Once again I overheard someone venting envy of me and the allegedly luxurious life of a writer. Hah. That I do enjoy my life, most of the time, is powerful evidence for the benefits of Christian discipline. Many, some say most, professional writers are alcoholics; some commit suicide. Being chronically cheated and underpaid, and despised by people who show no evidence of being as intelligent as any dog you’d be willing to feed, are not exactly sources of pleasure. Maybe some people would like to know how that day actually went. Here's what I wrote, the morning after:
6:15 a.m.: You wake up. The weather couldn’t be more perfect, the prospect of lunch with your Significant Other is delightful, and you never know when somebody out there is actually trying to buy something from your web site. Your business is once again under attack, only the attack is coming from someone who is hated by at least as many people as you are, for reasons far beyond just making people uncomfortable by having less money than they; this person should be even easier to submarine than the rip-off “massage therapists” who unknowingly gave you so many profitable years in the massage business. Light a candle (in the absence of electricity) for morning reading before daylight. Sip a cheap nutrient-free drink (in the absence of solid food). Dry-clean body with alcohol solutions (in the absence of supplies you would need to restore running water). Wear the nicest clean outfit left in the closet in case Significant Other feels fit, after his appointment with a doctor, to meet at the café in town for lunch. Do not, however, invite regrets by breaking out a new pair of shoes, as certain people have started to hint about; in order to avoid wearing out shoes by cleaning them too often, you wear one pair until they wear out from use, and although the current pair has holes in both toes and one heel, it has only one small hole in one sole. You need to walk only six or seven miles. You are happy. You can do without the things you can’t afford until you’re able to afford them again.
10 a.m.: Give the cats the last bits of kibble in the bag. Leave the bag on the porch for any cats who feel hungry enough to lick out the crumbs. Walk into town.
11 a.m.: Get café’s WiFi password and dig into e-mail while waiting for Significant Other, who’s never been a café person but is enough of a businessman that you know he’ll treat you to as much coffee and snack food as you can be persuaded to carry out, if he feels fit to drive. Nobody is trying to buy anything—from you, or from the café. Someone you would have credited with more intelligence than that is asking you for money. Do not blame Congressman Brat; he was probably out of the office when some half-grown intern saw your e-mail address somewhere and added it to a fundraising list. Give him a snarky but not hostile blog post.
12 a.m.: Call Significant Other. Leave voice mail message. Watch people come in—ten people altogether: one group of two, one group of three, five other singles. None of them is he. Café could seat thirty people; during peak use it seats six. Smell their coffee. It is delicious. Do not buy coffee, because (a) their cheapest, smallest cup costs about three times the amount of money you have, and (b) if you drink coffee 48 hours after your last solid meal, it’s unlikely to stay down. Café does meals, too, if anybody can afford those. Recollect having heard that their meals are excellent. Tell stomach to stop growling.
3:30 p.m.: Overhear café employees muttering about people who “just play on the Internet all day” and don’t even buy coffee. Continue sorting through the petitions you do and don’t sign, the heavy legislative and political content your blog audience expect (none of which is exactly delightful), and the news of a mass murder that at least targeted a place where your relatives in that city wouldn’t have been likely to go. You do not personally know any Cuban homosexuals. On the other hand, after spending a day thinking about murders, rapes, bankrupt U.S. territories and potentially bankrupt U.S. states, by way of relief from the thought that your favorite living person is dying, you have never heard a Cuban homosexual express envy of personas que no tienen más que hacer que divertirse. You are…bemused.
4:10 p.m.: Internet service suddenly fails. You promised your readers the Link Log your e-mail and Twitter streams normally generate. Well, if they miss it perhaps they’ll buy something to fund it, so you can put your own WiFi into your own store.
4:30 p.m.: The other thing you had planned to do in town was to consult your attorney...having no prepaid phone minutes to spare for luxuries like scheduling appointments, go to his office to schedule appointment with his secretary.
5 p.m.: Go to real home of Internet Portal. Call Significant Other again. When phone goes into voice mail mode, decide against adding to his misery with another message, although you’ve wasted a prepaid phone minute anyway. Do not cry. Write a book review.
5:15 p.m.: Bricklayer referred by family construction experts calls to schedule appointment to assess your home’s masonry needs. The time he has available this week happens to be the time scheduled for the attorney. This is just as well, since nobody in your home can afford to pay him to do anything about your masonry needs, anyway, beyond telling you how much money you have to raise. (Do all readers know that my immediate family consists of a sister who can barely afford to feed her children, a sister who’s given up trying to feed her children and sent them to live with their father, and a mother who can’t deal with the fact that she can’t pay for that big house in town that she refuses to give up?) Five phone minutes gone for nothing.
7 p.m.: Cousin Tracy Doe, who does usually pay you for odd jobs even if it’s 60% barters you don’t need right now, has not called you or answered the phone for several weeks. TD is a bit of a “black sheep” in the family due to being divorced. You are a bit of a “black sheep” in the family due to being penniless. This has brought you closer to TD in recent years than you are to hundreds of people who are more closely related, even more congenial. TD works at a place that is only about a mile out of your way, if you take the long way home. Pack up a couple of small, light things to sell in case anyone you meet on the way wants to talk with you. (Never talk about your personal affairs; most people want to talk about their affairs, and what those who want to know about yours most need to know is what you have for sale.) Decide to walk past TD’s workplace.
