Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This Christmas, Hug

Dear Diary,

A few days after Lorraine and I got fired from our gift wrapping gig, we were sitting across Paulie Johnson's desk. Paulie is our rep at the 'Good Enough For You' People temporary placement agency. He's balding, his tie and top shirt button are always undone, and he has ever-growing sweat stains below his armpits.

PAULIE: Guys, the mall threatened never to use the 'Good Enough For You' People agency ever again.

Lorraine, who's four feet nothing, petite as a child and in her mid-thirties, spoke up.

LORRAINE: Paulie, as far as I'm concerned, we are all better off if you never mention that mall in this room ever again.

Paulie shook his head, incredulous.

PAULIE: They are a huge client of mine.

LORRAINE: They're also a huge pain in the "sun don't shine" area. Move on Paulie. I say move on.

PAULIE: Don't tell me to move on. Lorraine, you lost me the mall. The mall.

LORRAINE: I hate it when people repeat themselves. Move on.

PAULIE: And this new kid...

Paulie pointed at me.

PAULIE: I don't like the look of him. He's too quiet. He's like a little hamster in a cage waiting for just the right moment to snap a chunk off my finger.

LORRAINE: Just keep your fingers out of his cage and you'll be fine.

Lorraine and I were sent to another mall to work a T-shirt booth specializing in Justin Bieber T-shirts and bath towels. The booth's owner was an elderly Russian man named Kaspov and he smelled of cigarettes. The three of us were swamped all day.

Late in the afternoon, our customers began shoving one another, jockeying for better position. There no longer was a coherent line-up of people. Everyone was grabbing at the merchandise. The three of us couldn't work fast enough; folks wanted their Bieber and there was nothing we could do about it.

I couldn't keep up with the hectic pace. Our booth was rocking back and forth. I began chucking T-shirts and towels and people flung money back at me. I fell over the counter and tumbled into the crowd.

I screamed.

Lorraine reached out but she couldn't get to me. She climbed to the roof of the booth.

LORRAINE: Stop! People stop! Justin Bieber wants you to stop!

Everyone calmed down.

ONE CUSTOMER: Is that true? He really wants us to stop?


Lorraine raised her mobile phone up high.

LORRAINE: I have him on my cell phone.

People screamed, wailed and reached for Lorraine, trying to pull her down to snatch her mobile phone.

LORRAINE: So help me Paul McCartney, I will stuff your Silly Bandz into your nostrils and yank them out your bum.

Everyone froze, not sure what was more important: Justin Bieber or Silly Bandz.

LORRAINE (panting): We are doing our best over here and I haven't heard one 'thank you' or a 'you're welcome'. What is wrong with you people? It's Christmas! These are just T-shirts. First it was Kenny Rogers, then Boy George and now it's Justin Bieber. What I find unsettling is not your taste in music, it's your taste in men.

I climbed up beside Lorraine.

ME: Folks, Christmas is a time of sharing. And caring. If you're with someone you love, give them a hug. Do it right now. They're what's important.

Everyone was hugging.

LORRAINE: And I'm sorry but giving someone a Justin Bieber towel is no way to show love. Trust me.

People were talking with one another, laughing and really caring.

KASPOV: And folks, we are sold out.

The crowd erupted. I saw a flame go up one side of the booth. Lorraine grabbed my hand and pulled me away. We were running for our lives as everyone trashed the mall around us.

LORRAINE: Every Christmas, this town loses a mall.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gift Wrap Your Life

Dear Diary,

I'm getting work through a temp agency I read about in the want ads. They're called 'Good Enough For You' People. I like that name. I like it a whole lot. That's why I called them.

The first thing my rep at the agency wanted to do was test my typing skills. His name is Paulie. Paulie told me their average temp worker can type 50 words per minute. During my timed minute, I was able to type half a word, but it wasn't spelled right.

Yesterday, they found me a position wrapping gifts in a mall for the Holidays.

I was one of only two males at our wrapping booth. All eight of us 'gift wrappers' wore red aprons and Santa elf hats. I loved it! Lorraine, the only other temp worker (also from 'Good Enough For You' People), was positioned beside me so we were kind of like a team. Lorraine is Italian-Canadian, just over four feet tall, with tiny hands, skinny legs and a child-like face which is odd since she is in her thirties. She also looks like she's wearing kids' clothes – she's that tiny (in fact, yesterday, her sweater sported a picture of The Wiggles). When she first arrived at the gift wrapping table, she asked the regular, full-time, mall employees a battalion of questions.

LORRAINE: Okay, so where should I allow everyone to place their gifts? Are there some people we should refuse service to? Like people going to weddings, birthdays or funerals? Does anyone have any allergies I should know about? Can everyone let the customers know that even though I'm single, I'm not available – my apologies, everyone. I have a small bladder and I need to pee every ten minutes so I may need one of you to stand behind me as backup as the need arises, and also to hold my 2 liter bottle of water. I don't know about you but I need constant hydration. Do you mind not standing so close to me? When I get focused and I get wrapping, there's no telling what I'll wrap.

All the gift wrappers were sighing and rolling their eyes at her. Our boss was the other male at the table.

OUR BOSS: Okay, everyone from the temp agency, just follow the mall employees on how to wrap gifts. Remember, time is of the essence.

