I begin to feel uncomfortable the moment I find a place to stand on the streetcar. It's the suit I'm in and the lie it dresses me in. No one suspects I'm a phony.
I signed up to be a film and television extra three days ago. I figured it would be a good way to make some money while still being able to revel in the glories of unemployment: sleeping late and dressing however I choose. Joblessness has no uniform or costume.
Then I got a call from someone at the agency. "Dress like an advertising executive," says the voice on the line.
At 7 the next morning I'm standing in front of my closet. It's make-believe time. I've never seen an advertising executive in real life, but I'm guessing the suit, my one and only, is a safe bet. So I put it on along with the shoes that are far too shiny and far too small to be happy in, and walk smartly out to the streetcar.
People look at you differently when you're wearing a suit. A certain degree of esteem is in their eyes. My fellow commuters probably think I'm a real go-getter. A lawyer perhaps. A broker. Or maybe, just maybe, an advertising exec. The kind of person who shaves every day and gets up before 10 am.
There's a common assumption that we can divine the kind of life a person leads from the clothes he or she wears. But this suit's my costume. No one suspects that I'll earn a measly $80 today and that if it weren't for a casting call I'd be spending the day at home watching television in my underwear.
Cruising along and pulling at my tie as the woman next to me casts approving glances in my direction - probably thinking how much she wishes her lazy grandson would get a job like this nice young man - I begin to wonder if I'm the only phony on board.
Maybe that guy a few seats up is actually on his way to the set of Construction Workers: Life On A Scaffold to make a few bucks while working on his math thesis.
Maybe that kid with the spiky hair really wants to do Shakespeare in the Park but can only find gigs dancing in the background of rock videos. Who knows?
Toronto has a very large film and television community, so there's a good chance, or at least a chance, that somebody on the streetcar you'll take today is not what he or she appears to be.
As I'm musing on all the parts my fellow streetcar riders are on their way to play ("No way that's a real nun," etc), the woman next to me compliments me on my suit.
My stop is coming up, and I don't have time to explain. "Thanks," I stutter. "I'm in advertising." And she'll never know the truth.