I’m a young office worker. The world is mine. As soon as I’ll finish my cigarette, I’ll go deal with the commissioner, a weekly task to which I excel. That’s life when you go teach at the government.
“Hi/ bonjour, what’s your name?”
Great. A spelling bee contest at 8:55 a.m. I must say that I love my name, but really, does it have to have 4 “i” and several consonants people never know in which order to arrange?
I flash my drivers’ license, praying that he won’t ask me to take it off its plastic cover in my wallet. Really, it’s not made to be removed – last time I almost broke a nail.
“What are you doing here in Industry Canada?”
I’ve been coming here every single Wednesday morning for the last 6 months. I have a French accent and I’m carrying a pile of very heavy grayish books on which is written “grammaire” in big bold letters. Don’t you have a clue?
“I’m the French tutor.”
“What are you teaching?”
I’m not going to answer that. But I keep on smiling. It’s now 8:57 a.m. and I really badly want my pass.
“Which room are you going to be in?”
Blank stare. I went back to sleep during the time it took him to answer a couple of personal phone calls. Would I have been fully awake, I would have stared the same. See, Room 719D and Room 731A are quite the same to me. They both have a table, a few chairs arranged around and a blackboard on which I’m supposed to be writing some conjugation right now. It’s 9:00 a.m.
“Alright, we are going to look up at your student’s name. She did send an email with the room number, didn’t she?”
I have no clue. My students are averaging 50 years old, I can hardly boss them around.
I dread the question. Here we are.
“What’s your student’s name?”
Why, why, why is my student Polish? Why, why? Next time, I’ll ask for “Smith” and “John”. Actually, lucky as I am, probably not a good idea. There must be 20,000 “Smith” and “John” in the computer and it would take ages to go through them all. Gosh. Here we are, spelling again. I soon give up and write down the name on an orange post-it I found in my jacket’s pocket.
“Nope, we don’t have anybody by that name working here, sorry.”
Seriously, what do you think? That I’m coming here with my imaginary student just for fun? No, wait. I’m probably a spy and I’m going to steal all of Industry Canada’s secret plans in rooms 719D or 731A. Get a life, man! I still don’t know to this day what these folks are doing in Industry Canada!
He manages to find her by 9:05. See, it’s much better when you look up at “’last name” instead of “first name”.
-“What’s your phone number? Numéro de téléphone ?”
He switched to French. The idea I’m here to teach French to a student that actually exists made its way through his mind.
“Well, with your accent, sounds like 007-0642. And the area code?”
I give it to him. If he wants my credit card number, he can have it too. Just let me go! Hey man, I know your brother, doesn’t he work at the US border?
“Now, I just need a piece of ID. You’ll get it back when you leave tonight.”
I attempt to get my drivers’ license out of its plastic cover, but I just don’t have time for this shit and another broken nail. Health card.
“Sorry, we can’t take that.”
“Why not? It has my picture on it!”
“In case you get sick up there and you need it.”
SIN card, no picture. Student card, expired. Visa card, over my dead body. How many pieces of ID am I supposed to carry? YMCA card. It has to work.
“Here is your pass.”
I run to the elevator downstairs. See, in Industry Canada, elevators downstairs stop only at odd numbers, whereas elevators on the main floor stop at even numbers. Of course, half of them are “out of order/ hors de service/ sorry for the inconvenience/ désolés de l’inconvénience”.
I enter the room.
“Sorry, there was a lot of traffic this morning…”