So I had one of those epiphanic moments today over lunch. How many writers do you know of that have actual good day jobs, or had them before they became professional writers? Sure, you always get those ones who used to be a diplomat or a paratrooper or an assassin, but so many more seem to have been secretaries or laundromat workers or department store clerks. The reason that us lowly writers are not bank managers or CEOs or sports stars is because we can’t fake an interest in a profession that means nothing to us; instead we linger on the fringes of acceptable employment, harbouring a dream that we pursue in our free time.
I had a day job. Then I lost it and then I got another day job. I’m an ALT, an Assistant Language Teacher, in an Japanese Junior High School. Today I went off to lunch, and as I entered my allocated lunch room, second grade class seven, the homeroom teacher barked at some kid to show ALT-teacher to his alloted desk (I don’t have an actual name). Usually the desks are arranged into blocks of six, but today they were all facing the front like in a regular class. I asked a nearby kid why, and he told me that apparently it was the latest way to combat the spread of influenza.
So I sat down to eat my cold lunch (why is it always cold??), sitting next to a solemn kid who refused to speak to me, instead preferring to read a bus timetable than answer a couple of basic questions. The incredible absurdity of the situation suddenly struck me. Here I was, identified by an acronym, not even deemed important enough to sit at the front of the class with the other teachers, and I wanted to jump up and shout, ‘Doesn’t anyone realize who I am?? I wrote THE TUBE RIDERS, goddamnit! I have 134 reviews (at the time of writing) on Amazon, and while I might not be world famous I am famous enough that a fan of my books (thanks, Vicky!!) once knitted and posted me a pair of gloves after I mentioned on my Twitter feed that my hands were cold … I’m a demi-god in this room!!! Get on your knees and PRAISE ME!!!’
Instead, I just kept quiet, but it got me wondering. How many times have you walked into a convenience store and bought some fried chicken and a bottle of toilet cleaner off some spotty kid called Chuck without giving him a second glance? How do you know that in his spare time Chuck isn’t building spy planes in his garage or inventing a way to clone dinosaurs? Geniuses like myself ;-) and Chuck are hidden away in society, but to find us, all you have to do is look closely into our eyes and see if there’s a glint of something special there…
Now go and buy my books.
That is all. ;-)