Posted on | March 26, 2012 | No Comments
I love my job working on the documentary. The difficulty with contract work is that eventually contracts end. Usually directly before my birthday.
As such I’m contemplating alternatives.
“You can’t teach ESL,” says my long time friend, I unsuccessfully lived with a year prior.
“Yes I can.”
We are at party, three drinks deep and I’m at that phase of the evening where I have become somewhat hard of hearing and speak with less than proper volume control.
“You are too scatterbrained,” he says. “You need to have a license. They have licensed teachers.”
“I’d be a great teacher.”
“You’d be horrible. They won’t let you teach them.”
I am being lambasted. Now I get a little more passionate.
“They? They? Who the fuck are they?” I reply. “The ESL Mafia. I’m talking the underground, the black market, unconventional methods. Who knows ESL people better than I do? All my roommates are about to be deported!”
The reason my roommates all have English as their second language involves a flood and fire in the home of my former roommate, who is presently deriding my teaching skills and giving the impression he is less than a supportive friend. I believe his doubt in regards to my virtues to be well founded. Being scatterbrained is a nice way of describing my idiocy while in his domicile. Following the fire and flood it became sensible that I move out as soon as possible, Craig’s List offered me an unconventional answer to my problem. Thus roommates who speak English as a second language and will soon face deportation.
“I believe in unconventional approaches,” says the tall clean-faced man sitting next to me on the couch. “They could use a black market for language specialists.”
“He’s with me. He’s motherfucking with me,” I shout at my old roommate. I realize I haven’t introduced myself to my lanky new companion. How rude. “I’m Michael Gray Kimber.”
“Mouthful,” he replies.
“Everyone’s name is Michael. Figured people would remember my name if I provide the whole thing. Everyone’s name is Michael,” I say, and momentarily contemplate discussing my idea for union, where all Michaels work together to a greater purpose, and a memorial service for the great Michael we lost this year. Realizing that I haven’t gotten his name, I stop my rant before going to the point of no return. “Your name is?”
“Botswana,” he replies.
His name is not Botswana but I realized due to the confidential nature of our discussion he may desire to have his identity cloaked and I have always wanted a friend named Botswana. I have kept my fictional additions to his personality minimal. He doesn’t have birds that follow him, a portable fish tank that he keeps his beer in and he isn’t in a portable porta potty at the party. I used discretion.
“I think a lot of the teachers are condescending, Botswana,” I say. “Giving them classes that are easy to pass and slang that isn’t applicable. One of my roommates at Hotel Internationale was saying, “You bet and golly gee when I first met her. They were training her for the 50s. Now she is speaking English like a pro. I taught her Nova Scotian slang. She says cuz.”
Botswana chuckles, momentarily bewildered by the strangeness of a drunken introduction to Michael Kimber.
At my home, known to many as Hotel Internationale, I am the only Canadian who attends the dance parties. My home becomes the United Nations, with drunker foreign representatives who know all the words to the club music blasting from my counter top. The first question is always where are you from, rather than what do you do.
We aren’t at my house. I have to ask him what he does for a living. It’s called being polite.
“So what do you do?” I ask Botswana.
“I work for the TTC. Yup I am that guy.”
HE IS THAT GUY!
I resist giving into the fullness of my glee at this pronouncement. I have wanted to meet someone who worked for the TTC almost as long as I wanted a man named Botswana to be my friend. When I say met, I mean not shoot past them, waving my transfer like a bible at a Vampire.
“What’s the hardest one to drive? The subway? Street Car? My friend said that…”
“Streetcar is the hardest. Subways probably the easiest. I drive a bus.”
“I thought Streetcar would be the easiest,” I say.
“It’s 30 tons. You can’t go over 40 kilometers or it’s impossible to stop by the next street light.”
“Have you hit the shooting spree phase yet?” I ask.
I wonder how often people ask transportation workers this question. Judging by his complete lack of reaction I would say the answer is often.
“No. Usually you dance on that edge by the end of the first year. I get it though. You only see people at their worst. Inconvenienced, scared of you, trying to make you scared of them. People are pretty ugly. They all want to take something out of you, like it will make up for what they don’t have.”
“What does it make you think about humanity?” I have a habit of making my human interactions into interviews or raving comedic monologues while drunk.
Tonight Botswana is on 60 Minutes and I am Leslie Stahl.
“That everyone lives incredibly small lives and are looking for their opportunity to get angry,” he replies. “I can tell who is going to tell me off just by looking at body language. I avoid a lot of conflicts simply by avoiding eye contact.”
“How many people get angry at you during a day?”
