Thursday, June 26, 2008
My wife told me I had to go to work today. I've been calling in sick for a few days, trying to make a go of a home business which mainly consists of buying and selling paper towel. Long story short, I spent all of our savings but now have enough paper towel to soak up the Red Sea so that Moses and his people can safely cross to the promise land.
I'm a photocopy guy at a small accounting firm. It felt weird walking back into my day job this morning. Everyone was busily bustling about so I walked straight to my cubicle and kept my head down. I didn't want to answer any questions as to why I haven't been coming in to work lately. I picked up my phone and dialed up Charisse, an accountant who works in a cubicle across the room from me.
ME: Charisse, it's me, Eric. I'm hiding in my cubicle.
CHARISSE: Eric, where have you been?
ME: I'm just checking in to catch up on what's been happening here.
CHARISSE: No one's seen you in five weeks.
ME: I've had the sniffles.
CHARISSE: You better have a doctor's note.
ME: My doctor kind of fired me as a patient 'cause I never make it to the appointments.
I turned around in my seat to look up behind me, and was immediately faced with Sheila, my boss, who stood over me.
SHEILA (stone cold): Where have you been?
ME (nonchalantly): I've been here all morning, working away, like a dog.
SHEILA: How about yesterday? And the day before that?
ME (incredulous): I was here, working away, like a dog.
Sheila turned to Charlie who is this skinny twentysomething dweeb who works in the cubicle next to mine and never says anything.
SHEILA (indulging me): Charlie, was Eric here yesterday?
I leaned back in my chair so that I could easily stare into Charlie's cubicle and give him a hard, intense look.
ME: Yeah Charlie, was I here yesterday? You remember me here, right, and also how you want to stay alive after work today, so that you can get to go home to your mommy, safely, in one piece.
Looking at Charlie just then, it dawned on me that I never noticed just how imposingly tall Charlie is, and overtly muscular. Charlie stared back into my eyes, his own eyes dead, and slightly annoyed, like I wasn't even worth the effort to look at.
CHARLIE: No. He wasn't here yesterday.
I was steamed.
ME: Hey pardner! I was here! I remember! Because I was working away! Like a dog!
SHEILA: Eric, calm down.
ME (still hot under the collar): It's just that I hate liars! I hate big fat liars like Charlie!
Charlie's bulging biceps were twitching then, as he appeared to be struggling to remain seated, and not to lunge at me.
ME: The garbage that spills from Charlie's mouth is so foul. Everything that comes out of his mouth is trash.
Charlie starting cracking his knuckles with his Incredible-Hulk-like, tree trunk fingers. If I said anything else, this guy was surely going to rip my entire body into wedding confetti.
I shook my head.
ME: What a liar.
SHEILA: I stared at your cubicle all day yesterday. You were never here. So Eric, you stop lying.
Sheila stared intently into my eyes. I blushed from being so intimidated.
ME: Well maybe it was the day before yesterday that I was here...
This is when Sheila really lost it.
SHEILA: I've been staring at your cubicle for five weeks now! And it's been empty for five weeks!
Many in the office shuddered then. The place turned deathly still.
ME (meekly): Well, maybe it was five weeks ago that I was here, come to think of it. It just felt like it was yesterday. It's just all so fresh in my head. Probably because on that day I was working away, like a dog.
SHEILA: You never called to let us know what happened to you.
ME: I didn't want to be a bother. I was fine everybody, trust me.
SHEILA: Do you have a doctor's note?
ME: I'm kind of in between doctors right now.
I reached down into my backpack which was under my desk.
ME: But my wife did write a note from home. I just need to have her sign it tonight.
SHEILA: Don't bother. You're fired.
My jaw dropped. I looked back up at Sheila.
ME: I missed five weeks of work. I never called to explain my whereabouts. I don't have a doctor's note or even a valid reason as to why I've been missing for so long. And now... I'm fired. I have to be honest with you Sheila; I never saw that one coming.