LORRAINE: Amen to that! Everyone, you can also follow me! I don't usually give anyone anything this time of year, but I know my way around paper and a big pair of scissors!

The gift wrapping table was hectic with a long line going through the entire mall. Lorraine and I rushed to get all our presents wrapped.

WEALTHY LOOKING MALE CUSTOMER: Excuse me, I don't think this is the present I came here with.

LORRAINE: How am I supposed to know? It's all wrapped up now.

CUSTOMER: Well, it was an iPhone 4 for my daughter and this box is way too big for an iPhone 4.

LORRAINE: Well, someone did bring a big box from the dollar store. Some cheap paper model toy, I think.

CUSTOMER: So where's my iPhone?

LORRAINE: It might still be in this box. No one knows right now; it's all wrapped up.

CUSTOMER: This is unacceptable.

LORRAINE: Well, just give your daughter this box and find out on Christmas morning if it's an iPhone or a paper piece of crap.

CUSTOMER: I want to talk to your boss.

LORRAINE: Listen, your iPhone is long gone, and we're busy. I suggest you scram; I've got a lot of nice gifts here to wrap, not like the paper model garbage your daughter's getting.

OUR BOSS: What seems to be the problem here?

LORRAINE: Oh, nothing. This customer was just leaving with the junk he's giving his daughter for Christmas. What a dead beat.

OUR BOSS (unemotional and efficient): Lorraine, you need to go. I'll call the agency to send someone else.

Lorraine stared up at our boss' name tag.

LORRAINE: Is your name really Valerie?


LORRAINE: Is it okay if I just call you Val?

VALERIE (with sarcasm): Is it okay if I just call you Lor?

All the red-apron-ed, full-time, mall employees chuckled at his comment.

LORRAINE: Not if you want me to strangle you...

Valerie's face went red. Everyone was quiet.

LORRAINE: With your pantyhose.

VALERIE: Get out. Both of you.

LORRAINE: That's fine. Staring at you all day and thinking about how unhappy everyone in your life must be was starting to depress me.

Lorraine and I made our way to the staff room to gather our belongings.

LORRAINE: Eric, stick with me. You'll learn a few things.

I couldn't help but worry as I put on my coat.

ME: Will the agency still get us work? Are we done at 'Good Enough For You' People?

Lorraine didn't answer me. I looked up and discovered her piling everyone's winter coats into her Popsicle stick-like arms.

ME: What are you doing?

LORRAINE: Let's go!

I raced after the itsy-bitsy Lorraine as she spirited down the hall with a mountain of winter gear. Once we were on the top floor of the mall, Lorraine looked down the wide open atrium at the gift wrapping booth on the first floor.

Lorraine lobbed the pile of coats into the open space, and the coats glided down like glorious, giant, puffy snowflakes.

LORRAINE (in a deep, jolly boom): Merry Christmas! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Everyone in the mall looked up as Lorraine and I stepped away.

Lorraine was beaming, on top of the world. She winked up at me.

LORRAINE: Welcome to the winner's circle.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Job Interview at Starbucks

Dear Diary,

Here's how my job interview with Starbucks went down on October 21st at 11:30am.

I sat at a table at the King Street location across from Keith, the young manager, and Allison, the even younger assistant manager.

MANAGER (KEITH): How would you define good customer service?

ME: Well, first, let me start by saying this: I think Starbucks should get out of the coffee business.

MANAGER: Pardon me?

ME: If your baristas didn't have all these complicated coffee requests from your lunatic customers, employee morale would go through the roof.

ASSISTANT MANAGER (ALLISON): And what should our employees do if they're not making coffee.

ME: Well, let's say you have a customer who goes on vacation and they lose something in the water, like an earring, and their pair of earrings is ruined because they're missing one earring. You'd fly out your barista across the ocean and your barista would deep sea dive and find the earring that the customer lost. It'd be exactly like that old lady on Titanic. Another business I can see Starbucks exceeding at is rotating the wheels on trains.

Allison, the assistant manager, looked at me with incredulity in her eyes.

ASSISTANT MANAGER: That's interesting...

MANAGER: Eric, let's just pretend that Starbucks stays in the coffee business for the foreseeable future.

ME: Okay, I'm all for pretending...

MANAGER: Good. How would you react if a customer returned a cup of coffee to you, saying that they didn't like it?

ME: Well, that's a good question. Good question. Well, let me see... I think I'd take the cup and taste it myself. I'd have everyone behind the counter taste it, and then everyone in the staff room. I'd have all our customers at the tables taste it, and then I'd go out on the street and have everyone there taste it. Then I'd have everyone fill out a questionnaire about it, answering questions like: what kind of finish did the coffee have? Did the flavor linger on your tongue? Did it taste like Encore? Then I'd bring it to a vote: is this a good cup of coffee or not? Should it be awarded a medal? Then I'd have our customers at tables draw medals on paper and cut them out and color them gold, silver, bronze and then we'd award the medals to different coffees.

ASSISTANT MANAGER: What would the customer who returned the coffee be doing during all this?

ME: What was the question again... about the coffees and the medals? I forget.

MANAGER: Maybe we should ask a whole new question.


MANAGER: Eric, what would you do if you believed another team member wasn't pulling their own weight?

