Sunday, March 05, 2006

Getting there

I'm in the middle of tax hell - trying to figure out which forms and schedules I need to fill out to account for my 1/2 year of employment and 1/2 year of self-employment. While desperately searching for a tuition receipt, I ran across this old story I forgot about. Now I can see serious issues with this piece that would need revising, but I'm leaving it as is for the purposes of this blog. I'm happy I found it because I can already see improvements in my writing. Unfortunately my bookkeeping skills are still pretty bad. I haven't found that tuition receipt yet...

Chocolate-Coated Destiny

I was tired of work, tired of errands and tired of the same old scenery. I needed a quick lift, a little treat. I needed a road trip. I impulsively decided to get in the car and get out of town for the afternoon to wave at the farm animals and breathe in some fresh country air.

Smiths Falls was the destination of choice because it was within a 1-hour drive limit of Ottawa and the name sounded quaint. I thought I would wander around the main street and grab coffee in a diner until I saw the cover of the visitor’s guide–I was in the Chocolate Capital of Canada! Hershey Canada is in Smiths Falls and there were free tours of the manufacturing facility
running for the next 90 minutes. I felt like Charlie when he found the golden wrapper that sent him on a tour of Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory.

As soon as I pulled into the parking lot at 1 Hershey Drive and stepped out of the car, I was in heaven. The air was dripping with the inviting chocolate scent of a fresh cup of hot cocoa or brownies being pulled from the oven. I could spot fellow chocolate lovers by their dazed, dream-like expressions. I made my way into the building and started the tour, moving slowly, savouring each step. Bins of freshly roasted almonds sat next to vats of rich, gooey chocolate. Long, rectangular pools of melted chocolate appeared to serve no business purpose other than to encourage fantasies of diving in. I devoured every morsel of information: the complex
chocolate-making process, explanations of community fundraising done by Hershey Canada, and tidbits about each type of candy.

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups production line made me question my destiny in life. A huge quality assurance sign showed the difference between an acceptable cup versus an unacceptable cup. I couldn’t believe that anyone would need a sign for that. I could spot a good cup from a bad cup without any assistance. Years of eating peanut butter cups would finally prove worthwhile – I was now highly trained and qualified to be a quality assurance tester on the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup assembly line. I knew that the filling had to be perfectly centred–no leaners. I also knew that each cup must be filled right to the top–no waste. I felt uplifted as I daydreamed about my new job and made my way to the last section of the tour.

I paused to clear my head so I could appreciate the last little bit of chocolate-making magic. I was not prepared for the horror at the end of the line. Workers were pulling used moulds for full size bars off an assembly machine, and there was still some chocolate left in the moulds. Broken
pieces were heartlessly brushed aside as the cruel men stacked the moulds on racks. My heart pounded and I felt anxious watching them. What was going to happen to that excess chocolate? Would they take it home? Could they melt it down and re-use it? Were they just going to throw it away? I was distraught. My euphoria from the earlier part of the tour quickly wore off, leaving me feeling sad and empty.

The tour was finished, and I was consumed with guilt about witnessing chocolate going to waste. I was determined to leave without stopping in the souvenir shop, but a display rightby the exit caught my eye. Gleaming racks were filled with big bags ofunlabeled, uneven chocolate pieces for sale–it must be the excess from the end of the line! I felt a wave of relief sweep over me as my faith in the chocolate industry was restored. My earlier swearing-off of chocolate was
forgotten and I looked around the souvenir shop, eager to make my selections.

I needed to please my inner chocolate lover without awakening my inner chocoholic demon. I shuddered at the thought of the maniac who goes crazy when there is chocolate around and can’t think straight until she finds herself in a daze surrounded by a sea of wrappers. I considered trying to appease my desire for Hershey gifts with non-edible mementos. The refrigerator magnets and key chains looked cute, but I was afraid they would serve as bitter reminders of the time I visited the Hershey factory and deprived myself.

I devised a strategy to limit my purchases to a manageable amount–I would only buy things that I had never heard of before, and I had to be able to carry my purchases in my hands. No basket allowed. As I walked up and down the aisles of temptation, I reminded myself that buying in bulk would not save me money–it would cost me money in diet and exercise programs. Even with my strict rules, I found several must-buys: Hershey Nuggets with Raisins and Almonds. It said right on the bag, “One of life’s little rewards.” I deserved rewards. I also deserved new Hershey’s Kisses Filled with Caramel and new Hershey S’mores. The Eat More Original Dark Toffee Peanut Chew wasn’t chocolate, but it was featured as a major Hershey Canada brand, so I considered it a cultural experience to try one. My ultimate find was a Limited Edition Inside Out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Some visionary decided to put the peanut butter outside and the chocolate inside. It looked like candy from the bizarro world. I had to buy it. The total was only $7.18 and the cashier treated me to a full-size OhHenry! I wrapped my arms around my purchases and walked out feeling elated.

As I drove away I looked wistfully at the factory, wondering if it was fate that sent me there. Of all the small towns within 1 hour of Ottawa, why this one? What could I take away from this experience? Immense treasures are everywhere if you just look? Slow down and enjoy life’s little rewards? I’d have to give it some serious thought, but first I had a more important decision to make: which candy bar to eat first.


off-subject note: I deleted the Z Method post because I'm afraid of Z retribution.


Ed said...

Sheesh! What retribution could you possible fear from Z?

Anonymous said...

Do you do American or canadian taxes? I had the same deal last year for US if you have any qs.


Karen said...

Z makes a delicious chocolate dessert that I'm addicted to. If he cuts me off I'll be sad.

re: taxes. I'm filing as a Canadian resident, hoping to be able to get a foreign-earned income exclusion for the US. I have to file in both countries. The joys of dual citizenship.
I was up until 3:30 am last night doing the Canadian tax. I owe Qc, but get a refund from Can, leaving me -35. Could have been worse.
Hopefully Uncle Sam doesn't want a piece of me, too.