“You're nervous,” he said, taking up the seat beside mine at the table.
I observed my hands, fingers drumming rapidly on the table's surface. “Yes,” I said. “I am. Are you?”
He shook his head. “No.”
And why should he be? A happy smile gracing his face, the man seems to be made up of friendliness. This is his moment. We are here to discuss his life and his work. As for me? I'm just worried about doing him justice.
Meet Phil Fitzmaurice: the life of the party, owner of the karaoke mike, and longtime Tim Hortons employee. Described by the establishment's owner, Dean Terry, as “one of the most popular people in Squamish,” Phil is a prime example for those facing and hoping to overcoming adversity.
He was hired by Squamish's original Tim Horton's owner, Wes Rafuse, in 1997 through Sea to Sky Community Services. Since then Phil has worked a solid 15-year stint at Tim Hortons. And the real kicker? He has Down syndrome.
It doesn't seem to hinder him all that much, though. Or, if it does, he doesn't show it. “Both Wes and Dean worked really closely with Phil to make [the job] a success,” said Margot Dent, with whom Phil lives. “There was lots of support in place.”
Said Terry, “I have had a most wonderful time working with Phil. There's been nothing bad. It's been a great experience.”
The feeling was mutual on Phil's end. His only complaint was that sometimes it got too crowded.
When asked about the positive experiences of working at Tim Hortons, Fitzmaurice said, “I like the work,” which largely consisted of clearing tables and taking out the garbage. “I liked to work with Wes,” he added. And, not forgetting one of the most important parts of the job, “talk[ing] to people.”
“The local regulars love to tease Phil,” Dent chuckled.
“Everybody loves Phil,” Terry interjected.
It seems that if anyone is going to be missed at their place of work, it's going to be him. Likewise, the two things that Phil said he is going to miss about his job are Dean Terry and the customers.
Phil's last day clearing tables and being regaled by the regulars was Dec. 16. After that, a goodbye party was held for him, and after that? Well, I asked Fitzmaurice what the future had in store for him. He gave me a list.
“Go fishing, take dogs for walks, cook Christmas dinner.”
I don't know about you, but that sounds like a mighty swell retirement plan to me.