SHEILA: Well, what I'd like to see is you leaving.
I paused for a moment, not saying anything. I couldn't afford to lose my job. I needed a plan, or a disguise, but not necessarily both.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
As I wrote in previous entries, I’ve been calling in sick at work now for several weeks as I build my own conglomerate in the coat closet of the one bedroom apartment I share with my wife.
This is how my first telemarketing call went.
I looked down at the sales script I wrote for myself.
ME (in my reading-out-loud voice): Hello. Do you have one to two hours to talk to me about my products which I want to sell to you?
WOMAN: Two hours? No. Of course not.
ME (still reading): I need at least two hours to effectively tell you everything about my products in minute detail. I may also need an extra hour and a half to tell you about myself, and how I came to start my own company in my small closet which now has a burnt-out light bulb so I cannot see anything.
WOMAN: That’s over three hours? What the heck are you selling?
ME: Glad you asked. I am selling paper towel.
WOMAN: We have plenty of paper towel here, so no thanks. Have a nice day.
ME: How much are you selling it for?
ME: I also buy paper towel.
WOMAN: What kind of business is this?
ME: I buy and re-sell paper towel.
WOMAN: That's really odd.
ME: What’s your address? I’ll send you some of my paper towel. I guarantee that after you sample it, you’ll be on your knees, begging me to sell you more. Or you can trade in some of your own paper towel for some of mine.
WOMAN: But your paper towel is just someone else’s that you bought and sold or traded back to me. What’s the difference?
I went back to my sales script.
ME (in my reading-out-loud voice): Well, once you join my paper towel club, you’ll be trading and buying paper towel with me, AND trading and buying paper towel with all of your friends, during paper towel parties. And when all your friends under you make money, you’ll be making money.
WOMAN: Is this a pyramid scheme?
ME: It’s basically a marketing-structured, paper towel pyramid scheme.
WOMAN (annoyed): How does anyone make money?
ME: That’s up to you, really, and how much time and effort you’ll want to put into your paper towel parties.
WOMAN: I am really not interested. I’m going to hang up now.
ME: Wait… First let me tell you about our Easy-Pay-Whaddaya-Say-Plan. For just four instalments of only two dollars and three cents a month, you can purchase your very first roll of paper towel with thirty sheets of quilted paper. It’s that easy. And that’s before a non-refundable administration fee, a delivery charge, postage, and a finder's fee.
WOMAN: That’s pretty pricey for one roll of paper towel.
ME: Well, then you can sign up for our more affordable refurbished paper towel. That's paper towel which I've purchased from others which looks slightly secondhand due to odd stains. Some of these rolls have paper which is still dripping from soaked up messes, so that's why it's better priced to move.
WOMAN: How is anyone supposed to clean with wet and used paper towel?
ME: That's for you to figure out. I'm not the one who can't afford paper towel that no one's used before.
WOMAN: I'm hanging up now.
ME: Well, now would be a great time to let you know about my very own line of condoms for cheapskates.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
This is the tail end of a conversation I had the other day with a friend whom I just happen to bump into at the hardware store.
MY FRIEND: Oh yeah, and Bobby sends his well wishes.
Bobby is a mutual buddy of myself and this friend.
ME: When did he say that?
MY FRIEND (unsure): A week ago... two weeks ago...
ME (in disbelief): Two weeks ago?
MY FRIEND: Yeah.
ME: You know, there's e-mail nowadays, and cell phones. How hard is it to send your well wishes right away? I should be getting them as soon as someone sends them. I'm sorry, but in this day and age, sending your well wishes through someone else that I may not even happen to bump into in the next few weeks, or months, is really careless. You tell Bobby that I could have really used his well wishes two weeks ago, and as a matter of fact, my life right now is pretty depressing, and hopeless, probably because of his tardiness, so he can take his well wishes and pack them deep inside his caboose.
My mother mailed me a birthday card this year, and like magic, I got it right on my birthday. I called her up, enraged.
