My First Job Offer as a Result of the Star Article

My First Job Offer as a Result of the Star Article

As you may or may not know, I was featured as part of a Toronto Star article that focussed on how people recently laid off have been dealing with the joblessness, what work they’re finding, what sort of jobs they’re pursuing, dream-gig or otherwise, and that sort of thing. I think my inclusion is to provide the similar angle of “Day Job Gone Allows You To Focus on Dream Work” sort of thing and I was more than happy to provide what I did. That and I figured that hey, press is press. It can’t hurt to get your name out there and have folks contact you for services. What the heck, eh?

Today I received my first job offer as a result of the article. It begins, as most of my stories do, with me doing a crossword puzzle on the john. The phone rang and I hastily collected myself to answer it. A quick glance at the call display provided me with absolutely no clue as to who the person was. It was some Middle-Eastern-style name and at this point I’m wondering if it’s a wrong number. Nope. They apparently knew who they were calling.

A quick “Hello” and I’m faced with a poor woman who’s playing Broken-Telephone-With-A-Working-Telephone with another woman that I can hear in the background. As much as I could surmise from her, she was in a Starbucks, she was speaking for a woman who had heart trouble and she’s got work for me, and could she meet me outside my building in 10 minutes. At this point I’m curious and cautious all at the same time. Why did she get someone else to call me? Maybe this is her personal assistant and this woman is loaded! In my head, I’m one writing gig on an optioned screenplay away from sippin’ breakfast smoothies on my patio in Malibu. Ding ding ding.

I go downstairs at the noted time and have no sign of anyone outside my building. The whole thing reeks of ‘Deep Throat’ (not the Lovelace one, the Nixon one…and if it is the Lovelace one, I’m definitely not taking the gig). Not seeing anyone, I make my way to go by some gum at my local convenience store. I pass a car with these handwritten notes stuck to the inside windows facing out. The printing is way too small to ever be read if you were driving by or even walking past. You’d have to lean in for a good read. All I can see in and amongst the printed scrawl is the words “CIBC”, “Heart”, and “Conspiracy”.

Uh oh.

“I’m Franke [I think that was the name. Don’t quote me. It’s probably not.] I have a story for you that will make you millions.”

At this point I’m faced with an elderly woman with a strong scent of coffee breath and a slight scent of either body odour or urine. Can’t tell and really don’t fancy the research. This appears to be my potential client. I explain that I’m not a journalist. She counters with the fact that this is not a news article, this is a book that needs to be written and possibly a movie, and she ensured that I had not been contacted since we spoke 10 minutes ago. Well, maybe there’s something to this. The artistic mind is typically somewhat eclectic, no? She does not want to say anything aloud since “they can hear us all around. I have been under constant surveillance.” So, she has me read the piece of paper in her hand…exactly the same as the one she has plastered so many times on the window of her car. So, apparently whoever is keeping an eye on her is blind. Cool. I’ve never done CNIB counter-intelligence before.

I scan the scrawl and it goes into the fact that she is not being given medical care for her heart condition and somehow the banks are at the heart of this, and there’s a conspiracy and as I try to make heads-or-tails of it, it appears to me more and more to have John Nash written all over it. I let her know that I’m totally swamped with other contract work and there’s no way I could devote the amount of time that she requires to this particular project. She asks me if I know of anyone else that might be of interest, and I’m already thinking of people that have pissed me off recently that I could fire her at. Too cruel and the woman just needs help, really.

I suggest that she post it on Craig’s List. My thinking is that these are typically low-to-no pay jobs anyway, and at least she’d get some feedback for the project. Who knows? She may find some sort of psycho-eHarmony match-up where their delusions are actually complementary to each other. She tells me at the suggestion of using a computer that computers, phones, and newspapers are off limits. At that point I think back to the poor woman in the Starbucks who was solicited for her phone to make a call for her, not putting Franke on the phone, so that They wouldn’t know that she was contacting me. Poor girl.

I suggested then that she try the Want Ads. At this point, she says that because of my indifference on the project it indicates that I probably have been contacted since she had her de facto secretary contacted me in the first place. So close was I to saying, “Well, actually. As I left, my phone rang and it was CSIS, or something. I didn’t pick up because I was late coming to see you, but they left a message. I’ll just get it when I go upstairs.” I asked her how she found out about me and she mentioned the newspaper. So, she must have gotten someone to read her that article as well. And it appears I’m in the phone book. Which is cool, because I wasn’t listed for a while. I wished her well and went on to continue my gum purchase.

I was thinking about not blogging this, but then I thought, hang on; computers are off limits, so we’re good here. I hope she finds the help she needs, and I’m not talking a three-book deal with republish residual clauses.

The capper to this story? As I was walking outside to find my new client, the Security Guard at my building handed me a package from Washago, Ontario, which is apparently at the top of Lake Simcoe. Inside is a flyer for some pre-paid legal services corporation, urging me to “take action NOW or I WILL be left behind”. The paper has no white space left in it, what with all the dollar figures and percent-increase quotes, and the fact they’re giving away two Ford Mustangs a week. Also inside was a DVD offering me an explanation of ‘residual income’. So…leftovers, then.

Here’s the kicker. There’s a hand-written PostIt note attached to the DVD reading (and I’m not making this up here):

“Todd Vanallen [sic]
Now is the time to take action.

Stephen King”

At best, I could be in his next novel, at worst you may not hear from me again. If not, tell my mom I love her. But not by phone or email.

  • Shell

    I am SO envious of your ability to attract wing nuts and other assorted fruit cakes simply by having your name in a newspaper article. I need to get me some of that attention.
    Of course, once I got it, I’m not really sure what I’d do with it…..

    March 25, 2009 at 11:52 am
  • Brian Hope is looking for writing work.

    March 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm
  • Marilynn

    Jeeze Todd, you leave for a little while and look at the attention you attract. Wait, not much different than when you were at work, no?

    March 25, 2009 at 3:19 pm
  • Mike Q

    Ok so it’s not just me that’s a weirdo magnet. From mensa candidates with poor social skills, to psychiatric patients out on a day pass, to cranky people that only come out the day after a full moon, to a really drunk guy with Life brand rubbing alcohol in his back pocket that just had to take the empty seat beside me on the streetcar after tripping on the steps and coughing for 5 minutes when he was getting on – late at night, in Toronto, on Queen Street, east….

    March 25, 2009 at 7:22 pm