ME: Mmmm, what would I do?... I would call them out on it, and say, "You're not pulling your own weight... in fact, starting tomorrow, I think you should do my job and everybody else's job and all the customers' jobs." Like, let's say we have a customer named Joe who's dancing in the Nutcracker – I would make that team member who isn't pulling their own weight go to the Nutcracker show and dance for a few hours, see how they like being in those shoes. I'm sorry, what was the question again?

MANAGER: Eric, if I could be candid, I really don't think we have something to offer you here. I'm sorry, it's just that you're not what we look for in a Starbucks team player. You come across as eccentric... and disturbed, and possibly dangerous.

ME: Well, would you consider hiring a friend of mine, and then maybe I could collect a finder's fee from them?

MANAGER: Let's just say I would not hire anyone who knew you, ever. Eric... if you could leave this table... right now... it would make this less awkward... for all of us.

ME: All right... no problem.

I took my paper cup of coffee and began moving away.

ME: Thank you. Thank you for this opportunity.

The two managers just nodded and smiled, with an unsmiling look in their eyes. I sat at the table next to theirs. I stayed there from 11:30 in the morning until closing at 11:00 in the evening, just nursing the same cup of coffee, allowing myself a tiny sip now and then. As they moved about their busy day, I just stared at the managers and their employees. I never even got up to go to the washroom. So, please, if you visit the Starbucks on King Street, don't sit at the table by the newspaper stand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Other People’s Job Interviews

Dear Diary,

This afternoon, I entered the Starbucks where I'm supposed to be interviewed tomorrow. I saw a young man and a young woman in Starbucks uniforms talking to one another at one of the tables.

ME: Hi, my name is Eric. I have an interview here tomorrow.

They both looked up at me, eyes wide.

YOUNG MAN: Hi, I'm Keith, the manager and this is Allison.

YOUNG WOMAN: I'm the assistant manager.

I shook their hands.

ME: So pleased to meet you both.

MANAGER (KEITH): Eric, we have one of our candidates waiting to be interviewed right now, so I guess we'll see you tomorrow.

ME: Yes, yes, you will. And you'll also see me today because I'm in here hanging out, enjoying myself with some delicious coffee.

MANAGER: Okay, you do that. Bye for now.

ME: Not really bye because I'll be over there, having fun with my drink.

I walked toward the counter and lined up to order coffee.

Moments later, paper cup in hand, I was searching the room for a place to sit. I saw that the two managers were still at the same table, interviewing a girl who looked seventeen.

I approached the table next to them where a middle-aged woman was sitting. I asked her if I could sit with her. She looked over at the empty tables, appearing annoyed but saying nothing back to me.

Once seated, I listened to the interview taking place between the manager, the assistant manager and the seventeen-year-old girl.

MANAGER (to the seventeen-year-old girl): How would you define good customer service?

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: I would define it as being a good listener...

As the seventeen-year-old continued, I spoke out loud to the lady across from me, speaking over the interviewee.

ME: I think good customer service is when people listen to one another. Share experiences. I believe good customer service is rare in this world and that it should be cherished, and it should be relished, and it should be worshipped. I think we should build shrines where we worship some being which represents customer service. And we could sing, "Ahh ahh, customer service. Ahh ahh, I pray to thee." We could start a collection for this deity and give it all kinds of sacrifices. On payday, we could even give it ten percent of our wages. People have forgotten the God of Customer Service. If there was a name I could give to this God, it would be Custy.

MANAGER: I think we should move this interview across the room.

ASSISTANT MANAGER: I think that's a great idea.

The two managers and the candidate moved toward a table on the other side of the room.

I excused myself to the middle-aged woman and walked over to the milk/napkin station next to the table where the interview was moved to.

ASSISTANT MANAGER (to the seventeen-year-old girl): What would you do if someone wanted to return their coffee because they didn't like it?

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: Well, I would ask them...

As I stirred my coffee, I talked over her, shouting to a male stranger standing in line across the room.

ME: Well, I would ask them...

The male stranger across the room looked at me, scared, like I was about to hurt him.

ME: I would say, "How dare you even suggest that the coffee here doesn't taste good. We are Starbucks"...

Everyone in the store was now staring at me.

ME: "We are the best company that's ever existed. And you know what, you can take this coffee and you can pour it down your pants because you're not getting another one. Not from me, you aren't."

Both managers were staring up at me from their chairs.

MANAGER: Eric, would you mind leaving us alone?

ME: No problem. I was just fixing my coffee. I've got to go to the washroom anyway.

I slipped through the washroom door beside them.

MANAGER (to the seventeen-year-old): How would you respond to a situation where another team member wasn't making coffee the way they should be or just not performing in the manner you believe is up to Starbucks standards?

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL: I consider myself a team player. Before approaching the manager regarding this issue, I would first approach the team member in question...

As the seventeen-year-old continued, the door to the washroom opened just a crack.