ME: Yeah, Dad, put Mom on the phone. I am going through the roof over here! No I don't want to count to ten first. 'Cause I swear, when I get to ten, I may just do something I'll regret if I think about it afterwards, especially if I just read the ten commandments or Dear Abby or something.
I paused for a brief moment. Then:
ME: Hey mom, what's the big idea anyway? Yeah, happy birthday to you too. I just received this birthday card here - through the mail...
I repeated this last phrase in disbelief, as though I was asking myself a question.
ME: Through the mail?
I then proceeded with my rant.
ME: And I get it on the day of my birthday. You took a big risk here, lady. You live hundreds of miles away. What were you thinking? Who knows when I could have gotten my card. And then what? That's my day, and you're being awfully cavalier with it. But if you e-mailed it, like an e-greeting which is free, and I know you love anything free when it comes to anyone's birthday, then I wouldn't run the risk of being birthday card-less on my special day. Dad, hang up. Dad... don't sing happy birthday... Mom, don't sing the harmonies. Because Mom, I don't want to celebrate a day that I wish never happened after what transpired here today. Right now, I wish I had never been born. At least not by you.
There was an awkward silence at the other end.
ME: And just because you're going to e-mail me next year for my birthday, don't think you're getting out of mailing me my usual birthday cheque. You better mail it to me, just like you do every year, and maybe with a birthday card if you're feeling like you have any manners that day.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I am a very independent man. This is why I am starting my own company. I already took a few days off from work (I called in sick again) to concentrate on Phase I of my master plan. It only took me one week to get it done, and that was coming up with a company name.
I have set up a home office which is actually a re-converted closet where I have a chair, a pad of paper with pen, and a flashlight for lighting. My wife’s hanging coats sometimes get in the way of me seeing my pad of paper on my lap, but it’s still nice to hang out in there. It makes me feel like we have this whole other room that we never knew about. I locked myself in my closet office for a full seven days, only emerging when I had completed Phase I. There were only 4 instances when I briefly left the closet, and these were:
1) to go to the washroom
2) to go to the corner store to restock on what I call my “business decision-making fuel” (which is just basically bags of marshmallows)
3) to watch the Sci-Fi Channel (mostly for inspiration) for fourteen straight hours a day
4) to take a much needed break every seven minutes
Last night, when my wife finally arrived from a long day at work, I burst out of my office, over-energized with excitement regarding Phase I.
ME: I came up with a name for my company.
MY WIFE: What is it?
ME: Okay, sit down.
My wife sat in the kitchen chair closest to her.
ME: All right… it’s called… Last… But Not Least.
My wife nodded, then frowned.
MY WIFE: What?
ME (smiling from ear to ear): Last… But Not Least.
My wife pondered for a brief moment. Then:
MY WIFE: I’m not sure about the thinking behind a business name with the words “Last” and “Least” in it. It doesn’t really inspire confidence, or anything good, really.
ME: It’s just that as a business, just because I’ll sometimes come in last among my competitors, it won’t necessarily mean that I’m the least, or any less than they are as a company.
MY WIFE: Yes it will.
ME: Plus, when I’m introduced at business award ceremonies, they’ll say, “And now, last but not least, it’s Last But Not Least.” How cool is that?
MY WIFE. Not very. It’s ridiculous actually. What’s your stupid company making anyway?
ME: That’s to be decided during Phase II…
My wife shook her head to herself.
ME: Which I’ve already started. So far, I’ll be making a reality show of what it’s like to be me during the day [see previous diary entry].
MY WIFE: I’ve seen the footage. It’s just you in the kitchen, sleeping. And then you’re gone for hours.
ME: It’s not like we won’t be making other stuff too.
MY WIFE: Like what?
ME: I’m thinking something like paper towel. It’s everywhere. I just have to go to the drugstore, buy a whole bunch on sale, and then roll it onto my own rolls, and sell it again.
MY WIFE: So you’ll be reselling paper towel?
ME: Yeah, but with my picture on the package.
