Monday, 28 November 2016



A number of years ago I used to post remarks online in the Globe and Mail’s comments sections which accompanied every article or column. The novelty of not having to mail a letter to the editor amused me. My greatest hit was a 24-hour ban for having typed something to the effect that The Sound of Music was the only movie ever made which compelled viewers to root for Nazis. Hilarious, I thought. Saturday I was reminded of a second post which irked other amateur commentators.

The business section had run a story on some Human Resources expert (They never downsize themselves, do they?) who equated job satisfaction with an absurd level of evangelical passion and long hours, in other words, unquestioning Kool-Aid swillers. I reflected on this premise. I was fortunate to be modestly successful in an industry of my choosing and I was engaged enough to keep current, study the many aspects of its history and contemplate its future. For all that, I realized I derived more enjoyment just sweeping out my garage than I did from my career because my garage was my turf. I didn’t identify as an adman so much as the curator of Garageland. That’s what I wrote.

The Crooked 9 garage is not much different from yours. There are gerry-built shelves against the rear wall. A pink Christmas bow hangs from the door motor, low enough to tick the parker’s windshield and prevent calamity. Beside the liberated traffic signs on the walls are a couple of very tasteful Elvis ’69 Comeback Special clocks that don’t work. There’s a Montreal Canadiens license plate still in its shrinkwrap and a 1981 Northwest Territories polar bear plate turned up from somewhere by somebody. There are two cottage quality oil paintings, still lifes. The prize is a split piece of white planking with the brass house numbers still attached, dating from the days when the nine in the address was straight because the installer had understood the nature of a serif font.

Saturday morning was warm enough to putter outside without gloves and just a fleece pullover instead of a coat. There was no snow to shovel, no ice to chip away at. No leaves to rake and nothing left to cut back in the garden. I decided to embark upon the Sisyphean task of sweeping out the garage. The cement floor is cracked and pitted in places, the layer of filth covering it omnipresent.

Repetitive chores are a sort of soothing balm. You can free up your mind to dwell upon and perhaps resolve more pressing matters much in the way a solution to a problem will present itself while you sleep. You can zone out too, simply block out every decibel of white noise generated by the world at large: an automaton at peace. At worst, as is sometimes the case with me, you can become overly particular and precise while tackling the task at hand.

First I brushed the pad with a stiff bristled push-broom. I swept it again with a finer domestic straw broom. Next I scattered a green sweeping compound and swept that up. Finally, I did a fourth pass, sweeping the entire surface once more. I filled half a plastic grocery bag with debris, scooping up the piles with a faded red plastic toddler’s snow shovel. The entire process took me two tins of beer and four cigarettes plus a break. Inspecting my work I realized that though I’d achieved a concrete result, I’d mainly succeeded in just redistributing the dust. I then noticed some more matter out of place, pea gravel and grit on the driveway from the winter tire treads of the Honda CRV. That stuff will eventually migrate to Garageland, that’s a given. I take comfort in the knowledge that I can perform the same chore again today or two weeks’ hence; whenever I want.


  1. "I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping"....

  2. And the broom doubles as an air guitar.