MY VOICE (from the washroom): Sir, you've got quite the healthy pee stream. Let me just say, first off, I consider myself a team player all the way. So if anyone was not working up to standard or was making bad coffee, I would help them hide the evidence. No one would ever find out that the bad coffee had been served. If they were taking money from the till, or skimming off the top, or embezzling, I would help them fudge the numbers in the books. I'm a team player. If I found out they were running an illegal drug operation in the back room, I would help dismantle the security cameras back there. If someone killed a customer, I'd help them bury the body. I'm a team player. I'll murder someone for you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Telephone Call for an Interview

Dear Diary,

Someone from Starbucks called today. I've applied to various Starbucks locations around the city. This is how our telephone conversation went:

ME: Hello?

WOMAN FROM STARBUCKS: Hi, I'm Lucinda from Starbucks. I'm calling about an application you submitted at one of our stores. We'd like to grant you an interview. Are you still available?

ME: Of course, I'm still available. I've wanted to work for Starbucks my whole, entire life.

STARBUCKS: Would you be available to come into our King Street store for an interview?

ME: Yes!

STARBUCKS: Wonderful. We have a few interview spots open. We've got Tuesday at three, Wednesday is wide open, and Thursday, we're wide open in the morning. What would work for you?

ME: Oh, well, umm... Tuesday at three... yeah, I don't know if that would work for me. I do have an appointment with a comic book collector. We're just going to see if I'd like to collect comic books as a hobby. I'm not that crazy about comic books. I don't see the point, really. So yeah, Tuesday at three doesn't work for me.

STARBUCKS: What about Wednesday? We're wide open all day.

ME: What time on Wednesday do you think I should come in?

STARBUCKS: When are you available?

ME: Well, umm... I'm available, I think... maybe... well, what do you have available?

STARBUCKS: We have nine o'clock available.

ME: Mmmm... in the morning?

STARBUCKS: Yes, in the morning.

ME: Whoa, yeah... That might be a little early. I plan on spending all night Tuesday night watching the entire DVD set of the second season of Gilmore Girls. I'm really looking forward to that. That'll take all night and most of the morning. So no, I can't come in for an interview then.

STARBUCKS: How about later in the day?

ME: Yeah, later in the day would be so much better for me because, you know, I'm really looking forward to those Gilmore Girls. Sorry...

STARBUCKS: What about one in the afternoon on Wednesday?

ME: Yeah, well, that's right in the middle of my lunch.

STARBUCKS: Oh, I'm sorry. Are you working at another job right now?

ME: No, no, I'll just be at home eating my lunch. And yeah, that won't work.

STARBUCKS: What time are you done your lunch?

ME: Oh, well, I don't really have a schedule for my lunch. I pretty much just have it when I'm hungry and right now, I just don't want to take the chance that I might be on my lunch, 'cause then I'll be eating my lunch, I'll be rushing, or I'll have to cut my lunch short. I don't think that's fair. I mean... it's not fair to me.

STARBUCKS: Okay, what about later in the day, like Wednesday at four?

ME: Yeah, Wednesday at four would work. Hold on! Ummm... Wednesday at four... you see, I like to end to my day at four o'clock, three-thirty. Yeah, at three-thirty, I'm usually done for the day. I usually just quit and wait for my wife, so that wouldn't be good for me because my wife comes home from her long day after my ninety minute wait. She makes dinner for me, she cleans up and I'm just done. I'm not doing anything past three-thirty. It's just not fair for me to go to an interview at all hours. So yeah, is there anything else available? You were saying maybe Thursday in the morning, maybe in the afternoon?

STARBUCKS: We do have something Thursday morning at eleven thirty. That's the last spot available.

ME: Okay... which Starbucks is this for?

STARBUCKS: This would be for our King Street location.

ME: Yeah, that's kind of far for me. I really want to work for Starbucks, don't get me wrong, but do you think that maybe another Starbucks might call me? Like one closer to my apartment?

STARBUCKS: No. Right now, this is the only Starbucks location that is hiring.

ME: Okay. Can I call you, like, five minutes before I have to come in for the interview? Like maybe I can let you know by eleven twenty-five whether I'm coming or not.

STARBUCKS: We do require more warning than five minutes ahead of time if you aren't able to make it to an interview.

ME: It's just that I don't want to put all my eggs into one basket. And I feel that maybe if there's another job opening at another Starbucks, I'd rather have an interview for that. Or if a different company calls me. I haven't applied yet but I'd really like to work as a cashier at Walmart because they're just so cheerful and it's just so much fun to shop there.

STARBUCKS: I'm sorry, you either have to confirm for eleven thirty on Thursday or I think we'll have to forgo you as a possible candidate.

ME: All right. Can you guys maybe come to my home? And maybe we can do the interview inside my apartment 'cause then I'd be totally available. I'd be more available, even though I'm quite busy right now. On Thursday, if you guys come between... umm... 11:22 and 11:37, I think I might be able to give you guys an interview.

Lucinda from Starbucks said nothing as I continued.

ME: And when you guys come, I'll still be asleep, so I'll leave the key to the front door under the mat, and if you can just wake me up and maybe bring some of your Starbucks coffee and put the coffee on, and prepare bagels with cream cheese. Not the light stuff 'cause I can barely taste it, so don't use my wife's light cream cheese. Use my regular cream cheese. And my bagels need to be toasted, but just on the inside. That would really work for me. And also, if you guys can just whisper during the interview because I may not be able to take it if you guys are talking really loud. It's just really early in the morning.