MY WIFE: Who cares if your picture’s on the package? Nobody knows you from Adam.
ME: Yeah, but it’ll be a picture of me smiling, because I’m getting all my messes cleaned up. Everybody’s got messes.
MY WIFE: Some more than others.
ME: I have a surprise for you.
MY WIFE: I’m not that interested.
ME: I’m making you VP of Last But Not Least.
MY WIFE: VP of what?
ME: VP of Funding. I want you to call all the members of your family, and all the members of your friends’ families and I want you to ask them to invest in my company. And then I’d like you to report back to me in one hour with a progress PowerPoint presentation. We’ll meet in the closet. I’ve set up a boardroom.
MY WIFE: Stop going in the closet. All my clothes are sticky with these little bits of marshmallow everywhere.
ME: Well, I don’t know where you find the time for all this chitter-chatter. I’m just the CEO around here. I’m not the VP of Funding with all these extra hours for fun and games. Oh well, if you’ll just indulge me, I have a company to run.
And with that I stomped back into the closet, slammed the door and turned on my flashlight.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The following is a conversation I had with my wife on Sunday night.
MY WIFE: You want to make a reality show out of our marriage?
ME: And our home life.
MY WIFE: Who’s going to watch that crap?
ME: I’m going to shop it around to all the big TV networks.
MY WIFE: Nobody knows who we are. We’re not the Osbournes.
ME: Nobody knew Jon & Kate Plus 8.
MY WIFE: They have 8 small children. All you have is a cat.
ME (adding to her last sentence): Who’s rambunctious.
MY WIFE: Nobody’s going to watch a show about a guy who keeps calling in sick at work just so he can play with his cat.
ME: They will if you and I keep having disagreements and throw furniture around.
MY WIFE: I’m not going to be in your stupid show.
ME: You just wait and see. This thing is going to be huge. I’m so happy.
That night, before going to bed, I set up my aunt’s video camera in the kitchen. This camera has a hard drive and can record for many hours on end. Yesterday morning, I turned it on as soon as I woke up. The following is a log of the crazy insane footage I have so far.
I walk into the kitchen, rubbing my sleep-puffed eyelids, and wearing a ragged, frayed “wife beater” T-shirt and a very loose fitting pair of tighty-whities (which were my grandfather’s who passed away over twenty years ago. I only recently inherited a minuscule portion of his estate, after a lengthy court battle with friends and relatives. This portion basically consists of just socks and underwear. I don’t want everyone to think that I fought for almost twenty years just for underwear; I just wanted what was rightfully mine – he was my grandfather after all! I don’t really care about the underwear, really… but I digress). My eyes are still only half open as I boil water for tea and then feed the cat, and then steep the tea. All this hectic activity takes about an hour and a half. So far, I haven’t said anything. I start to worry that I might run out of stuff to do and whether my show, in future episodes, might have some lulls in it.
I finally sit down at the kitchen table and sip my tea while silently reading the paper to myself. This takes about an hour.
While reading the paper, I doze off. The camera keeps recording as I sleep for the next three hours.
I finally awaken with a start. I stand and walk to my cat’s litter box in the corner of the kitchen, and proceed to clean it out - something I haven’t done in almost four months. It smells terrible. I swear out loud (the only word spoken so far). After spilling kitty litter everywhere, I open the door for fresh air and my cat darts out. I scramble out after her. For the next five hours, the camera records the empty, silent kitchen.
Still recording the empty kitchen, the camera’s hard drive runs out of memory and shuts itself off.
I now find myself with all this provocative footage of what it’s like to be me, and what the inside of my head might look like. A sort of “a day in the life of”. The only thing left to do is edit this footage to make my “pilot’ episode, which I’ll show TV execs, just to tantalize them. I haven’t been this excited since I won underwear in court, shouting, “That’s the one thing I won’t let you take from me!” and then being smacked in the face with a (thrown-from-across-the-room) tied up bundle of tighty-whities.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I called in sick at the office yesterday and stayed on my couch at home with three large bags of dill pickle popcorn, a dozen powdered doughnuts and twelve cans of Tab and watched daytime TV all day until my wife came home from work whereupon I slipped out the living room window and then walked in through the front door pretending I was just returning from work.
MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE: Did you go to work in your pyjamas?
ME: The office called with a really important emergency this morning. They told me run right over, and not to even bother changing or going to the washroom or anything.
MY WIFE: All you do is make photocopies there? What kind of emergency could it have been?
ME: Well, the photocopier broke and there was no more paper and the door to the photocopier room was locked and no one has the key anymore and everybody needed copies and I had to make hand drawn facsimiles of everything, and because there was no paper, I had to draw and write on all the cubicle walls and furniture and the back of other people’s hands.
MY WIFE (annoyed): I keep stepping on popcorn.
ME: I must have left the popper on all day.
MY WIFE: Why is my make-up strewn everywhere? Were you playing with it again?
ME: You’re crazy!
MY WIFE: Do you have blush on?
ME: You're making me bashful!
Anyway, during my stay home for the day, I saw a captivating talk show which forced me to stop and think about the people in my life who might be holding me back. The show explained how many of us have individuals in our lives who do nothing but create more problems, like making you do all the work and pay the bills while they call in sick and stay at home, or leaving food lying on your floor, or using your stuff without putting it away and then lying about it.
The talk show host called these people Toxic Friends, and she showed everyone how to just dial them up by phone, in the middle of the day, and to tell them that you can’t be friends anymore. So this morning, from my desk cubicle telephone, I called my friend Randy.
ME: Hi Randy.
ME: You’re toxic and for a long time now, you’ve been holding me back.
RANDY (unsure of what I was talking about): Okay.
ME: The time you spent with me may have been the best you’ve ever had with a friend, full of laughter, snakes and ladders and ballet-jazz dancing but it’s lights out. You could have had all this for a lot longer but you blew it.
RANDY (still unsure): All right.
ME: I can’t be the Eric you want me to be, holding myself back just so you can feel good about yourself. I’m so much more than you’ll ever be, and I’m sorry if that makes you feel horrible about yourself. Lord knows, if I were you, I’d feel much worse, like a dirty piece of trash blowing around in some alleyway. You’re a brave man walking around as yourself, I’ll give you that. Not too many would do it. You might be the only one.
RANDY: Eric, if this is about the vacuum cleaner you borrowed last summer and never returned, it’s okay if you broke it. We already bought a new one.
ME: I don’t even know what vacuum cleaner you’re talking about, but if it’s the one I sold on e-Bay, I never broke it. We’re done, all right. Don’t try and make me change my mind. We’ll never be friends again so stop bringing up everything I’ve done in the past - to you, to your family or to your family’s friends. I can’t be friends with you, ever again. It won’t change anything if you bring up the fact that I once told you I’d remodel your house for free, knocked down all the walls, including the outer ones, and then stopped work for a month before finally admitting I didn’t know what I was doing but you still needed to pay me for all the time I put in, including all the hours I stressed around my house wondering how I was going to tell you that I completely ruined your home. I only said I’d work on your house because you’re so manly and I wanted you to think that I was really good with tools and bricks and wheelbarrows. I know you’ve never said anything about it, but I know you’re jealous of the Lexis I bought with the money you finally paid me. We’re done. Don’t ever call me here again, unless it’s for business and you want something fixed around your home. So let’s make this clear, I’m giving you up as a friend, not as a client. You pay much too well.
And with that I hung up. I looked down at my list. I had thirty more friends to go.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Last Friday morning, I found out Charisse (from the accounting firm where I work at as a photocopy guy) was having a Girls Night Out party at her house for some of the women in our office where they would be drinking Cosmopolitan Martinis before going to see the movie version of Sex and the City. None of the men in the office were invited except for Don, who is the only openly gay male at our firm.
