URGH, WRITING: I only tell the truth – the dangers of non-fiction

Elf-You-Sit-on-a-Throne-of-Lies

 

As a fiction writer, having any sort of commitment to the truth is the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, in my stories, generally I have no regard for the inherent truth of anything – from gravity to medicine to the eternal building blocks of the universe. I am quite happy to disregard all of them. It’s kind of my thing.

As a creative non-fiction writer, I have managed to almost entirely circumvent the issue of ‘truth’ by only writing stories about myself. This probably comes from a place of utter vanity, but I prefer to think that because it is my experiences, I can therefore use myself as a protagonist and focus on my ‘voice’ as the medium for both the comedy and any meaning that manages to seep in accidentally. But even that method, as self-centred and safe as it was, ran into an issue when my story included comments made by a dear friend’s parents. I was not only publishing the story on this site, but I was also reading it at Story Club, to a room which I knew included some mutual friends. The story in question is called Animal Cruelty. At first I felt that the story, even involving someone else’s parents and house and experiences was still MY story – it happened to me, it was through the (unreliable) narration of my memory, why did I have to ask permission to use it?

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt uncomfortable with the idea of someone I care about turning on the internet with their morning cup of coffee, whistling jauntily and then reading a snarky blog post about his own family and then spilling his coffee or something.  That would be devastating. Or having it get back to him through other friends. It didn’t seem polite. So, in the end I ran it past him and everything seemed dandy. Certainly I felt more confident about presenting it, and felt like maybe I was sharing a story. He might be nursing a giant grudge in secret, but on the outside, he seems fine, and I suppose that’s all we can hope for in the end.

As some of you might remember, I am trying to get a project off the ground where I travel around the world and visit all the delightful weirdos I used to play on the internet with when I was a teenager. I pitched it for last year’s SOYA, which I was a finalist in, most due to the sterling effort of everyone I know getting involved and expressing enthusiasm for the project. Anyway, I’m still working hard at getting this project off the ground, writing grant applications and the like (and I will be going for SOYA again this year, be warned, I will once again be doing my best puppy dog eyes so everyone can help me get this novel to happen). One of the few actual steps forward I have made is getting a series of flash fictions published by Seizure as part of their Alt-Txt initiative. Each of these flash fictions is a quick profile on some of the people I hope to be featuring in my book. They should be coming out in fits and bursts soon.

Anyway – after I finished my first draft of these, I realised that while I was focusing on MY interaction with these people, the things I knew about them, how I saw them, how we i-met, how we e-interacted, I discovered that some of the stories I’d touched on were definitely not mine to tell. In three noticeable pieces, they were not simply just stories I had no claim to – they were deeply personal experiences of horror and pain.

A quick disclaimer – 90% of these stories are just silly and funny, but it was the leftover 10% that I started to have issues with.

Srsly silly, I'm also doing 'art' to match each story. This is one.

Srsly silly, I’m also doing ‘art’ to match each story. This is one.

It became quickly apparent that I couldn’t post these stories on the internet – the place where these people live – without first consulting the subjects of them, and letting them read it. It was honestly a terrifying experience. Even though I was completely prepared to let them have veto on the stories for any reason whatseover, not even just if they objected to what I was saying about them,  even if they just thought I was shit at sentence structure, it still highlighted the fact that I was taking liberties with someone else’s life. Taking their experiences, their entire being and then having the hide to transform it into something to read and digest. Why on earth would I be qualified to do that?

Luckily, while I was having a genuine freakout about this, I asked all the wonderful writers I know on Facebook how they dealt with this feeling of responsibility. I was quickly reassured that the only thing I could do was run it past the subjects of the piece – and that some people actually make a habit of not doing that. I also realised that a lot of people I know routinely write about incredibly tricky interactions – troublesome family interactions, ex-partners, current significant others.

It was the first time I’ve felt in a position of responsibility as a writer. As a producer or creative director of projects, sure, I’ve had huge degrees of responsibility to other people. But as a writer, writing about the things I write, the only person I had to worry about displeasing is myself, and I shed any dignity or embarrassment years ago. One of my fiction pieces, which was fairly widely circulated, including in newspapers, was about a family at a funeral. It just so happened that it was re-published shortly after my grandfathers funeral. Even though the dead person in this story was a grandma, my grandfather’s side of the family decided the story was about them, and also decided it wasn’t a flattering depiction and therefore decided to get offended. I think non-writers constantly look for themselves in the writing of people they know. And I think as writers we all know that inspiration rarely works in a A+B= C scenario. It’s quite likely there was some of that family somewhere in my fictional depiction. However – considering it was originally published a year before my grandfather’s death, I felt quite safe in ignoring this particularly brand of self-entitled butt-hurt, unless they suspected I could foretell the future and was using that ability for literary gain.