STARBUCKS: Eric, to be honest with you, you seem like you have a lot on your plate at the moment, and I'm not sure if a career at Starbucks would be a good fit right now.

ME: Really? No, please, don't snatch this opportunity from me. You know what? I'll come over to the King Street store. Heck, why not? I love you guys. But just to let you know, I'll have to run some errands beforehand, so I might have to bring all our groceries in with me during the interview, and all of our recycling, including all our compostable waste. And I might bring my Irish cousin who has the thickest accent and he's been trying to tell me something for the past week and I have no idea what he's saying so I might need your help translating. It could take hours.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Back on the Job Market

Dear Diary,

I went looking for a job this morning, just pounding the pavement. My wife told me that if I want to stay at her mother's one-bedroom apartment with our eighteen-month-old daughter, I need to contribute. I have lots to offer if you're looking for someone who can repeat everything you say seconds after you've said it (I call this skill the robot parrot). If you're not looking for the robot parrot, then I can offer you absolutely zero. My resume is a legal size sheet of paper with my e-mail address printed at the top (EricLikesCuddlingHamsters@gmail.com) and then nothing else.

My list of references consists of some of the hamsters I know at various pet stores around the city. My wife told me that was stupid; hamsters aren't people – they can't talk. I argued that I'm not about to lie on my resume and I know for a fact that hamsters have feelings because when I hug them in pet stores, I swear I can feel their little arms hugging me back. Those hamsters are the best character references I know and I'm thinking maybe when prospective employers call the pet stores I've listed under every hamster's name, the pet store employee answering the phone can vouch for me in lieu of the hamster and confirm how much I care for said hamster, how often I visit, and how long I stay (usually from opening to closing, and sometimes even after that). That's commitment. Some days I visit stores dressed up as a hamster.

I decided that the best place to stop on my way to pounding the pavement was Starbucks. I could spend all day in a Starbucks and not do much else. In fact I once did, hiding behind the washroom door as they were closing, and making myself espresso all night. They found me on the seventh night, hiding by squeezing my entire body behind a trembling toilet (I had the shakes). When they asked me what I was doing back there, I told them (through chattering teeth) that I was holding a pipe that was leaking. It took eight firefighters to pull me out by sawing the toilet in half; I was stuck that good. One of the best nights of my life.

This morning when it was my turn to order, I looked straight into the young female cashier's eyes.

ME: Hi. Listen - in all the Starbucks I patronize, I usually deal with the manager, not some low level employee. Please don't take this personally, but because of who you are, I just don't think very much of you as a person.

A male manager in his twenties walked up behind the counter.

MANAGER: Sir, how may I help you today?

ME: I want you to make my beverage for me special. I don't want any scum touching what I'm about to drink.

MANAGER: Sir, our baristas are well-trained. They can make your beverage for you.

ME: I don't want anyone but you making my beverage. You're the manager, you're better than them. You're just a better human being. Compared to you, these baristas are worm poo. Don't you dare allow them near what I'm about to drink.

MANAGER: What can I make for you?

ME: I'd like a cup of tap water. Not the bottled crap that you have to pay for. Fool me once... you know what I'm saying?

MANAGER: All right, let me get that for you.

The manager turned on the tap, filled a plastic cup with water, and handed it to me.

I took a sip, and then spit it onto the counter, and the manager.

ME: I'd like to make a complaint.

The manager was red in the face, as backwash dripped off his face, but he remained standing still.

MANAGER: Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

ME: Just because I'd like to make a complaint. I need a comment card and marker, please.

MANAGER: I'm giving you ten seconds...

ME: Don't you dare try to give me one of those free coffee cards. Don't you dare throw free coffee at the problem.

MANAGER: I'm calling the police.

ME: You're trying to shut me up. Sorry folks, no one's got any rights up in this here coffee joint. You just don't want me telling the world your tap water isn't any better than the one in the Tim Horton's toilet, after your mom's used it.

MANAGER: I just called the police. They'll be here in five minutes.

ME: Everyone, the tap water is caca in here. Don't order it! Don't order it!

A broad-shouldered male barista stepped up to me.

BROAD-SHOULDERED BARISTA: Why don't you leave, before I break your face.

MANAGER: Just go...

ME (to the manager): You know what? You're not better than any of this garbage around you. You're much worse. You're vomit.

MANAGER: Get out, or we'll throw you out.

ME: Well, before I leave, I need to do what I came here to do. And since you're the manager, then, sorry for being so nervous over here but... may I have an application? You're number one on my list today. I've wanted to work here for years.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Divorcing a Friend

Dear Diary,

My best pal Todd Hubb, only thirty-three, used to be a famous motivational speaker and writer, making millions cheering people up, and then he felt kind of down and then his wife took everything. He's my best friend in the entire galaxy, and for the past eight months, Todd and I have been living in my wife's mother's one-bedroom apartment, eating everything and doing nothing. Two weeks ago, my wife made me choose between Todd and a pie. I went with the pie.

Yesterday, I thought of a million things I'd say to Todd if I ever saw him again. I also thought of things he'd say back to me and then what I'd say back to him. Things like: "Oh no, you di'nt" and then "Oh yeah I did" and then "Oh no, you di'nt" and then "Oh yeah I did". I played our future conversation inside my head for ten hours.

