Dear Angela,

Monday, 20 June 2011

I thought your comment about my ‘total ignorance of working class life’ was rather unfair. Perhaps Candace’s ‘How the Other Half Live’ experiment wasn’t perfect. Well, one can hardly expect laboratory conditions and double-blind random samples, can one? It was just a group of enthusiastic people trying to walk (or sleep, in this case) in another man’s shoes, for a mile or so.
And now a note about the ‘working life’ part. The experiment was never supposed to give us a taste of that, admittedly unappealing, lifestyle. We were just going to feel what it was like to live in a very small house with few amenities. And do admit, I slept in the very smallest habitat one could imagine, and with no conveniences whatsoever! Very few of the poor live in 45 square ft, Angela. And most of them possess a bucket for Nature’s Call, at the very least. I had no such thing.
Granted, we did not have to toil, as the ‘toiling masses’ have to, one is told at nauseam. And I will never claim to have a thorough understanding of such a regrettable predicament. But that isn’t to say that, with one’s aptitude for imagination, one cannot envision what it would be like. Some people need years of experience, in order to feel something, while others need but a second of a certain profound emotion.
You see what I mean?
In my young years, I almost did one honest day’s labour. Almost, I say – I didn’t quite make it through the day. Which is all the more proof of how deeply it affected me. And I thought it would be fun! Imagine that. It still seems to me that a lot of jobs are probably most enjoyable. If only I had the time! I wouldn’t mind working, you know. It’s a way to employ one’s talents, isn’t it. And I know I put mine to use, already, but sometimes I wish I could be ordinary, like most people, and go to work and be appreciated for it. It seems a much simpler life.
But this was nothing like I imagined it to be. Toby Waybroke had a little printing business, and was making posters for some charity that he convinced me I should get behind. This was unpaid work – both for him and me. Never one to ignore someone’s plea for help, I reported to his business place at 10.30 a.m. – a time when I usually don’t even think about getting up. I was supposed to help pull these posters through some awkward, frightening machine I was continually worried would cut off my fingers (though Toby said it was only rubber, and my fingers could get crushed, possibly, but never cut off), and then roll them up, fasten a piece of string around them and put them in a cardboard cylinder for mailing out.
Sounds innocent? Well, it wasn’t. It was unbearably monotonous! After about 50 minutes of going through the same, unnatural motions, my shoulder began to hurt. I tried to ignore it, and somehow managed to struggle on for hours. They were the longest hours of my life.
And the terrible popular music that blasted from Toby’s loudspeakers! I can never see what is so attractive, or remotely respectable, about music for the masses – music for the people at large, that is to say: popular music. Art, I always say, is elitist by nature. I’m sorry if I offend anyone by saying it, but it’s simply true. These dreadful sounds are the cheap drugs that the populace blast their brains out with. Making me endure it is beyond rude.
After those beastly hours, my shoulder froze completely, and I had to tell Toby I quit. He had the audacity to make a long face! Instead of being grateful for the tenacity with which I had punished my body for him, he felt it appropriate to tell me I was “unreliable”, and even: “spoiled”. Can you imagine it? I could have seriously harmed my shoulder! I went to see my doctor straight away, and he said I had ‘very strained muscles’. Oh, for a good massage…
Believe me, dear, after you’ve suffered pain and terminal boredom for five hours, you don’t need to go through it for 8 hours, or 10,000: you know what working feels like. It’s all a matter of seeing the whole in a small part – I can suffer more in one minute, than some people do in 10 years. It is the bane of the highly sensitive person. Cf., for this, Dalí's "Diary of a Genius." Could have been written by me, myself, it's so close to my own sensibilities! He gets an infection in the finger during the time of the Spanish Civil War. In his Parisian hotel room he worries dreadfully that he may lose his hand. And even die, ultimately. And will they make a small casket especially for the hand? He concludes, after days of suffering, that he doesn't need to go to the war in Spain. He has been through more, right there on his bed, than someone ever could on the battlefield.
Quite apart from this, I have also worked in a grapevine, years ago. You see, then, that my experience is both varied and intense.
Felt I had to share this. I was really taken aback, darling, at your aggressive criticism. Sad emoticon!


Alan on 20 June 2011 at 18:29 said...

Hi Lisa!

Interesting reading--Cheers!

Lisa on 21 June 2011 at 02:47 said...

Alan! Good to hear from last. (Bit late, but - no hard feelings!)

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