The majority of the subjects of the Alt-Txt project (People I’ve Never Met from Places That Don’t Exist) were completely fine with the stories I’d written about them. In some cases, the sensitive topic I was bringing up allowed us to have a bit of an air-clearing chat, mostly about the ‘follies of youth’. I realised that through writing about these experiences, some which I’ve held to my chest for over a decade as something unresolved, has allowed me to tick them off in a sense, to put a full-stop at the end of that particular life experience. One particular subject, whose profile included an immensely difficult time of their life, decided that I should know the details about what actually happened to them, and not just what I vaguely remembered or had perhaps heard from other sources. What became immediately obvious is that their story was not adequately being told my me, was not being given justice. They didn’t mind that I was attempting – they just wanted my attempt to have all the information that it needed to work.

My responsibility to their story quickly told me that a flash fiction was not the place to attempt to tell the entirety of it. This was something that will have to wait for the novel, I think. There was also the issue of how someone is represented by something as transient as a mico-non-fiction. Does something that happened TO them have to be included in something so small? Is it an essential part of them? All I can do is provide a snap-shot, a preview of a person in this project. Thematically for this work – internet pieces about the internet – it fits. And does shying away from something more difficult to tell mean that I am simply being a coward, that I am whitewashing their life? I’ve endeavoured to make a compromise, and will be sending the final draft later today to see what they think.

I think as a writer, I have to be aware of the increased responsibility I have in telling a story that isn’t mine, and that all I can endeavour to do is write it as well as I can, and be as transparent as possible with the people it directly affects. I think that’s what is expected of me. I think there is still danger present, but perhaps with increased risk comes an increased reward, and I might be telling stories that deserve to be told. Maybe. I miss writing about SASSY HAWKS.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #7: CRIME

The Dentist
I came in like a wrecking ball. Like a bad attitude in a bad suit. Like a minimum wage employee with minimum fucks to give. Casual employee – casual attitude. I’d worked at the airport for two years by this point, and took the news that I was transferring to a different store, over at the other end of the airport, with little-to-no interest. ‘A shitty leopard can’t change its shitty spots’ I probably said to myself, doing a wicked ‘grind’ on my ‘skateboard’ or something similarly indicative of rebellion in that show, Degrassi Junior High. I’ve never been on a skateboard, FYI.

On my first day in the new store, I discovered that Mega C (as the store was called) was actually an entirely different animal to Mega B. If Mega B was a shitty leopard, then Mega C was a gormless elderly cow who liked to lick electric fences and was scared of big flowers. Everyone was super friendly in Mega C. They made me feel welcome and inquired about my well-being. The manager invited me into her office to ‘get to know me’, rather than to yell at me for telling lies to businessmen. Our lunch breaks were sprawling hour and a half affairs. It was a weird utopia, which I gradually relaxed into, like someone who didn’t expect to be in a spa-bath, relaxes into their surprise spa-bath.

But it wasn’t to last: the entire reason I’d been transferred in the first place was as a vanguard for Mega B. Like an aggressive tumour, or a burst sewage pipe, Mega B was going to expand all the way around the airport until it had reached Mega C, swallowing it up and incorporating it into one super evil hybrid leopard-cow. The staff in Mega C were worried that things would change, and when they asked me what it was like in the other store, I would just stare into the distance, trembling.

And while that did actually come to pass, a freeway being built right through a sleepy farming community, Mega C was broken well before then – and it was because of me. Chatting one day in the tech department, I told the guys that I’d recently bought a Nintendo DS, and was looking forward to playing Pokemon on it. One of the guys was like ‘Oh, you know, I can put like, 200 games on one card for you, it will just cost you $50 for the card’. And I was like, ‘that’s great value!’