In some mental playbacks, I was wearing a black mask like Zorro, or Robin from Batman, and Todd couldn't tell just what friend was breaking things off with him, and I could tell him terrible things about him to his face without feeling bad about what I was saying because he wouldn't be able to trace the comments back to me.

This morning, after making an appointment to meet with Todd, I walked into a café with two men in suits, each carrying briefcases. I saw Todd waiting for me at a table. I was surprised to see that he was wearing a suit, was clean-shaven, and had his hair cut so that he no longer sported his overgrown mop top.


I sat across from him. A suit sat on either side of me.

TODD: Who are these guys?

ME: They're high-priced lawyers. I'm officially divorcing you as a friend.

TODD: You don't have money for lawyers. You're hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

ME: I took out another line of credit.

TODD: Oh my God...

ME: Okay, we have tons of documents for you to sign, and this pile of paperwork makes War and Peace look like a pamphlet.

TODD: Eric, I have some news. This will get you out debt.

I turned to the lawyers.

ME: Get your papers out. He needs to sign them pronto.

TODD: I just received a three million dollar advance on the book I've been writing these past two years. Two Years with a Bottom Feeder. The book is about you... so I want you to take the entire advance.

ME: These papers state that you are never to approach me, or try to have any dealings, transactions, nothing...

LAWYER #1: Eric, I think you should hear him out.

ME: No I shouldn't. I got my own problems, like how much debt I'm in. It's hundreds of thousands of dollars, you know.

Todd reached into his breast pocket.

ME: Whoa!

A dozen burly bikers in leather jackets stormed the café.

BURLY BIKER #1 (to Todd): Sir, do not make another move.

Todd stood there, frozen, his hand still in his inside breast pocket.

TODD (to me): Did you hire these guys too?

ME (nodding): I took out a second line of credit. These guys aren't cheap.

TODD: Jesus... I'm just trying to give you a cheque.

BURLY BIKER #1: Sir, kindly and slowly remove your hand from your jacket. Slowly...

Todd did as he was told.

ME (to Todd): I had to make sure you'd let me go as a friend without trying something stupid.

TODD: All right, but first just let me give you...

I interrupted him.

ME: Sign all the papers first, and then we'll talk.

TODD: All right.

Todd signed all the papers.

LAWYER #2: Eric, under these circumstances, I'm not sure if this is the right thing...

ME: Just hang a sec...

TODD: There... I signed them.

ME: Don't talk to me. You can't talk to me. You signed all the papers.

Todd reached into his jacket again.

TODD: Just let me give you the three million.

ME: He's going to kill me! He likes me so much as a friend that he's going to kill me!

The bikers all reached for Todd to hold him away. Once he was immobilized, I charged at him myself.

ME: Just let me go as a friend, you bastard! You friend-loving bastard!

The two lawyers seized my arms.

TODD (to the bikers): Let me go!

ME (to the lawyers): Let me at him!

I turned to Todd.

ME: I hate you! I hate you!

TODD: I tried, Eric. I tried to give you back everything you gave me ever since you found me, two years ago, when I lost everything. Your friendship saved me.

ME: You're not supposed to talk to me. You signed the papers, stupid.

TODD: This is the last time I try to give you this three million dollar cheque.

ME (fingers in my ears): La! La! La!

TODD: Eric, listen to me...

The bikers pulled Todd away toward the doors.

TODD: If you can take anything away from these past two years, it's this: You have something in you that no one else has. This energy... it's a gift. This big, bright energy lights up the Universe. No one has it, but you...

ME: I chose a slice of pie over you. Deal with it. Goodbye!

Todd was shoved out. I looked through the cafe's large windows as Todd was thrown into a cab. The cab drove off.

The lawyers straightened their ties and suit jackets.

ME: Did he just say something about three million dollars?

The lawyers each took a turn shaking my hand.

ME: I don't know... I couldn't hear over all the shouting and scuffling and such, but I thought I heard him mention something about three million dollars.

The lawyers walked out, and a male server came up to me.

SERVER: Sir, we are going to have to ask you to leave.

ME: A slice of pie; that just lasts two bites... if you're lucky and not that hungry... but friendship... I never had a friend like Todd. But am I imagining things? I could have sworn I heard him say three million dollars.

SERVER: I think he did.

ME: I'm hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, I now have two new maxed out lines of credit, I have no best friend, and I just lost three million dollars.

SERVER: And your friend, or should I say ex-friend, just left without paying his bill.

The server handed me Todd's bill. I stood there, with nothing to say, and nothing to pay with.

ME: Will you take this gold watch?

I removed the gold watch from my left wrist.

ME: It's been an heirloom in my family for five generations. It's all I have left...

The server stuck his open palm out for it. With regret, I dropped it into his hand. Tears welled up in my eyes.

ME (barely audible): Enjoy...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to Get Closer to Your Wife

Dear Diary,

I came up with a plan the other day to get closer to my estranged wife by spending more time with her. I sat with her on the couch while she watched TV. I think she was watching Desperate Housewives or something that looked like it – all the women were desperate, backstabbing each other, lying to their husbands, and burying bodies in their backyards. One was even involved in a racist hate crime. I'm not sure but it could have also been The View.