“Because they can. It is part of being a person. You have the right to get pissed off at people who aren’t doing what you want them to. You can pretend that the things inconveniencing you are about you and that something could be done if people were just reasonable enough. It’s not just the suitcase people. You know that guy at the Tim Horton’s line,” begins Botswana. “ Homeless. Smells not so good. Notice how he is just waiting for them to get the order wrong. He goes apeshit on the guy. You think to yourself, ‘What’s the fucking point?’ Then you realize he spent the whole morning collecting the change to pay for it. It means more to him, to be a customer, is to be like everyone else. For that moment he get’s to be the same as the people that glare at him as he asks for change, he gets to exercise his right to be free. He gets to be a jerk off. ”
I understand the idea of wanting to shout at people about things that don’t matter. The feeling of powerlessness that makes you want to take momentary power over someone else. I have called the phone company to yell at some poor bastard simply because I was having a bad day. Yet it seems to me the angriest people have the smallest lives, riding a rut of their own character, throwing empty liquor bottles at Wind Mills.
I’m drunk and with friends from philosophy school so I toy with the idea of eternal return and bus driving. How each day people get on the bus and find their life the same. That what happened before will happen again, making time a closed wheel that grinds you down to a nub. How angry interjection, allows us to say that our life isn’t a closed wheel. That we could rise up, and smash yesterday and change tomorrow, in a blaze of holy rage. That there is one rash easy solution to our problems, which most likely stems from our childhood, when if we yelled loud enough our problems would be solved by someone else.
I imagine Toronto as a city of babies, crawling over each other, refusing to share their cell phones, posting pictures of their shit on Facebook. And I realize the yelling comes from every direction. All slow to the realization that no one is going to come and hold us when we throw a temper tantrum.
“Do you like Taxi Driver?”
“You know I think they miss the point in Taxi Driver. They had that whole Marine angle. Ruins the movie. You don’t need Vietnam and bombs dropping to become alienate being a fucking taxi driver. It makes sense to me how you start to see the world as an enemy,” says Botswana.
“Yeah I figure it is sort of an agonizing life,” I reply. “Imagine it, Botswana. Everyone incredibly drunk, yelling in your ear, stinking of perfume. Driving around pimps, businessmen who treat you like their idiot butler. I could see where he might imagine a world where his anger could solve everything. And everyday the same. That constant repetition.”
“Over and over again.”
“I worked at a convenience store after college,” I reply. “All the conversations were the same. I’d leave with this burning head of static. Everyone wanted a smoke, slim jims. The interruptions between counting changes, ringing shit in was polite people having the conversation with you for the first time. They ask you about your day, what a jerk off the last guy was and you just smile and are polite and saying nothing and you leave dying for a good conversation. It’s the repetition. Feels fucking endless.”
“Yeah everyday the same route. Same people. You switch routes and it’s usually worse. I got a route. I am used to the people.”
“How do you continue paying attention? How many miles a day same exact streets. I’m too scatterbrained to drive a bus. Mike Kimber would definitely kill a cyclist by accident.”
“You drive 600 kilometers,” says Botswana, eyes glazing over in recollection. “All the same four kilometers. It is hard to pay attention. You focus on the small differences. The cars that’s no longer in it’s parking space, how next day it has a dent in it. The tiny things. You know the roads like no one else. Way more than the people that walk those streets. They do it once a day, with head phones on, waiting for Adele to kill their ex boyfriends. I do it a thousand times and I always see something different. Same with the people. The homeless guy who isn’t drunk yet by the time he usually is. You start cheering him on a bit. Imagine he is in AA. The asshole that got laid that morning and doesn’t want to pick a fight. Smiles and acts polite when he’s usually trying to think of a way of telling you to fuck yourself. Every ride a little something changes. I am an artist, with pictures, paintbrush, that type of thing. I do some drawing sometimes after my shift. It’s that thing you are looking for. The thing that’s beautiful in all the terrible mundane shit you draw. The one time it’s real and true. The road is sort of practice for that.”
“It’s the repetition that kills you,” I say. Yes, after a few drinks I become the conversation salesman. Forcing things back to the same path. “Deadens you. You have to find a way to break it. Routine and repetition make us worse. Why relationships break down. Why we stop liking things. The novelty wears off and we can’t stop doing it.”
“You are totally fucking right,” exclaims Botswana. “I was reading this book. Train driver in the holocaust. Horrible disconcerting read. Mainly because he doesn’t have much sympathy for the people he is driving to their death. There were the guys who were going to the gas chambers; they weren’t even going to bother working them to death. He knew it. He didn’t try to be polite. Try to make their day better. He just focused on how fucking irritating they were, because the shock wore off, only the monotony continued on. He just thought about how rude they were. Nobody likes taking a trip and I expect people had lots of questions. Same reason your parents wanting to fuck murder you on the way to Disneyland. It’s horrifying but I can understand it. How numbing the routine can get if you can find something to look at along the way. If you can’t see something beautiful. There isn’t a lot of beautiful things to see on the bus.”
