In another few weeks, I'll be making my way to the ThoughtWorks Toronto office. Having never been to the city before, the end of December seemed like a perfect time for Ginger and I to head north while visiting our families in Greater Detroit.
Since 2005, 1.8 million acres surrounding Greater Toronto have been deemed a greenbelt in an effort to prevent urban sprawl. As it happens, once you get out of that protected acreage, it's mostly farmland as well on the drive from Detroit. London, Ontario is one of the few towns along the way and felt like a good stopping point for lunch.
Just like you'd expect from a city, parking in London isn't free. It took $3, and while we nearly paid cash — I handed Ginger the $3 I had and a folded up $10 fell out of it — I went with my American Express.
The first restaurant we stepped into looked delicious, but clearly said cash only by the register. We both prefer the cashless life, and knew it'd be tight anyway, so we moved on to the diner across the street. With no clear mention of cash only, and an ATM right there, it was a safe option. Or so we thought.
Me: "I'll have the chicken tenders... and do you take credit?"
The server responded, quickly: "Okay. No, but we've got an ATM right there."
Me: "Any chance you take US cash?"
The server, quickly again: "At par, so a dollar is a dollar."
Not feeling great about our cash situation, I headed over to the corner to try the little non-bank-affiliated ATM. I wasn't concerned about fees, because Ally Bank is awesome and just reimburses them. It let me get all the way through the transaction, and then denied me as an Invalid Acquirer. I let Ginger know and she headed over to try her bank card. Same thing; those little ATMs must not like international cards.
We scraped at our pockets and came up with $23. Doing the math in our heads, and not knowing the tax rate in London, we knew it'd be close; closer than ever before.
Heading to the register the guy tallied the bill and came up with $22.85. Just barely made it, but only with the awful feeling of stiffing the guy who was so nice to us. We'll be back, just with a giant tip.
For more on our Canadian restaurant experience, check out Ginger's Float Me Down the River.