When I was twenty-one I decided to go to Australia. I managed to get a job making milkshakes in a university cafeteria, which was a pretty good gig—friendly people, a regular pay check, and I could take home as many leftover meat pies as I liked. Which, admittedly, wasn’t very many. Still, perks are perks.
Then, after a couple of months, I decided to follow the guy I was living with to another city, which meant I had to leave my milkshake bar and free meat pies and look for other work. I had no qualifications at all, and I had just fallen off a horse and had a concussion and hip and back injuries, which ruled out anything too physical. I didn’t really mind what kind of work I did- but I needed some quick cash.
So when I saw an ad in the paper that said CASH PAID DAILY I was all over it. There wasn’t much information about the nature of the work, but I was too broke to be picky. I showed up at the designated intersection at eight the next morning.
A white van picked us up. Us, in this case, was me and a motley assortment of others, mostly male and mostly quite a few years older than me. We all climbed in and were told we’d be canvassing door to door, fundraising for charity. We’d be allowed to keep a percentage of the money we collected. I think we all had different charities that we were supposed to be fundraising for, but there wasn’t much chat. In fact, most of the guys in the group didn’t speak English and several were fast asleep in the back of the van.
We were dropped off in various residential neighbourhoods, handed maps with our assigned streets highlighted, and told where to be at the end of the day to get our ride back into town. I got out of the van and looked up at the steep hill and blazing blue sky and the endless rows of houses. It was over forty degrees and the sun was melting the tarmac under my feet.
I consulted my paperwork and read that I was collecting money for the Visually-Impaired Blind Lawn Bowlers Association. So off I went to knock on my first door. I had no information at all about the charity and no idea what percentage of the money would actually go to it. I had no idea if the charity even existed or if the whole fund-raising system was a scam.
As it turned out, none of that mattered. Because something about me saying Visually-Impaired Blind Lawn Bowlers Association reduced people to hysterical laughter.
I didn’t know why. I’d never actually seen people lawn bowl, blind or otherwise, so maybe I was missing the joke. Or maybe it was my Canadian accent, which everyone seemed to think was an American accent and which reminded them of some TV show I’d never heard of. Or maybe lawn bowling had some weird and wildly amusing double meaning that I was unaware of. Regardless, by lunchtime I had switched to saying Wheelchair Basketball. It still had a connection to both sports and disabilities, so I didn’t think it was entirely dishonest, and more importantly, it didn’t result in such hilarity. Unfortunately, it didn’t result in large donations either.
And that CASH PAID DAILY? After eight hours, I had collected eight dollars. Mostly in very heavy small change. I got to keep 10%. Yes, that would be eighty cents. Yes, that is in fact ten cents an hour.
So if there are days when writing is ever-so-slightly less than exhilarating? There are worse jobs.