“It’s work. It kills us,” I reply. “Kills everybody. I mean what job do you that you aren’t hurting someone. I give people cancer at the convenience store. I sell cell phones and I am giving people trendy tumors. It’s a job. You do the same thing for a shit load of hours and you put food on your table. What you give other people is a whole other bag of shit.”
“I have back problems from driving all day,” says Botswana. “The TTC put out an announcement that employees were only allowed to have 2 and a half minute bathroom breaks. I wanted to ask them what happens if I needed a longer break. Sometimes you can’t accomplish everything you need to in that time frame. I get people staring at their watches, asking why it took so long. Is there anything other job where a homeless person can complain to you that it took too long for you to have a shit?”
“Why do you do it?”
“I love the people I work with. They are the most intelligent hardworking people I know. We call each other brother and sister. They are the only people that understand it’s like. And I hate looking for work. The money is good, benefits are great. I don’t have to worry about getting a job. It’s the golden handcuffs. Sometimes I hate it but I’d probably hate most jobs.”
It’s three hours later and it’s raining.
I have spent the last few hours going over old stories with old friends. The time we went to war for a plastic torso. Weddings, babies and drug busts.
I’m drunkenly staggering with one of those old friends.
Both of us are inappropriately dressed but we don’t want to end the conversation. It’s a strange necessity that you meet your old friends when you are young. It’s harder to do as you get older and have so much more to do.
We have both avoided golden handcuffs. We decided to be writers and are learning to deal with the sporadic up and down nature of our fortunes.
“I’m going to do some social media work. Twittering,” says my friend. “Twittering for the sixth biggest lamp sales company in the whole world. Want to have fun with lamps? 140 characters. I fucking love lamps. One down.”
“Craigslist is great for finding volunteer jobs,” I say. “Compensation TBD. Looking for experience? Want an internship with some shit company that will give you the valuable experience of being fucked out of money while giving someone your time?’
We chuckle in the strange way friends do when they realize they have agreed to eat shit together for the betterment of their souls.
“It’s fucking horrifying. Makes me depressed,” says my friend, the social media lamp expert. “I drink a lot. Wake up later in the day. I had savings once. Those were the days. A month ago. 30 days ago.”
“We should have chosen to do shit we hate for the rest of our lives. Stuff that has constant promotions just for being there. We could have ruined the environment. Fuck forests.”
“We should have been around in the 80s,” he points out.
“I would have done so much insider training.”
“You mean trading,” he points out. “I would have crushed so many innocent people if I had been born in the 80s. Sweat shops help you lose weight. It’s like yoga.”
“I could have been a good Viking. A really good Viking.”
“Blond hair. Yeah, Mike, you could have been a good Viking.”
“I am working on my muscles. I’d need to get jacked for reaving. I could have been a Cooler. Like Patrick Swayze. I could have ripped out people’s throats for a living”
“I should have gone to Law School,” he replies. “There are corporations that needs lawyers. I could have an ulcer.”
We laugh hysterically, reveling in the strange misery that comes when your work doesn’t make anyone besides you miserable. The gift of being an artist, being free from golden handcuffs and a predictable fortune.
“Every have an idea that is too bright for you to look at? It hurts your eyes with revelation. Like one of those light bulbs that are too bright,” I ask.
“Lamps. You need lamps.”
We high five and trade assurances that we are too smart and skilled to remain unemployed for the rest of our lives. That we made the right choice that we wouldn’t have been good Vikings anyway.
We walk into the rain and like Botswana, it’s not the job, it’s the people. I’ve met my people. And we were never meant to be Vikings.
He walks his way and I walk mine.
The rain hits my face and I feel this strange gratitude. Grateful that there is still a chance I might get to see something beautiful. That I might not have made a mistake by chasing my dreams. That I might find my way out of the closed circle. That maybe holding my breath, will become deepsea diving and in the depths of myself I’ll find what I was looking for.
However……..in the city of babies, some large ones are running directly towards me. I put on my most threatening face and look for somewhere to run.
“Frankie, Frankie, Frankie,” shout three separate drunken voices getting steadily closer. It’s a little past three and my new friends are getting an early start on St. Patrick’s Day. The man they are chasing is most likely not named Frankie. They are speaking at inappropriate volume and now running away from my house and towards Frankie.
The things is… Frankie has a baseball bat. Frankie used to watch Scarface and his pursuers are playing baseballs instead of gangsters.
I stagger past the fight, not asking why someone would go for a walk at three in the morning with a baseball bat, glad to be home, at Hotel Internationale, where they ask where you are from, not what you do.
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