The next week, I walked into the store and wandered over and gave the dude the money, and wondered why he looked so uncomfortable. It was only when he was fired the next day for conducting illegal business transactions on the store floor, that I realised that what we were doing wasn’t actually a legal thing. The police got involved, and several more people were fired, as a black-market ring was apparently flourishing in several sections. The store was riven apart by suspicion and doubt. There were grim rumours of a ‘narc’ who had dobbed in all these people – these employees who nearly all supported large families and came from lower socio-economic backgrounds. But it wasn’t a narc, it was me. I was the gormless cow, gormlessly wandering in the crime pastures, sleepily ruining everything for everyone else. 

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #6: SPRUIKER

doritos

I’d been rostered to work on the opening night of one of my plays even though I’d put in for leave months earlier, and I had to kick up a fuss. It’s not just because I wanted to see my play and sit in the audience with fear sweat running down my back, it’s probably because we were so low budget that I was also fulfilling the role of being a human strut for the stage or I had to stand there shining my phone as a stage light, something like that.

Anyway, because of the fuss I kicked, it somehow got around the airport that I was an actor, because the idea of a playwright was too difficult for them to get their heads around, which is actually pretty fair, because playwrights are pretty ridiculous things, like Puffins or overly ornate hats.

A new manager with fire in his breath and misplaced enthusiasm in his shiny shoes came up to me one day and said ‘Hey, you’re an actor, how do you feel about walking around the store with a microphone and spruiking our special deals?’
I said I didn’t feel like doing that at all, because I was currently involved in a very elaborate daydream about zombie-elfs. He then rephrased and said ‘Here take take this microphone because you have to do this.’

I tried my best to tell him that while I am a confident speaker, I have no control over what comes out of my mouth, that my brain was well lubricated slip-and-slide, where the thoughts would go barreling down with absolutely no concern about what lay at the end, whether soft paddling pool or misplaced family grandmother. But he ignored my warnings, because I think he didn’t know what a slip-and-slide was.

‘Hi, look at our booze’ I mumbled, desperately trying not to make eye contact with the hordes of customers I walked through. My voice echoed all through the store, clashing with announcements of late flights and boarding gates. ‘Umm, you’re flying in a plane, right? That’s pretty… terrifying. Why don’t you buy two bottles of Tanqueray for $42? That might help.’

‘Hey you, what are you buying? Bundaberg Rum? Why? Do you want a memory card? What about this… I don’t know what it is.’

‘Hey, look this is two litres of vodka, if you drank that all at once you’d probably die! I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure you’d die.’ My manager looked at me across the store and shook his head violently.

‘I mean, maybe you wouldn’t, but you’d probably have to go to hospital. I went to hospital with alcohol poisoning once, ha ha ha I was drinking Johnny Walker Black in an army barracks can you believe it, and an ambulance man slapped me! Right in the face! Johnny Walker, ladies and gentlemen, which by the way, totally has 20% off, so that’s cool.’

After that I didn’t have to spruik because I’d actually broken the law by talking about unsafe drinking practices, but it was a pretty fun day.

Urgh, Writing: How To FOCUS on Writing

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I was reading this post by my colleague Craig called ‘How Not To Write a Novel’ and was nodding along with his points, before realising that actually my problems are entirely different to the ones he has laid out, and are maybe unique to me. But then I thought I was probably overestimating how special I am and underestimating how ridiculous other people’s lives are. So here are my pointers on how not to write a novel, with an added moral at the end:

1. Don’t Write Theatre

One of the easiest ways not to write a novel is to spend years writing theatre. While it may sometimes look like you’re writing a novel due to all the words you are putting on a page, don’t be confused – this is a script, and not a novel.

2. Don’t Write Films

Hey, films are cool. How do they get the words you wrote up on that big screen and expressed through shiny pictures? We’ll never know. But doing that film writing course is not writing a novel. You are often sitting down, but once again, still not writing a novel.

3. Don’t Write Satirical Poetry

Even though you got a shiny purple suit and an 8-foot banner of yourself, you are still not writing a novel. You are in a poetry boyband.

4. Don’t Write Miscellaneous Shit for Everyone Who Asks

Still not a novel. Mostly these are lists about 90s TV shows.

5. Don’t Get A Job You Love

Because you have to go there every day, and not write a novel. They’re pretty strict on that point.

