There was a period in my life when I said the F-word more often than a meteorologist says ‘barometric pressure’. It didn’t matter what I was going through or what emotion I was feeling at the time – happy, sad, angry, confused, stressed, relaxed…the F-word was seemingly always the perfect one to use.
“Oh F-word! That really hurt!” I’d scream after stubbing my toe. “What the F-word are you talking about?” I’d ask a devoted PBS watcher. “That was F-ing awesome!” I’d yell after my favourite team won a game.
There are lots of other words I don’t say anymore: the S-word, the C-word, the D-word; essentially the whole alphabet of swear words. In their place I now throw out such phrases as ‘Year to Date’, ‘Branch Responsibility Margin”, and ‘Profit Per Employee’. Sometimes, I’m so busy I don’t have time to string three words together so I just say “YTD”, “BRM”, and “PPE”. You know your world is F’d up when someone says “PPE” and you don’t even have to stop to translate.
F’d up. Yeah, that’s pretty much how I’d describe my life. Things have been ever since I grew up and got serious about stuff. You’d think a decision like that would improve one’s lot in life, and to a certain extent it has mine, but sometimes I believe things would be a whole lot simpler if people still thought I was simple.
Back when I was just a junior copywriter at Precipice Advertising, no one expected me to show up in anything other than jeans and a t-shirt. When people saw me reading People in the break room, I wasn’t superficial in their eyes. I was just keeping up with popular culture. Going out to clubs and smoking the occasional joint didn’t mean I was a loser. I was only doing what creative writer types are supposed to do.
Then my dad had to go and blow everything to smithereens for me. “Son,” he said to me twenty years ago, “you’re thirty years of age. Calling people ‘dude’ stopped being cute ten years ago. It’s time you grew up, Jack. You can start by getting a proper job. I didn’t work overtime shifts at the plant to send you to college just so you could end up writing about toothpaste.”
Up to that point, I thought my job was kind of cool. Not Hunter S. Thompson ‘get-to-say-whatever-insane-thing-pops-into-my-head-and-get-paid-a-million-bucks-for-it’ cool, but definitely cooler than working at a local fish hatchery, which is what my dad did before his arthritis got to be too bad. Sure, it was honest work, my dad’s job, but how many fish hatchery people can discuss the finer points of a Hunter S. Thompson piece? None.
All of a sudden, though, he had me thinking about my future. Am I on the right career path? Am I going to have enough for retirement? Am I giving off the right impression, or do I need to bite the bullet and start acting like a person that has a bright future ahead of him is supposed to act? Next thing I knew, I was wearing ties everyday to work, burying my head in business books, and sounding as though I meant it when I said, “Nice to meet you” to new clients.
Things snowballed from there. I went from lowly copywriter to Creative Director, from Creative Director to Sales Manager, then from Sales Manager to Vice President. Not Vice President of just the Toronto office, or the North American division, but the whole company worldwide!
I even traded up in the girlfriend department. It was goodbye to Tracy, the best cashier Groceries Galore has ever had, and hello to Claire, the best National Director that Save the Tots from Hunger has ever had. Fifteen years ago Claire and I got married. Fourteen years ago we bought a place by the lake. Twelve years ago we had twin girls. Every time my dad now sees me he tells me how proud he is. My life is perfect, in a nightmarish sort of way.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the perks that come with being upwardly mobile. You know, the three square meals a day, the car that didn’t come off of the assembly line last century, the vacations that are really just ‘staycations’ – stuff that I wouldn’t have if I stuck with being a humble copywriter. It’s just that it sucks the life out of me most days. If I’m not in front of my computer punching in numbers for the Board of Directors, then I’m standing in front of the Board of Directors justifying those numbers. Some days I pray for throat cancer so I’ll have an excuse for why I can’t make anymore butt kissing speeches to them. Other days I fantasize about getting hit by a bus so I won’t have to go in and listen to the staff complain about how thin the toilet paper in the bathroom is, or all of the other petty stuff people who don’t know a thing about what it takes to run a major company whine about. They have no idea how many sleepless nights I’ve spent trying to figure out ways to save their jobs while the economy goes down the tube, but they sure do seem to know a lot about the finer points of bathroom tissue.
This is the life I chose, though, right? I have no one to blame but myself. So just get into that boardroom Jackie boy and tell the Board of Directors want they want to hear. If only they wanted to hear “F, F, F-in, F, F, F!” See? That’s how far gone I am. I can’t even say the full word in my fantasies anymore.
Rich guy problems, eh?