i O S


The year, nineteen sixty-five, up to now I have lived my short life on a need-to-know basis. The background of this being of a complex nature, and for another telling time.

Suffice to say, my first surprise experience of job acquisition was at the behest of our family’s matriarch, and it did little to offset the need-to-know factor in which I was raised. I’ve often been told, in no uncertain terms, where to be for jobs or I was to find a regular type job on my own volition.

My first job ended rather abruptly, pre-maturely to be exact. I was fired due to me being unfamiliar with the area’s terrain. I had arrived late-September, and was conscripted into delivering prescriptions, on a bicycle, in December no less. No preparation, simply instructed to report to a corner drug-store for unspecified duties, which I did. Being the dutiful son, I was soon to discover the insufficiencies of which I was unaware, as that portion of my consciousness awakened much later in Life.

On this occasion, the summer of sixty-five, I found a job in the Telegram Classified Section. The ad stated: No experience required; training and kit provided, and paid daily. Seemed straight-forward enough. I made the call, and was given details for the job-interview.

I made my way to the location which was three-floors up to an office. Interviewed by my prospective employer, after waiting in a line. A line that went three-floors, up from the entrance to where his office was situated. Like the others that waited, there was a detailed interview followed by being told when and where to meet. A location was well outside my comfort zone, being an immigrant still learning my way around, which definitely made day-pay essential and attractive.

We made our way to the location, at the appointed time, and where our employer was waiting. He gave us each our ‘Sample Kit’ and ‘Receipt Order-Pad’, and his sample sales pitch for going door-to-door. I recognized the area and its inhabitants from memory in later years, under flashback of distant circumstances. It seemed odd to some of us, who were tasked with the job of separating our customers from the benefits of their incomes, however it came, as they appeared hard-working people who might be better off without the the products we were offering. I was not to comprehend this fact clearly, being an immigrant ignorant of the social/class structure; so, off I went with the others.

Diligently, we went door-to-door making our pitch, divesting ourselves of our wares, making sales via these samples that were ‘hooks’ from which the residents were unable to wriggle free. I recall a woman with three/four small children, one in her arms with the others milling about her. For what reason she remained imprinted on my memory I cannot say, but I have a vivid memory of her standing there in the doorway with the children ever since.

That day sped by as I walked the avenues conversing on doorsteps, in doorways, ending where I began. The only difference, I carried an empty sample-case and an order booklet completely filled. All that was given me in the morning was returned to my employer, minus the samples of which he made certain resulted in sales and not simply ‘give aways’!

He then began to step away, whereupon I reminded him of the ad’s “pay-per-day” line to which he replied, “Today was a ‘trial’, your real work-day begins tomorrow.”

I was beside myself! Quickly recovering my centre, I informed him I needed that money for my fare home as well as to return to work tomorrow. “That’s not my problem”, came his reply. My response was no less casual as I turned, preparing my mind for the long walk home only to replay the day’s disappointing experience during my walk.

Having ventured eastward in the morning, I ascertained my return journey was with the setting Sun and began walking, trusting in familiar, recognizable locations that led me to my own doorsteps.

As mentioned earlier, it was decades before I realized the import of the area I was working in that day. I now recognize the Bloor/Danforth route I walked across from Broadview on my return home that day. It screamed at me the first time my mind became cognizant of the it! I remembered it took me 3hrs to return to where I lived. Oddly enough, back then I had prepared for that kind of trek. You see, in my younger years in my birth country of Jamaica, it was not unusual for me to walk such a distance, over such a time in a wanderlust mindset.

I was nick-named a ‘walkabout’, as I tended to wander off after breakfast and not return until the most convenient feeding-time, according to the boarding-house routine where we lived for a 4yr spell. Make it home I did, and informed the family’s matriarch of the day’s occurrence, with the understanding I was duty bound to find another job, asap.

Point of fact, having learned to fabricate my age looking older than I appeared, this was to have a crucial bearing on future undertakings. At this juncture, I doubted I fooled anyone, which made me a prime target for misuse by this ‘charlatan’ doing the hiring for ‘The Fuller Brush Company’. Be that as it may, I have come to see this experience as one of the many ‘unofficial’ immigrant Orientation Systems proliferating the human condition, in our Modern World. Mind you, this does not discount others’ stories elsewhere, far worse or kinder throughout Life.



Spring 1965



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