In addition to The Robin’s Egg, I’ve been working on a humorous memoir about my years as a university recruitment officer. Ten and Two has been in the works for some time and is a tribute to the people who hit the road each fall to help high school students connect with their destiny. Recruitment is a strange job full of unexpected twists and turns. You set out each season looking for students and along the way you encounter beauty, wonder, loneliness, sorrow, friendship and even love. I dedicate this excerpt to my road family.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius
“Is this some kind of sick joke?” I thought, limping out of Northern Secondary School. What kind of sadistic city puts two schools with almost the same name less than a kilometer apart?
“Head out the side door and turn north,” said the guidance secretary. “North Toronto Collegiate will be on the south side of the road.”
“Can you repeat those instructions using left and right?”
“I can,” she said, her expression flat, “but you should really know your geography by now.”
I’m not usually late for school visits, but the heavy Toronto traffic defeated me. Exceeding the speed limit by ten kilometers, I zoomed in and abandoned my car in a one hour parking zone on Broadway St. Air Canada had knocked the wheels off my tiny recruitment suitcase, forcing me to drag it behind me like a stubborn child. On the way into what turned out to be the wrong school, I caught my stiletto in a crack in the pavement.
I tugged. The heel snapped off.
“Screw it,” I thought. “It’s going to be one of those days.”
It was late October and I was in the Toronto area recruiting for the University of King’s College. North Toronto Collegiate is one of the University’s biggest schools, which meant twenty to thirty kids would be waiting for me to appear. I had chosen the wrong day to be late.
As I approached my vehicle I noticed a man standing next to it. There was a contraption on the front, right wheel.
“Excuse me officer. I’ve only been parked here a moment,” I said.
“No you haven’t,” he barked. “This car has been sitting here for a solid week.”
To my surprise, a white Pontiac G6 was parked behind my white Pontiac G6. The officer looked me over as I searched my mind for something to say.
“What happened to your shoe?” he asked.
Like a Mentos mint dropped into a bottle of Coke, I exploded. I had been on the road for eight solid weeks and was tired beyond reason.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You are clearly in the wrong profession. Would you like a university pamphlet so you can consider other options? You’ve booted the wrong car! Two white Pontiacs in a row? C’mon!”
As I stood in the middle of the street raging, my mind began to race.
Am I insane? Am I trying to get arrested? I look terrible in orange. My grandmother will be scrapbooking my mugshots next to my old running certificates and drama awards!
Bursting into tears, I ended my soliloquy on a dramatic note.
“In the Maritimes we have a little thing called manners. You should consider getting some!”
I turned and ran. Stress and adrenaline convinced me that was the only way to get to the school. As I hobbled down the street, dragging my suitcase like a dead body, the sky opened up. By the time I reached North Toronto Collegiate, I was drenched.
The guidance counselor blinked at me as I came in the door.
“Would you like a moment to compose yourself?”
In the mirror in the staff washroom I could see the mascara lines running down my face. My hair was shellacked to my head. I looked like I just crawled out of Tim Burton’s ass.
Somehow I managed to pull off a clear, concise presentation. No one seemed to mind that I was late or that I resembled The Crow. As I was leaving, the guidance secretary gave me left and right directions back to Northern Secondary School. My shoes were in a canvas bag with the rest of my recruitment materials. My dead suitcase was in the dumpster behind the school.
As I wandered down Broadway Street in my bare feet, it hit me: I lost my shit on an officer of the law. Surely that has consequences.
And it did. Pinned under my windshield wiper was a white piece of paper. Happy that the boot was gone, I removed the slip and braced myself for the damages.
On it was a phone number, and a message scribbled at the bottom.
In case you want to teach me some manners later.