I was so bored and antsy, I couldn't sit still. I even started rapping something from ODB. When my wife told me, "RELAX!", I decided to have a glass of wine. It worked. I began to see the show in a different way. I really got into it. I was laughing when my wife was laughing and crying during what I thought were the sad parts. It was an amazing TV watching experience. I found myself actually caring for the characters, saying things like, "I hope Lynnette can stop her killing spree. She's a good mother. She deserves better. Is Whoopie dead? "

I got to really enjoy watching TV with my wife. Every night, I looked forward to viewing our favorite shows, waiting eagerly for the episodes to begin, glass of wine in hand. At first, I'd just need one bottle to savor shows like Bachelor Pad, Kate Plus 8, and Giant Wives and their Little People Husbands. Our nights usually ended with my wife pulling on my arm where I passed out. I'd sometimes wake up the next morning, slumped over the coffee table. One night, while I placed my face just one inch from the television in an effort to appreciate the fine, detailed embroidery on a dress from Say Yes to the Dress, I puked all over the screen, and then lost consciousness, slamming my head against the wet, sloppy image.

My wife finally suggested that on some nights we might want to watch some of my shows (after the police called, demanding she pick me up at the liquor store where I was on the floor, out for the count). I asked if maybe we could start reconnecting in a class on how to make your own wine. We quit the class after I yelled at the teacher regarding having to wait for the wine to ferment. "But Joe Millionaire in on Dancing with the Stars tonight!" I exclaimed. "He's the closest they'll ever get to what they loosely deem a star. I can't watch that crap without not thinking rationally or not being able to see straight!"

So last night, my wife and I decided to try something new. She watches her shows while I sit beside her, typing away at my laptop, Facebooking, Googling, and laughing my head off at all the wonderful things on the Net that last no longer than thirty seconds. I even made a makeshift bathtub in the middle of the living room with a wheelbarrow, enjoying a luxurious bubble bath while eating cupcakes. I think our marriage might be back on track.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Plight of Married Men

Dear Diary,

This past Saturday, my best pal Todd Hubb and I went on a hunger strike after my wife kicked us out of her mother's one bedroom apartment where we were all living (I thought happily). The news crews arrived at around 9am where we were striking in front of our apartment building.

FEMALE REPORTER: So what caused you to go on this hunger strike?

ME: I think I was treated unfairly so I'm going to starve myself until something gives.

FEMALE REPORTER: Does this have anything to do with the fact that your wife has been supporting you and your friend for nine months while you've been unemployed and doing nothing all day?

ME: It has to do with the fact that I'm a man.

MALE REPORTER: How do you figure?

ME: I'm expected to pitch in, pay for a few things, just because I'm male. That logic is from the stoned ages.

FEMALE REPORTER: What about your friend? Is your wife supposed to support him as well?

ME: He's male too, so she's against him too. So don't even go there. I tell you, this thing's just getting out of hand. You don't hate me because I'm a man, do you?

FEMALE REPORTER: No... just mainly because you're a little boy.

ME: Listen, it's only been a few minutes but we'll stay out here for as long as it takes.

FEMALE REPORTER: As long as what takes?

ME: The end, as we know it, of the plight of married men everywhere.

FEMALE REPORTER (confused): What?

ME: Just because married men want a life that doesn't necessarily jibe with the ladies, don't hate on us.

FEMALE REPORTER (annoyed): So what exactly is this so-called plight? Explain it to me.

ME: Three things...

I used my fingers to count them out.

ME: We don't want to work. We don't want to do dishes. We don't want to talk. What we want is to spend the rest of our marriage surfing the Net. I think it's only fair.

MALE REPORTER: How long are you willing to go without food?

ME: We'll be here for days if that's what it takes.

Todd, my BFF, turned to me.

TODD: Days?

ME: Weeks, months, whatever it takes. We might be here for years.

TODD: Eric, please... take it easy.

ME: Decades...

TODD: Eric, it's here.

I turned to find Todd with JC, one of the neighbourhood kids. JC, 12, was standing, straddling his bike, and wearing an army green colour backpack.

ME: Pardon me; one of our advisors is here. I'll be back in a moment.

I walked over to JC and Todd.

ME: Let's talk, boys.

The news cameras stayed on us as we huddled close and JC removed his backpack. They clearly taped JC handing us each a paper bag with the McDonald's golden arches logo. Todd and I both jammed our faces with burgers.

FEMALE REPORTER: Excuse me. What's happening here?

I straightened up, secret sauce dripping down my chin.

ME (mouth full): Nothing. JC is just advising us.

FEMALE REPORTER: Are you eating?

ME: No!

I was incensed, and I yelled, burger bits flying from my mouth.

ME: This is a hunger strike, what the hell!

MALE REPORTER: You're eating!

ME: Get out of here, all of you!

More burger bits flew from my mouth.


ME (annoyed): What?

I looked up to see my wife standing behind us.

MY WIFE (desperation in her voice): If you'll stop this nonsense, you can come back. My law career won't survive this publicity.

ME: You can't have me back that easy. I have some demands.

My wife sighed. This already had been a long day, and an even longer marriage.

MY WIFE: What?

ME: Can you bake a pie?

MY WIFE: All right... but Todd can no longer live with us.


MY WIFE: I can't support two grown men.

