Have any of you ever had a sort of peaceful, fun interim period of your life that you like to look back upon from time to time?
I have many!
But today, for some reason [maybe because it was a Monday and I did NOT want to be at work] I was thinking of a particular few months of my life -- back almost twenty years ago now. I was living in beautiful British Columbia. My career path at that time had taken a sudden turn for the… obliterated. I found myself simultaneously unemployed and heartbroken. A bad combination.
When does this story get "fun" Cipriano?
An old college friend happened to roll through town just in the nick of time. Because I have not gained permission to publicly speak of this story I will not use his name. So, in Kafkaesque anonymity, I'll call him K.
My dear friend K had found his place in this world as an itinerant seminar speaker. And so, he rang me up while he was doing a gig in my town.
I went to hear him speak that night.
The topic was Stress and Anxiety.
I sat and listened to him that night speak to a roomful of about a hundred really stressed out people. He was humorous, engaging, dynamic -- really knowledgeable and well-spoken. I was impressed.
Afterward, we had some drinks in the hotel lounge and I proceeded to fill him in on how horrid my own life was.
He then asked me if I would like to travel with him and assist in the sale of merchandise at his seminars. Would I like to do this?
I think my instant answer was something like, "Is the Pope Catholic?"
I was ecstatic. This seemed the perfect thing to get me out of my near-suicidal doldrums.
I packed up some clothes and the very next day headed out with him on the road.
For the next several months we were everywhere! Well, OK -- all over British Columbia and Alberta. Traveling in a rental SUV loaded with stress-related materials, we criss-crossed those provinces from Vancouver to Lethbridge, and everywhere in between.
My function was to wear a suit and welcome the stressed and anxious humans as they arrived at these venues, sit around reading a book over yonder while K disbursed his experiential wisdom, and then after the seminar, while he answered questions from a never-ending line of anxiety-sufferers, I handled the financial side of making sure that the forking over of extreme amounts of money was done correctly. People would line up and buy the tape series and instruction booklets, videos, and binders of whatnot.
Later in the lounge or hotel room, tallying up the results, I was amazed to find that some nights would bring in $10,000 to $15,000 in sales. Sometimes more.
A most hilarious side-effect of these adventures is that a few weeks into it, I myself began to counsel people. K being too busy, they would come to me and ask all manner of real serious questions. I would tell these people straight-up that I had never once suffered from any of their symptoms.
Never had a panic attack in my life. But they didn't care.
They still wanted advice -- so I gave it.
Thing is, it's true that I had become a sort of pseudo-expert in the subject, having heard K's speeches so many times I could have almost delivered them myself in his absence. Even so, I'm afraid that a lot of my advice was about as "deep" as the words shown in the image at the top of this blog posting!
Of far greater importance to me was the fact that K paid for all of my expenses on this hiatus, including meals and much boozing, plus an additional stipend on the side.
I would have gladly done it for the rest of my life, I think. It was such fun. It was just what the doctor would have ordered for me at the time, had I gone to see one.
The magnitude of his own expense account hit me one time when we were trapped by a snowstorm in Fernie, B.C. on our way to far-off Medicine Hat for a gig that very night. As we we were rolling across a treacherous mountain pass in the wake of a white-out blizzard, authorities literally CLOSED the highway behind us. In town, a similar roadblock on the western side caused us to return and grab the nearest hotel room, as were the rest of any travellers, that blustery day. In the room I rustled through my luggage to see if I had anything resembling swim-trunks, as there was an indoor pool in the place. But soon I overheard K on the phone with his employers. They were arranging for a helicopter to pick us up there and fly us out.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head.
When he finally hung up the phone I looked at him and said, "Who the hell are you? James Bond?"
As it was, no helicopters were available. So we had a night off. We ate non-Chinese food in a nearby Chinese restaurant, played billiards back at the hotel and drank ourselves into a delightful stupor. In the morning -- we set off in yesterday's direction to our re-scheduled event.
I was sad when all of this ended. But I'm over it now.
Why am I even relating this story in the first place?
I really don't know.
Except maybe to say the following:
Sometimes in life we can be going through a truly rough time. Things can be looking blacker than the tenth plague of Egypt. But then… serendipity happens.
As it did for me, that time way back when.
If any of the people that bought K's product received half of the benefits I got from selling it to them during those idyllic months, they got one hell of a deal.