There’s a strange air of neutrality that hangs over 2006. It was a year. Just a regular, plain year where I just went to school and worked at No Frills. I made some good friends, had some fun times, and slowly assembled myself into who I wanted to be in very small, subtle ways.
Working so often at No Frills brought with it an absolutely vital formative component to my life, and that was socialization. I made some of the strongest connections and longest lasting friendships while scrubbing rotten egg yolk off the grimy floor of a dairy cooler and throwing rancid yogurt into the trash compactor. I also spent a lot of my paycheck on lunch snacks, which meant a lot of interaction with the cashiers.
Cashiers who were very often attractive and popular young women, the kind I’d never talked to in high school. As I became more integrated into the store’s workforce I got more confident with the staff, which in turn led to more and more small talk with the cashiers. The small talk then became medium talk, and then entire breaks. Eventually cashiers would come to find me and actually ask me to go on break with them, passing me notes scribbled on receipts as I walked by delivering empty boxes to the front.
Just like the previous year when I’d discovered I could be myself around DJ when I wasn’t preoccupied with impressing her, I now found that because I knew I had 0% chance of ever being romantically involved with these socialites, my charisma could develop even more. I wouldn’t ruin everything by falling in love with all of them. There were obviously a few exceptions, but for the most part I remained platonic friends with a majority of them. Some even became advisors and confidantes down the line when it came to matters of the heart.
The problems would only come when tied to the back of opportunity.
And opportunity came in the form of Sylvia.
Sylvia was the cash office queen, one who had many suitors among the grocery clerks, all of whom failed. She wasn’t a stereotypical popular girl, but she was by far the most popular cashier in the store. I didn’t talk to her too often, but I did regularly hear of some sap who would ask her out and get turned down.
“Ha, that’s not gonna be me,” I thought. I had absolutely no intention of pursuing her, even when I found out that she also went to Ryerson. The ‘ironically terrible’ birthday card I made for her was entirely without ulterior motive. I gave it to her while buying my daily grape soda, gave her a wink, and headed up to the break room.
“Later, Sylvia,” I called up to the cash office as I was heading out the door that night.
“Hey, hold up!” She answered, and from the small window a folded blue Post-It note fell into my hands. It was her phone number.
“Text me sometime when you’re on campus, we can meet up.”
“You should totally go out with her,” my friend Serge said as he sent another bowling ball down the lane that Saturday. “Think of what Business Sausage would say.” Business Sausage was a geeky coworker of ours who had already shooted his shot with Sylvia, and subsequently became a laughingstock with the more uncouth departments in the store.
Yes I went for it. She looked like Summer from The OC, and I had her phone number. I texted her the following Monday…and wandered around the campus’ main building until I got “Oh sorry not today.”
She apologized the next time I saw her at work and said the next week would be better. Again, she flaked out. This routine continued about four more times until Valentine’s Day. I made her a mix CD and waited for hours after class as she delayed our planned meeting several times before canceling it entirely. I got the hint, but my phone didn’t. Because her number was at the top of my ‘recent contacts’ list, I accidentally pocket dialed her several times. I realized how desperate I must have seemed and was too embarrassed to face her at work the next day That venture was finished.
As you’d imagine I was a little upset, but it was more of a performative angst than anything. I hadn’t really invested much into this crush, and had things like bowling and school to move onto.
One of the very few “deep thinking” moments in 2006 was the Friday between Valentine’s Day and reading week. It wasn’t even that deep; I just thought about ways I could improve myself. After my final class that day I went to the Eaton Centre and bought an assortment of gadgets for my music and webcomic production, listening to a playlist almost entirely comprised of Bright Eyes songs. I’d started listening to the band at the tail end of 2005, but delved deeper into their discography thanks to the recommendation of my new pen pal in Iowa. Mallam and I had met over LiveJournal, and we didn’t write to each other so much as we sent each other mix CDs. I’d send her Canadian alternative, she’d send me folksy Americana.