I am definitely guilty of all these, and because of the last point, I’ve had to look at all the things in my life and decide what my goals are. I am now dedicated to getting some books out there – starting with a collection of short fiction, then a creative non-fiction novel and then potentially a fiction novel. These are my goals. Because I am now focused on my goals, my writing has become a clear and defined thing. The microfiction a day plan that I talked about in a previous Urgh, Writing has been working fantastically, and I am reliably pumping out a few stories a week. Furthermore, I’m enjoying my actual writing. It doesn’t feel like a chore. Accompanying this is STILL a bunch of side projects – things which I’ve looked at and said ‘this will help my eventual goals in terms of promotion and exposure’, or smaller projects which I really believe in, such as a top secret thing I am working on with Seizure. But I am also learning how to say ‘no’. Over the past two weeks, I keep seeing fantastic writing opportunities – comedy writing positions, webseries, residencies, etc etc etc. Things that would have suited past me a lot, or things that I think I would enjoy. And it’s super hard staying focused and saying no to them. But I’m getting better.

And now for bonus moral point:

6. ACTUALLY DO ALL THOSE THINGS I SAID NOT TO DO

Why? Because maybe I don’t have a novel, but each of those points has led me to becoming a better writer. Theatre for example – something I love, something I love writing, and something I will write again, but I KNOW my dialogue skills in prose have enhanced because of it. My film course? Taught me I don’t want to write for Hollywood, but also how to pitch ANY project. Focus is good, but I think I’ve needed this time being a little bit adrift to pick up some skills, and now I can focus them into a deathlaser or whatever.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #5: BOMBAY SAPPHIRE

At the airport I ate lunch with about twenty middle aged ladies – perfume sprayers, booze pushers and jaded checkout assistants with fingernails that could probably cut glass. Every conversation ended with ‘You don’t have to stand for that, you need to make a scene’. One lady would grab my hand and in a thick accent say ‘You go to the union and you say, I have had enough! They will try to take your very blood here’. She was later caught stealing and was fired, and when the police took her away she tossed her magnificent head of rock-solid, hairsprayed hair and spat on the ground.

My favourite game was to take fun customers over to the Bombay Sapphire representatives, who would make cocktails in plastic cups and talk about the aromatics and flirt with the middle aged men or relate really heavily with the women about where they were staying in Fiji or Bali ‘Oh, that sounds beautiful, I would give my lift tit to go with you.’

One day I’d been late to work, as Bridget and I were really sad and drank way too much wine every night, and I really needed coffee but had no way of getting it, so in desperation I drank a bottle of V. I’d never had an energy drink before, and because I was doing it sneakily, I drank it all in one quick go, and suddenly I had the briefest moment of pure euphoria, where all the fluro lights turned into sparkling rays of diamond, where the future was laid out in front of me with easily accomplished goals, where I smiled dreamily at my jittering hands sticking out of my ill-fitting suit cuffs.

This passed, and I was immediately nauseous and confused, and tried to hold on to that feeling of confidence and destiny that I’d briefly held, and while I scrabbled vainly for that I watched one of the Bombay women drop a bottle of gin onto the tiles, and a shard of glass punctured her eye and everyone was screaming except for her.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #4: JARED PADALECKI

The Heat

 

When I am old, handsome old, like George Clooney or a big majestic tree, that one story I’ll tell to my grandchildren and old war buddies over and over again will be the time I met Jared Padalecki. ‘BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS?’ my grandchildren will scream ‘WE HAVE EVOLVED INTO BEINGS OF PURE THOUGHT AND NOW RIDE ON MOONBEAMS, WE CARE NOT FOR YOUR ANTIQUATED ACTORS’. And I’ll chuckle, and start peeling a mango with only my blunt thumb nails.

You see, I was working in the specialty wine store at the airport when it happened. I thought that the lights overhead had failed perhaps, but it was actually because someone immensely tall was standing over me. I am 6’2 myself, so the sensation of being loomed over is a really strange one, but there it was. I immediately recognised Jared Padalecki, or as I thought of him ‘Dean’ from Gilmore Girls. He was smiling politely, and his shoulders were enormous, as wide as I am tall. I wanted a piggy back from him, a sexy, sexy piggy back.

He explained that he wanted to bring wine as gifts for his family, and he wanted something ‘Australian’ but not touristy. I managed to help him in what I believe was an adequate manner, also managing to keep a surprising degree of calm. I probably came across as fairly humourless, focused on not blurting something ridiculous like ‘NICE SEX PANTS, BIG FACE.’