7:30 p.m.: TD’s car isn’t there. While observing this fact, notice a very young man you don’t recognize who seems to be shouting across the street to you. He is in the passenger seat of a truck. The driver is the one whose services you needed, but could not afford, to inherit from a departed relative. He now works for a young go-getter who is trying to start a cleaning service, and sure enough, go-getter and some other young people dressed like laborers are in the back of the truck. If you were advertising a cleaning service these people would be your enemies. As long as what you advertise is merchandise and a newspaper, it’s probably safe to let them take you home. You would rather do a job, even if there’s not much actual work time and all you’d actually get out of it is a bag of kibble. Decide to walk two more miles and see whether TD is at home.
8 p.m.: See TD’s car parked behind the company’s main office. Send a quick phone message. Decide to walk one more mile, to the nearest supermarket, and see whether they have any usable produce on sale for what you have, which is 98 cents. They don’t, but they do have a sale on Skittles. Buy one small packet of Skittles for quick energy while walking back past the main office. This is the closest you’ve come to a meal this week. Of course, Skittles are basically a mix of corn starch and corn syrup, with artificial fruity flavoring; you’ve avoided corn products for the last two years and don’t know for sure, but there’s still a high probability that these Skittles will make you sick. (They did.)
8:30 p.m.: Main office is closed and dark. TD’s car is still parked there. On closer observation, it looks as if it’s been parked for several days. Of course TD wouldn’t waste phone minutes to notify everybody about a business or vacation trip in a co-worker’s vehicle. Wouldn’t have cell phone service if in hospital, either. Wonder how many of your other relatives would have visited TD, or notified you, if TD were in hospital. Wonder whether you would take the trouble to visit TD, or whether TD would want you to, if TD were in hospital.
9 p.m.: Bloated SUV with Tennessee tags pulls over, narrowing your way. Whip out phone in case driver needs to call for help—or you do; in all my fifty-whatever years it’s been the driver every time, but You Never Know. Driver scuttles around back of SUV to open both doors on right side of vehicle, almost completely blocking your way. Driver is smaller and moves as if “older” than you are, though, so the worst thing likely to happen is that she will waste a lot of phone minutes. As you move into speaking range, driver speaks first, offering you a lift. You have walked about nine miles and have a little over three miles to go. If you accept this lift, the worst thing likely to happen is an unpleasant conversation. It happens.
9:05 p.m.: Driver might actually be an old school friend, but you prefer not to find out, because driver is determined to talk to you in “Me Human, You Stray Dog” Mode. After ignoring the first vap and using Verbal Self-Defense to evade the second, return driver’s clumsy, obvious vaps with sneakier, guilt-trippier vaps. Know that, although exchanging vaps is not a good way to spend time, it’s a less harmful way than participating in conversation based on the presupposition that you are a stray dog—as Jesus specifically recognized. Remember how, once, long ago, when you had a reasonable income, there used to be people with whom you enjoyed conversation: people who liked and respected you, whom you liked and respected, who talked about events and plans and ideas rather than illness and old age. Remember how many of those people are now dead. Wonder if any of them are still living and, if so, whether they still talk about events, plans, or ideas. Wish driver the kind of night you are about to have.
9:15 p.m.: The way to your home directly approaches a hill where the road forks in four directions: right, left, up, or down. Tell Tennessee driver, twice, that you go down. Watch her try to go up. “Oh, I didn’t even see that road.” Decide to walk the rest of the way, as Tennessee driver obviously suffers from blindness of more than one kind. The cats are outdoors and can hunt, so they won’t actually starve because you don’t have any food to offer them. They will, however, cry at you all night. Somehow, at the end of this long day, the sound of their crying attracts your attention to Significant Other and Cousin Tracy Doe. Cry. Even though tomorrow will be another day, and you will sell something and be able to buy both cat and human food, cry.
Some time between 9:30 and midnight: Who keeps track of time when they’re crying? Do not waste phone battery by checking the time. Blow out candle. Go to sleep. In the morning it’ll be interesting to see just how much damage a good cry has done to your fast-aging eyes.
“Play” on the Internet, they think? Play? I’d like to see them try it. See how much fun they have. Within a week the people who think that what I’ve been doing, these ten years, has been “playing” would commit suicide, and the world would be a much better place.
I do enjoy my life…most of the time. I’ve chosen to earn a living by doing only things that I believe are morally and ethically good. Doing things you believe to be good is a source of pleasure. I’ve had more than my share of hard times, and I have a few regrets, but I’m not one of the writers who become addicted to various substances that seem to help them suppress feelings of guilt about the things they’ve done for money; in that way I’m better off than many of my colleagues. Do not be deceived. Professional writers are a different breed from the people who sit around envying other people.
And I'll bet you thought I couldn't think of an Amazon book link to add to this me-me-me post. If so, you were wrong.