal when I was Production Director at DC Comics. Needless to say, there were a lot of them. Even at only 500 miles a pop, I had lots of frequent flier miles on Air Canada and it got so the people at the gates on both ends knew who I was. I also had lots of frequent stayer points at the Hotel Le Grande and there was a point where the front desk manager and I were playing a game to see if I could stay in every room on the 17th floor. (I think I got pretty close!)
Most of my trips there were to okay the printing on various high-profile projects -- the DC Archives editions, Frank Miller's Ronin and Dark Knight Returns, other hardcover and trade paperback editions, plus numerous "Prestige Format" books and custom comic books -- and, despite the fact that the presses ran 24/7, I seemed to do a disproportionate number of press okays in the middle of the night.
In our early days of dealing with Ronalds, there was a hierarchy of sales people I would meet. Angelo, Gabe and Francois were the three in-plant customer reps, Bob was the New York City-based sales rep, and Mr. Dion was the head of sales. If I arrived at the airport and was met by Angelo, Gabe, or Francois, the job was on the press and we were heading immediately to the plant. If Bob was meeting me, we would go to lunch and then proceed to the plant because the job was running a couple of hours behind schedule. But if Mr. Dion was there, we would have lunch, go on a tour of the city and then have dinner, after which one of the others would take me to the plant, because we were way behind schedule.
There was one time that I flew up on the first flight, arriving at about 8:15 a.m., and was met by Angelo. He said that Mr. Dion sent his apologies that he was unable to meet me, but we should go out for a big, fancy breakfast. Angelo handed me off to Francois and we went for a big fancy lunch. When dinnertime rolled around (and there was still nothing for me to see on the press), Francois handed me off to Gabe to go for a big fancy dinner. At this point, I told Gabe that there was no way I could eat another large meal and all I really wanted was a sandwich or a hamburger. Poor Gabe looked like he was going to be shot at dawn; there was no way he could report back to Mr. Dion that he had taken me out for a sandwich for dinner! I had to promise that I would write a note and explain that Gabe had tried really hard to take me out and it wasn't his fault that I only wanted a ham & Swiss on rye.
As time went by, Mr. Dion retired, Bob moved on to greener pastures, and Francois went to work for another printing company. Angelo became my primary contact, with Gabe as his back-up. And while I got better at scheduling my trips so that I didn't lose a lot of time for delays, I still seemed to spend the majority of my visits doing middle-of-the-night press okays.
During the day, we would usually have lunch at an Italian restaurant near the plant and, if it was just Angelo and me, dinner would be burgers at a fast-food place. But if you're hungry after a press okay at 2:30 in the morning, there aren't many choices.
There is, however, Tim Hortons.
Like Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme here in the States, Tim Hortons is a chain of coffee-and-donut shops spread across Canada. Like its U.S. counterparts, Tim Hortons are everywhere and they are always open. Not surprisingly, there was one not that far from the Ronalds plant and Angelo and I became regular patrons.
Every few weeks, he and I would arrive in the middle of the night, order coffee and donuts, and sit and talk business. As you might imagine, there aren't many other people out and about at that time of the night and we were quite often the only ones in the place. But there was always the same woman behind the counter and we started to wonder who she thought we were, perhaps criminals making a deal or spies making a drop. (One time when Rick Taylor filled in for me on a press okay, he and Angelo went to Tim's. The woman eyed Rick suspiciously and asked Angelo, "Where's the other fellow?" Angelo told me he was tempted to tell her I was in jail; instead he reassured her that I would be back next time.)
Usually, we would be headed back to the plant after the donut break, so we would also bring back a dozen for the pressmen, which they always enjoyed. I started wondering if Larry, the night shift press foreman, was arranging the schedule so we would have time to go to Tim's.
It's been more than a decade since I left DC and so I haven't had a Tim Hortons donut since. Until recently. Tim's recently expanded all the way south to Penn Station in New York City and when Laurie was last there, she picked up a couple for me. While I'd like to tell you that they tasted the same as I remembered, I can't. Seems the donuts sold here in New York are baked elsewhere and shipped in frozen; that's not the same as ones that have just come out of an oven in the back of the shop. But for the nostalgia value and evoking of memories, they were just fine.
Oh, about the title of this blog entry. When you're in a Tim Hortons in French-speaking Montreal, you don't ask for donuts...