I even acknowledged his celebrity status, casually asking if he’d been filming here in Aus, only to learn they were using the Australian desert for some episodes in Supernatural, which I didn’t watch.

Finally, at the counter as I packed all his wine for him, listening to him speak fondly of spending Christmas with his parents, he went to leave, thanking me for helping him. I almost left it at that, almost let him walk away, before I softly said ‘You were my favourite.’

‘Sorry?’ he asked.

‘You were my favourite of Rory’s boyfriends’ I stated, before blushing furiously. He nodded and thanked me vaguely and walked off, and I realised that I was blushing because I’d lied. At that point, Logan had been my favourite Rory boyfriend. But now Dean is. Shoulders as wide as I am tall.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #3: Moondance

Friendifer Medway

When I worked in the loading dock of Target, I had two options: going to a mud wrestling night with my co-workers and get inducted into the semi-official crime ring they operated, or not doing that. I didn’t do that, so I was relegated to crushing cardboard boxes in the cardboard-box crushing machine. I liked this job, because I didn’t have to talk to the homophobes that I worked with, and because it was simple and repetitive.

One of the more difficult aspects of the job was the music piped down from the main store blared directly into my face. There were only twelve songs that looped all day. To this day, I will hear a song and somehow know every word in it, and only later realise that it was a Target song. This happened recently when I watched High School Musical, and somehow joined in on the singing, despite never having seen it before. It was like I was in a musical, or that someone had been playing it under my pillow each night.

One day the CD or playlist glitched, and ‘Moondance’ by Van Morrison played on repeat. I was working for eight hours that day, which meant that I listened to the song about a thousand times. I can’t do the maths, but I’m probably right. The day after this happened, I went overseas for a fortnight. It was a marvellous night for a moondance on the plane, floating down the fake canals of Dubai, a fantabulous night for a romance as I skied inside a shopping mall.

When I came back from overseas, I went into Target wearing my reflective vest and stompy boots and the manager who had hired me had left, and everyone down at the dock pretended not to know who I was, and even though I realised I could probably press the issue and get someone to look my name up on a computer and confirm that I did actually work there, and wasn’t some kind of maniac like the confused lady at the payroll desk thought, I realised that I’d be essentially fighting to work at Target and nothing is worth that, and I left and never came back, meaning that night was truly a marvellous night for a moon dance, but I didn’t moon dance, because I don’t even think a moon dance is a thing, I just drank gin and played Zelda.

A LIST OF THINGS I LIKE

A LIST OF THINGS I LIKE

* PEGADORS
* NOT HAVING INSOMNIA
* STYLISH CLOTHES
* SWORDS
* COMIC BOOKS
* BOOKS
* NAKED BODIES
* TELLING LIES
* TELLING STORIES
* SHOES
* PEOPLE WHO TRY
* ROBOTS
* HISTORY
* DINOSAUR
* SPEAKING ELVISH
* PLANNING THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
* BEING REALLY ORGANISED
* INTERESTING PEOPLE
* WHISKEY
* WINE
* REALLY GOOD BEERS THE KIND OF BEER YOU DRINK AND SAY WOW THAT IS A REALLY GOOD BEER
* DOGS
* LAUGHING
* SAD MUSIC
* HAPPY MUSIC
* MUSIC THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS SUNG BY A BANJO SPIRIT WHO LIVES IN THE FOREST
* BANJOS
* FORESTS
* THE PAST
* POTENTIALLY THE FUTURE
* WRITING
* WRITERS
* FRIENDS
* SPRING
* AUTUMN
* SKYRIM
* GOOD HAIRCUTS
* SOCIAL MEDIA
* THINKING ABOUT MARKETING BOOKS
* TINA FEY
* BRIDGET LUTHERBORROW
* VARIOUS CATS
* PIZZA
* AMY POEHLER
* THE TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED MOVIE (1984)
* MARTINIS
* KURT VONNEGUT
* COLD DAYS
* GREEN
* WATCHING MOVIES I’VE ALREADY SEEN
* FUNNY THINGS
* WRITING LISTS

Urgh, Writing: ‘to write the same way that you… are!’