I was incensed. So what if I’m a straight man? I LOVE Sex and the City. It’s my fave show of ALL time. By 11am, I decided that I would have my own Sex and the City party, and this one would be a Guys Night Out. Heck yeah! Just a night with us guys, maybe barbecuing and having a few brews and some steaks and then going to Sex and the City.
I quickly handed out invitations to all the men in the office (except for Don who kept exclaiming how excited he was about Charisse’s do), but all the guys at the firm replied that they weren’t interested. So I ran out to my gym, where I know there is a lot of men who work out during lunch. I went from shower stall to shower stall (it’s the only place in the gym where the men actually stay put) and handed out my invitations.
My invitation was simple. It read: “You, sir, are cordially invited to A Night of SEX with a Bunch of Guys!” And because Charisse had free Cosmo drinks at her party, I included (on my invitation), “Before the show, I’ll booze you up nice and good. And then the real fun will begin…” I made sure to add in the “…” since it added a certain element of mystery to the soiree.
Back at work, Don immediately approached me.
DON: I just saw the invitation you gave Howard. Can I come to your party instead of Charisse’s?
ME: Don, nothing would make me happier.
DON: After seeing your invite, I just couldn’t turn it down. You know what I mean?
I smiled, nodding my head. I was beating Charisse at her own game.
ME: I know what you mean.
Howard, a sixty-ish, ex-drill army sergeant-turned-accountant eyed me with disdained, as he held my invitation.
HOWARD: Don’t ever come near me again.
ME: Howard, I know only women are supposed to like it but you’d really like it too if you just gave it a chance. I once made my father watch for half an hour and now he’s over at my place all the time, dying to see what Mr. Big will do next. He can’t wait to watch for two and a half hours tonight. Anyway, I’ve got to get online. I’m posting my invitation on Craig’s List to see if anyone else would like to join us.
That night, at 7pm, men who were complete strangers to me began showing up at my apartment. Of all the guys, I only knew Don and my dad. I told everyone to sit in a circle while I stood in the middle, preparing to make my speeches.
ME: Guys, let’s party.
Everyone cheered and hollered and hooted, interrupting my first speech, and some of the guys felt the need to rip off their shirts and fling them at me.
ME: First off, I’m happy to announce that my wife is out for the evening. And what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Everyone now jumped to their feet and really starting making noise, applauding, stomping their feet and shouting out. For some reason, Don was now only wearing tiny underwear which barely covered his privates.
ME: And since my wife isn’t home, this might be a real fun opportunity to rifle through her things.
More applause, but this time, not so enthusiastic.
SOME MUSCULAR GUY IN A MESH T-SHIRT: Excuse me.
Everyone simmered down.
MUSCULAR GUY: Does your wife know you’re having this party?
ME: Of course not. I told her my dad and I are singing karaoke duets all night so she left.
MY DAD: We’re actually doing the duets thing tomorrow night.
I smiled over at my dad.
ME: All night long, Daddy. All night long.
MY DAD (briefly swaying and singing): Havin' my baby…
MUSCULAR GUY: If your wife doesn’t know about any of this, you and your father are actually living on the “down low”. Are you aware of that?
ME: I don’t know what it is that you’re talking about, but if you’re asking how low we can go, I’d have to say pretty low.
MUSCULAR GUY: So you’re ashamed of who you really are.
ME: Well, both my dad and I are.
MUSCULAR GUY: Then I don’t want to be a part of this. I’m done with hiding.
The muscular guy moved toward the door.
ME: I love to hide. Half the time, no one knows where I am. I could be in a cupboard somewhere. Who knows? Come find me.
SOME OTHER GUY: I’m outta here. This party’s for poseurs.
ANOTHER GUY: I’m not a poseur.
AND YET ANOTHER GUY: See ya later haters.
And soon everyone was milling out, my party ruined. Don, in his man panties, shook his head as he moved past me.
ME: Get out! Everyone, just get out! See if I care! This will only give me more time with my dad. All night, just me and my dad! You guys are just jealous! Of me and my dad!