I love the sunshine and the day light. So after failing at poverty and telemarketing, I was drawn to a job ad for a bike courier.
Sure, it's December and getting quite icy, but the dim light does filter through the bare branches for a few hours. Birds sing in flocks, the world still runs on a gritty track. Get out there and make a few bucks riding through snow flurries, like good old Santa and all the other fake forces of goodness taking a sleigh ride through our ad-soaked subconscious.
I roll down to the courier office, and the guy says, "We need someone to start right away. You gotta get pumped up, get out there and make money on the bike."
And of course I ask how you make the money. He tells me you make 60 per cent of this and that, and it works out that due to different distances and orders and lengths and numbers of runs, only people at the office can really ever calculate what you actually earn.
So will they sell you on the short side? They do hold back your first two weeks' pay and expect you to keep a record of every delivery number.
Certainly, I want to avoid eviction from my home, so I take the job immediately.
I go out on the road, riding an endless race around the downtown. It's never fun, just a run through filtered sunlight and gloomy speculation about how I ended up having to sprint into all these offices to deal with people in no way any brighter than myself but well set up.
It gets to be 80 days around the world. Here, there, in the merry-go-round and the traffic and the smog, entering every building where people are blowing clouds of cigarette smoke out front.
I mention lunch and maybe a break, and the boss crackles, "You'll lose money. You gotta go and go and go 8:30 am to 5 pm without a break. Then maybe when you've made dollars, you'll think about a rest and how you've made money."
Which would've gone over, except that even by my most generous calculations I will be making substantially less than the minimum wage.
So how to improve, speed up and get more tickets done?
But that's a plan that failed. I speed out on Bay from the sidewalk only to find that a bus is fast approaching. The driver curses me as he slams on the brakes, and cars hit their horns. I hit the pedals and bounce back on the sidewalk. A motorist roars up beside me to tell me I could've been killed.
Embarrassed, I take a cowardly right turn and head down side streets. A TTC cop car slows and starts tailing me. When I think I've ducked him, I lock the bike on Adelaide and head for the delivery address.
People are jaywalking, but I confidently take the crosswalk and am most of the way across when a car zips in and brakes as it hits me. Luckily, I lean into it and bounce off the hood, come back up on my feet and only have slight bruising on my left leg. The driver emerges from the car shouting, "He wasn't on the crosswalk!"
I say nothing as I walk the rest of the way without looking back. I drop the package at the building and leave, knowing that recording accidents or stopping to argue about them will decrease my profits.
My boss is on the phone with a go, go, go message, and I get to Citytv before I notice the TTC cop still following me. Four bike cops suddenly appear to converse with him.
I head through Grange Park to the north and do some alley work. Finally, I roll my bike through the back door of a building and watch the cops pass in the alley.
The escape works, but my legs are starting to fail. Calling in, I get my last job of the day, which happens to be near the courier office.
I finish it and head home. The cellphone rings it's a guy telling me about another job. Janitor in a slaughterhouse, he says. I'll think about it, I say. I got a real good job now, but I might consider leaving it if you've got something better.