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I saw this the other day on Shabby Dollhouse and it was one of those perfect moments. I started writing creative non-fiction memoir stuff on this blog kind of by accident, but it wasn’t until Ben Jenkins asked me to read a story at Story Club years ago, that I realised how much that type of writing suited me. Apart from the fact it is ABOUT me, it’s also the kind of writing which best expresses how the interior of my brain works – all seemingly random connections and memories of weird things.

Lately, inspired by the kind of stuff I’ve been seeing on Shabby Dollhouse and other great internet lit journals, I’ve been trying my hand at non-fiction microfictions/ flash fictions or whatever they’re called. The beauty about these Curriculum Worstae pieces is that they’re meant to live in Facebook statuses. Not only are they actually fun to write, but I’m getting to the point where I start to think in terms of that medium, structuring a story in miniature. And it’s also great because a lot of stupid things that have happened to me aren’t really deserving of anything more than 200 words, they can’t be contextualised into a larger concept, a larger narrative except for maybe ‘things that happened’.

A lot of people I’ve been reading lately who are experimenting with creat. non.fic are not only engaging with theme and tone, but also structure and presentation. It’s really, really interesting how the kind of experimentation often reserved for poems has made its way into presentation of prose. A lot of this takes the form of a literal interpretation of Ginsberg’s above quote, trying not just to imitate ‘speech’ or ‘stream of consciousness’ like we’re used to, but more common and contemporary forms of communication like txt speech, etc. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to embrace misspellings or leaving mistypes or grammatical errors in the text – but it would also be disingenuous of me to try, because it’s literally the opposite of how my brain works. When I speak, I am subconsciously spelling each word – when I ask for a person’s name, I need to know how it is spelled, because that’s the only way I’ll ever remember it. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the stuff OTHER people are writing. I get it, I’ve been on a chatty room.

Anyway, one of the few things I’ve learnt for certain about writing is that you learn the same lessons over and over again, so quotes from people like Ginsberg on writing the way that you are will mean so much to you and be relevant again and again, in different ways, and will follow your writing as you develop and unlock new meanings and it’s great.

*SIDE NOTE: I’m a big fan of the beats, and there are SOOOOOO many correlations between the alt-lit ‘movement’ and the Beats, and they are seriously getting almost EXACTLY the same criticisms, from the more established movements, from other artists accusing it of being nothing more than a ‘clique’. Lit movements are cliques, but the reason it’s a movement and not a club is that the message behind the content is transferable and will last longer than the spotlight on the personality of authors, which even then I’m not against. Authors are interesting people, I’m interested in them. Oh my god, I am so tired, I haven’t slept all night, this is an incoherent rant, is it not?

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #2: FLO RIDA

Coffee

At one point when I worked at the airport we had a new manager. The airport seemed to go through a thousand managers a week, who would come in with big ideas, big dreams and big shoes and throw them out there like glitter, only to watch them sink beneath the pond-like indifference of the staff they managed. This new manager was no different – energetic, firm, qualified. She lasted about a month. But on this day she took me away from my weird collection desk, where I did a weird, semi-unexplainable job, and told me to fill in at the perfumes register. I told her I didn’t know anything about perfume, and she told me patiently that I was just going to be processing sales.

Within a few minutes of taking my place behind the fragrant cash register, a weird hush swept through the store. People were giving furtive looks to a group of people walking slowly through check in, girls running back and forth, customers openly staring. I didn’t really notice any of this, because as per usual, I was deep in thought about elven languages and magical gems.

I was interrupted by a really, really enormous person in a suit, who said to me ‘Yo, wheres your Chanel at?’

I told him I would show him, and only when I reached the stand, did I realise that there was another similarly large gentleman, and a person with baggy pants, who I thought looked like a rapper, which may have been an example of racial profiling, except that in my defence, it was true, it was the rapper Flo Rida.

Flo Rida picked a bottle of Chanel No.5, and then pointed to a bottle of the Homme Sport.
‘Can I try this on?’ he asked me.
‘Yeah sure’ I said, before walking away.

Later on the Chanel assistant told everyone how cool I’d acted when serving Flo Rida, but then I told her that I didn’t know who Flo Rida was, which meant that I was the opposite of cool. I didn’t know I was serving someone famous. I am just a really bad salesperson.

I told this story many years later, and it was only at that moment that I realised his name was spelled like the US state ‘Florida’. To this day, I don’t know any of his songs. I often think fondly of Flo Rida.