Friday, August 20, 2010
I had long suspected it, but I'd never found any proof. There had to be mysterious shortcuts along the endless trudge up the Ziggurat. Secret handshakes or whispered, cryptic passwords were the only way I could bring myself to explain some of the vapid characters I had encountered in my odd brushes with high society. On this day, the sun was to rise like any other, but today I was to discover a secret.
It was a happy time, and I was occupied with the best job I ever had. My work was graphic design, and my duty was to arrange a single event poster on a daily basis. It required, at the very maximum, ten minutes of light toil. The rest of the day could be spent wandering the underground pathways of downtown Toronto, and flirting with the pretty blond girl who worked at the coffee shop below my place of employment.
I was satisfied. Life was good, I had enough to easily fend off all material needs, which have always been few. Had I continued in this way I may have inadvertently slipped into the Minion lifestyle, and ended up a carbon copy, indistinguishable from the business casual standardization that so stunts the natural growth of the spirit that resides deep within us.
My work was finished. I had grandly presented my poster to the reception of showering praise from my boss. How I managed to produce a poster every single day was an overwhelming mystery to him, and he never grew weary of expressing his gratitude. Another day gone by, and a job well done. I walked out to a radiant summer evening, and proceeded to my destination on foot. The Toronto bus station.
I enjoy bus stations in all countries of the world. There is something about the prospect of cheap travel that attracts the more colourful personalities of those that walk among us. And the Toronto bus station is no exception to this prevailing axiom.
My friend Megan had found gainful employment in the bar that served the thirsty travellers. Megan was a beautiful girl, of Ukrainian decent, touched with the slightest dash of Mongol. A product of the great swath Genghis and his boys had cut across Asia and Eastern Europe. I would often joke that, far back in her lineage, lurked a Mongol barbarian, whose recessed genes had reemerged, and that was the explanation for her feral instability and voracious forbidden appetites. She was a party girl, and her life revolved around alcohol. I had done my best to gently lead her into the Minion fold, but she defended enduringly with a feisty resistance. We had dated for some time in high school, she had left me wounded and heartbroken, but the lacerations had eventually healed and we had managed to maintain a solid friendship.
Passing the surrounding band of homeless, I entered the building, the sudden intake of air swirling torn bits of paper into sullied recesses. I climbed to the second floor up the majestic old staircase, a throwback to the days of yore, when bus travel occupied a more exalted position on the social pyramid.
Megan was busy slinging booze to the howling demands of the encircling ring of disheveled patrons. She took the time to greet me, professionally dispensed a beer and I sat down on a stool to wait for a lull in the enthusiastic drinking.
The character beside me was drunk, that much was clear. His clothing was ruffled from long travel, and a stained yellow cap perched atop his head from which hung curls of greasy, matted hair. He turned and engaged me in conversation.
After a few inquiries about his destination, we turned our attention to the eternal Canadian pastime of complaining about the government. Taxes were too high, inflation out of control, dollar was too low, NAFTA had ruined the country, it was damn hard to get ahead these days, we both agreed.
"You know what you should do?" His voice took on a whispered, conspiratorial tone, cocking an eye over the mouth of his beer glass.
"My uncle works for CSIS, financial division"
I replied that I had no idea that CSIS, the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service, had a financial division.
"Oh, they do, they do!" He exclaimed, raising his voice, pleased to correct my ignorance. "And you wouldn't BELIEVE what goes on in there"
"What?" I asked.
"Oh I can't tell you!" He gibbered. "But what you should do is this" His voice dropped to a whisper again.
He presented the name of a common and very large banking institution in Canada.
"You gotta go in there, go in there..any branch" The effects of the alcohol forcing a drooling stutter. "Go in there and ask for....Excelsior Class Bonds"
I replied I would surely try it, and spent a few moments trying to disengage from this deranged lunatic when thankfully, Megan returned. I turned my attention to her, and the odd fellow, after finishing his beer announced he had to catch his bus and walked off.
"Don't forget!" He called to me over his shoulder.
Ignoring this sage advice, I proceeded to write off the entire incident as the drunken ramblings of an unkempt madman.
One morning, weeks later, I awoke early having some mundane business at the bank to attend to. Waking early was unusual for me, but the fact that I wasn't required to be at work until one in the afternoon, relieved some of the distress that this usually caused. Upon rising, Excelsior Class Bonds came unbidden to my mind.
I went to my computer, called up the bank's website and did a search. I found several classes of bonds, but nothing named Excelsior. What was I doing considering taking financial advice from a demented alcoholic in a seedy bus station watering hole? I got dressed for work and made my way to the bank, mentally chuckling at myself on the way.
On impulse, at the teller, once my business was concluded, I hesitantly ventured that I was interested in their "Excelsior Class Bonds".
The teller motioned to the location of the investment manager, sitting in her cubicle; the eternal habitat of the Minion. Upon entering and sitting at her desk, she inquired if she could help me, splitting her attention between her computer and I, which she was feverishly tapping away on.
"Yes, I'm interested in your Excelsior Class Bonds" I ventured hesitantly, preparing myself to be dismissed and my ignorance of high finance exposed.
The clattering of her keyboard ceased immediately, she stiffened, correcting any slight imperfections in her posture and her eyes flashed to me as she paused in stunned appraisal. A moment passed as her eyes hung on me. "Minimum ten thousand dollar investment..." I said haughtily, gaining a bit of confidence and repeating what the bus station lunatic had told me.
I had her rapt attention now. She apologized profusely, and informed that that she could not help me at this particular branch, I had to inquire at the main branch downtown. She proceeded to call up my file and shocked my by saying "In the meantime, let me upgrade your credit card."
I handed over my card, reserved by the bank and reluctantly given to extreme credit risks such as myself.
"Hmm" she clucked. "I'd advise you to apply for a platinum card, we have the applications here or you can do it online, in the meanwhile, let's raise the limit on this"
She raised me immediately from a thousand dollar limit, giving me an additional seven thousand dollars in credit, the maximum the card would allow.
I walked out of the bank that day, in shock and full of amazement.
Although I have never followed up on it at the main branch, I posses the security of knowing that I hold one of the passwords that will launch me directly upward into the privileged class, should I ever choose to employ it.
I doubt I’ll ever need it. Heights make me dizzy, and the Ziggurat looks just fine from my lounging position here at the bottom.