ME: NO! Not Todd! He's my friend!

I clutched Todd, tears streaming down my cheeks.

ME: Oh God! Please! Not Todd! Not Todd!

MY WIFE: It's me and your baby daughter, or your dead-beat leech of a friend Todd. You choose.

ME: I choose Todd! I choose Todd!

I held Todd with the strength of an ox.

MY WIFE: And I'll bake you a pie.

I let go of Todd.

ME: Todd, you best be on your way now. Go on. Get a move on. I don't ever want to see your face again.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hungry for Love

Dear Diary,

For the past eight months, I've been living with my wife, our seventeen-month-old baby daughter, and my mother-in-law in my mother-in-law's one bedroom apartment. I'm unemployed... but my wife is a successful corporate lawyer... but we have no money since I once put us in debt following a charade that some say went "off the rails" which I think is an exaggeration to say the least since they only yell out those kind of things because I'm fun to be with, especially at picnics, and they wish they were too – add to that: I know and sing all the hits from the '80s (Bananarama anyone? Hello?...) and my little "charade" cost my wife and I hundreds of thousands of dollars. So we live in this tiny one bedroom apartment and... oh yeah... my best friend Todd Hubb who is also unemployed lives with us against what my wife calls her "better judgement" and "wishes".

My wife also now claims that we are legally separated but she wants me around to build a relationship with our daughter since I missed the first eight months of her life because I once ran away from home to follow my dreams of living a life of no responsibility or accountability. No one can blame me for that.

This morning, my wife called me into the small kitchen area for what she called a "sit-down talk". Todd, my pal, was sitting a few feet away in the living room area, munching from a bucket of take-out chicken wings.

MY WIFE: Eric, we need to talk about our situation here.

ME: Okay. We have such a great life, don't we?

MY WIFE: Actually, that's what I want to talk to you about?

ME: How great our lives are?

MY WIFE: Our lives are not great.

ME: What do you mean? I eat every day, with a roof over my head... as much take-out as Todd and I can eat... and I don't even have to work.

Todd toasted us with a chicken wing, winked at my wife, and took another greasy bite.

ME: Our lives are fantastic!

MY WIFE: My mother and I are working our behinds to the bone. My life is terrible. You two are eating us out of house and home.

ME (distracted): Sorry hon... hold on a sec...

I shouted out to Todd.

ME: Hey, do you mind leaving me some, you pig!

MY WIFE: Can he... maybe go eat that outside? We need some privacy.

ME: I'd rather keep an eye on him and our wings...

MY WIFE: We need to talk in private, Eric.

ME: He's watching TV. He can't hear a thing.

My wife sighed, resigning herself to what I can only assume many wives do.

MY WIFE: All right...

Todd turned the TV off, and stared in our direction, sucking back a chicken wing.

ME (to my wife): So what's up?

MY WIFE: This really... this whole situation... it's really not working for me.

ME: It's working for me. It's working for Todd. Todd, isn't it working for you?

MY WIFE: Eric, you're taking advantage of me. You haven't worked since you got here over eight months ago.

ME: I put my cereal bowl in the sink when I'm done, just like you told me to. I don't know what you're talking about.

MY WIFE: I wanted you to stay here to get to know your daughter, and for her to get to know you. But you have barely paid her any attention since you came back.

ME: I know my daughter. I know her name. It's Jessie Lou.

MY WIFE: It's Jessalyn.

ME: What kind of name is that?

MY WIFE: I want you and Todd to leave. Tonight.

ME: What if me and Todd make a million dollars by the end of the day? Do we still have to leave?

MY WIFE: How are you going to make a million dollars?

I looked over at Todd, excitement spewing from my face.

ME: Todd, if we made a million dollars, what would we do? Oh my God! The freedom we'd have! To just sit around and do nothing. I think we'd leave this place though, don't you think? We'd leave this place, right? We wouldn`t be staying here. It's small here.

I turned back to my wife.

ME: But you'd have to stay here with the baby. I think this is a better place for the baby, really.

MY WIFE: You have one hour to get out.

ME: What if I decide not to leave and I go on a hunger strike?

MY WIFE: A hunger strike? Good, maybe I'll save some money around here.

ME: That's it! Todd, we are going on a hunger strike.

Todd opened his mouth which was jammed with munched-up chicken and barbeque sauce.

TODD: The hell we are!

ME (to Todd): Now you shut up and you listen to me!

My wife had a mobile phone up to her ear.

MY WIFE: The police are on their way.

ME: Come on, Todd, we are protesting. Put that bucket down.

TODD: Shut your mouth!

I lunged at Todd and we tussled, as I crammed as many barbeque wings as I could into my mouth.

TODD: Stop eating my chicken!

ME: I'm going on a hunger strike! I need to fill up!

When the police showed up, Todd and I were in the kitchen, shoving everything we could down our gullets, prepping for our hunger strike. The place was a mess with barbeque sauce on the walls, porridge on the furniture, and the oven seeping batter onto the floor caused by a failed attempt by Todd and I to bake three soufflés at once.

Ten minutes later, Todd and I were sitting on the street curb with nothing to do.

TODD: This hunger strike is boring.

I turned to my BFF, scratching my stomach.

ME: I'm feeling a little peckish.