What’s in it for me?

Look, I know what you’re thinking. “Should I read this? What’s in it for me?”

The studies of Internet reading habits (and there are many) suggest that you have already left and that I’m now talking to myself.

Bowling

The Internet is where many of us talk to ourselves. It’s not a big deal. I remember LBI, Life Before Internet, and talking to ourselves was something we did back then also.

Some did it on the bus, others while sitting in the café. We also had writing. In the late ’70s Coles the Bookstore sold cheap, hardcover made-in-Czechoslovakia Pragotrade blank books in black, blue, and red. The paper had the texture and look of grammar school foolscap, the lines of that same pale gray-blue that makes me think of Stephen Harper’s eyes. No one called these books journals. This was before the publishing industry realized that note-taking could be precious, and that folks would pay handsomely for an upscale faux-leather product, embossed with triskelions or emblazoned with generic inspirational sentiment.

I cogitate in the shower, and that’s where most of my best ideas come. Once I realized this, I took longer showers, but I felt bad because my roommates resented the higher bills and told me it was wasteful and harmed the environment. We’re all connected, they said, and a long shower in small-town Ontario means yet another pregnant woman will have to walk six kilometres to and from her sub-Saharan village, every day, with a 20-litre bucket on her head. I didn’t understand the logic, and their scolding didn’t stop me, but the idea that we are all connected stuck.

We’re all connected, and we’re all coming apart. The giveaway apparently was when people took to bowling by themselves. I have a copy of Bowling Alone, but I haven’t read it. I’ve picked it up a couple times, thought I should give it a try. When I look at the cover, the sad fellow in the empty bowling alley, I think of the day my friend Adrian said to me that no one our age has friends. Somehow we missed the irony, maybe because I hadn’t seen Adrian for ages and we both knew that when we left the pub we wouldn’t be seeing each other again for years.

I’ve never bowled alone. In the shower I’ve been imagined-interviewed by Howard Stern. He asked great questions and it was an interesting interview, in my opinion. Laugh if you want, a writer will get ideas wherever she can. Every writer is eating the world, turning the food of life into words. My point is: if I thought bowling alone would give me good ideas, I would bowl alone. A writer is nothing if not shameless.

Who knows why you left. It could be that I’m boring, or old, or boring and old. There are a thousand valid reasons. Maybe you were looking for funny video of cats, or instructions on how to make Yorkshire pudding. Maybe you’re writing an essay on the Kayayo girls, so you Googled “what do they call the buckets that African women carry water on their heads in.” I don’t even know if these buckets have a name that isn’t bucket, but I believe that everything that exists does have a name, and because you must have also you went in search of it. For a moment we were connected by this belief, and I’m sorry that I let you down.

But not really. It’s not my job to know, and to tell you, the Akanic term for water bucket. If I have a job at all, it’s only to put words together in the most interesting way I can manage, something I have been doing for many years.

What’s in it for me? I don’t know. All I know for certain is that I must do this.

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