Despite being emo in attitude, it was at this point that I got a haircut, stopped with the blonde streak in my bangs, and grew a goatee. I wanted to stop being so ostentatious with my angst.
The TARAs were Ryerson’s annual media awards show and were held at the end of each year; in March the show’s committee sent out a request for a music theme for the night. I sent in an instrumental piece I’d finished over reading week, and a few days later was told that my submission had won. I got a nice little boost in popularity, along with some attention from Cowboy Hat.
Cowboy Hat was in my TV Studio Production class, and she was not my type at all. She was an outgoing party hard girl, but she congratulated me with a playful shove and well you know, the usual. We talked a lot over MSN and I assumed that meant true love. We hung out a few times, I bought her a jar of nutella, she laughed at all my jokes…basically married, right?
After the final exam for that class we went to Swiss Chalet, had ice cream, went back to her residence, I taught her some guitar chords, and told her I liked her. She…responded with some convoluted speech about how I was only saying that because I was conditioned that way by society and I really did not mean it. She was just trying to let me down easy, but man did she ever make it confusing.
I sulked for the next few days, and the week after found out she was seeing a frat boy at U of T. She’d move across the country that summer, and I never saw her again.
After my final exam that semester I met Janesh, an acerbic classmate who also hadn’t assimilated himself into a defined crew of friends. He was a little older than the rest of the students, and his worldview didn’t really gel with a lot of them. He was very straightforward and cynical, and would become my de facto best friend over the next three years. It was a strange pairing, but his no-nonsense approach to life would indelibly affect my capacity for sincerity going forward. I’d already gravitated towards self-deprecation over the past half-year, but Janesh helped me get rid of a lot of naivety I still held onto.
He made me less basic.
I spent most of the summer working at No Frills and browsing YTMND, along with playing in two tournaments.
The first was a televised bowling tournament for the league I’d been in since the previous September. Along the way every single one of my teammates had dropped out, leaving me in purgatory as there were no other people in that age range. So I was shuffled into the youth league, a 19-year-old towering over the region’s high schoolers. I did OK, but it was a strange experience and my professional bowling career finished after that.
The second tournament was a series of soccer games between rival grocery stores where I became the surprise star who would go on to score hat tricks every game.
I wasn’t some mega popular jock, but my successes at school and work had made me infinitely more sociable than I’d been in high school. I was open and talkative and a little more informed about the world. I had another house party that summer, and although it wasn’t as massive as the year before, it was still a decent display of my burgeoning popularity.
I met with Allaura for coffee in July, and she was pleasantly surprised at this change. I’d effectively Gastby’d myself, becoming someone much more relatable since graduating. She told me that she’d be transferring from Carleton to York University that fall, so we could see each other more often. She visited me at No Frills, and over MSN told me that a teacher of ours told her “we’d make a good couple”.
You’d think those would all be signs, but the next time we met for coffee she brought a group of her friends. The third time she brought her ex.
I didn’t bother pursuing anything after that.
That September I befriended Jethro, a local drummer who would help me clean up my music production and connected me with the Aurora/Newmarket punk scene. He would end up becoming my closest friend at No Frills; we were known as “the emo twins”. There was also a new cashier named Ameena, a rocker who was as much a fan of 102.1 The Edge as I was.
At school I befriended Raven, Janesh’s friend who was eager to help me with my romantic woes by upgrading my wardrobe.
Ironically, I didn’t really make any romantic overtures for the rest of the year, focusing on school and music mostly. That semester I took a single-camera production course and revived my penchant for creating short comedy videos.
And so on and so forth. I went to a Death Cab concert, I went to a lot of social gatherings, and made a lot of new friends.
For Christmas I got a camcorder, and I was excited to start making my own videos for this new “YouTube” website. Everything was normal and regular and fine and the year wrapped up as uneventfully as it had began. I was just living a good life with a lot of socializing at work and school and being a regular, normal, slightly creative guy.