Here is what good writing should do: About a month ago I was reading the God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. I was on a crowded subway and nearing the end of the book. There was a heartbreaking scene (I won’t ruin the book for anyone by telling what it was). I wanted to burst out crying and had to really control myself. As it was, tears started to fall from my eyes and I thought maybe I should just stop reading and wait until I get home, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t care what people thought because I was in the story.
Another occasion where I was reading a book didn’t turn out so well. Years ago, when I was on surveillance, I had to watch someone who was working in a bar/restaurant. It was a tiny, really run down kind of place in Parkdale where only locals went. The kind of place where people really go for the cheap beer.
I knew I would have to sit in there for a number of hours, so I brought a book with me so I could pretend to read and no one would bother me. I could read and look up when the person I was watching came into view. I had a pinhole video camera and this person was working in the kitchen but would come out everyone once in a while.
I didn’t want to eat the food, that’s the kind of place it was, so I sat there with a beer and my book. This was in the afternoon and it was not dark, therefore reading would not be that unusual. I don’t even remember now what book it was. After about half an hour, someone pointed out to their friend, loudly, “Look, she’s reading a book,”
Everyone, about 12 or 15 people, looked over at me.
“Reading a book?”
It was unbelievable, like they had never seen a book before. Someone came over and asked me why I was reading and what it was. I knew it would be futile to try to explain it to them but I tried anyway. I finally had to leave because I didn’t want the person I was watching to become involved in this.
I felt sad. I mean the kind of people that were in there were mostly poor and alcoholic but still, to have that reaction. When I think about it now, I should have gone home and got a bunch of books and brought them back and left them there. Maybe someone would have read one.
Embarrassing things are always happening to me.
Just now I went out to get a coffee and a man standing on the street, very polite, said “Hello Madam.” I said hello. “You have a dog,” he said. I figured he had seen me before walking my dog, but then he pointed to my tee shirt which was covered in pet hair. One of my cats likes to sit on me when I am at the computer. My sisters always get on my case for looking like a bum. When I am at home I just wear tee shirts and old jeans. I live in a condo downtown and there are men coming and going all day in their suits and the women are all dressed fashionably, so it is true that I probably don’t fit in but I’m not working at a job right now and I like to be comfortable.
I haven’t worked (except for writing of course) in over 6 months because I had to have an operation on my feet and the pi agency I was with was not doing well, but I don’t want to go back to that occupation, even though I was good at it. I worked hard and was the first woman in Canada to receive the PCI, the Professional Certified Investigator certification. I’m just tired and fed up with the industry, but I don’t know what to do now to make money. I am collecting so- called employment insurance. They prodded me to apply for this course and said I could get EI for a year and keep all the money I made on top of that, but after many hours of putting together proposals and attending meetings where they said I would be an excellent candidate, another department of the government, the one that funds the course said I was too overqualified to be accepted and that I was doing way better than others in the program. And the fact that I had a book coming out meant I would not need their money.
I tried to explain to him that this is Canada and I am not Margaret Atwood and a first book of short stories published by a small press is not going to make me rich, but he didn’t believe me.
I’m pretty good at landing on my feet though, so I’m sure something will happen. When you are an investigator you don’t make a regular salary, but you do make very good money.
I’ve had some even stranger jobs in my life. One time, in my twenties, I was an elevator operator for an exclusive women’s store that used to be on Yonge St. It was one of those old fashioned manually operated elevators. There were only three floors. At each floor, I would announce: women’s evening wear, accessories, etc., but I didn’t always stop level with the floor and some of the women would trip and yell at me. They also said I was driving too fast. The woman who I replaced had been doing this job for over 10 years and finally got promoted to floor sales. I quit after 3 days.
I worked two summers as a tour guide taking people around the city in a horse and buggy. I lied when I told them I had horse experience; the closest I had come was reading horse books as a young girl. Still, it was easy, the horses were one step from the glue factory and pretty much knew the routes on their own. However occasionally they would get spooked by something and take off at a full gallop, whether there were tourists onboard or not. We also had to scoop their poop and it’s not like picking up after your dog.
Next, I had a job as the only waitress at a small restaurant. The boss was a very nice man who put up with my spilling coffee on the customers and forgetting orders and tried to show his faith in me by telling me he had to go out one day on an emergency and I was in charge of the kitchen. I told him I didn’t know how to cook, but he said just take simple orders, like hamburgers.
He came back to find me standing in the middle of the restaurant crying while a few regular customers consoled me and one was behind the counter cooking.
So, I am not afraid to try new things and it is always great for a writer to gain experience and meet people in areas they may not usually get involved in.