Writing & Growing (West Coast Girl, Pt 10)

(This is a photo I took at sunset by Science World & False Creek)

Vancouver 2016

The new year brought a new job. At first I was really excited about it as it was an admin assistant position and most of my days were relaxed – I’d just file receipts away or enter data. Apparently it would get really busy in the summer, but January was a nice time to ease into the role. It was a flooring installation company and the owner was busy flying to different cities to see if he could start branches outside of the Vancouver area. I loved the days I’d work alone. I’d blare music and this is when I discovered the band, The Pretty Reckless. It was the vibe and energy of Taylor Momsen that inspired a female outlaw character in my mind. I had something new and epic to write!

When my boss did come into the office, he’d have a funny story to tell about his travels, but it started to get a little weird when he’d make sexual jokes. It was just me and him in the office. He started offering to drive me home on the days that he was in Vancouver, but I would have preferred to take the bus. When he offered to take me for a beer, I shuddered. He wasn’t a bad looking guy, but I wasn’t there to date my boss. I was there to work then go home and enjoy my own life.

“I actually just want to relax tonight,” I said.

“Well, what are you doing tomorrow then?”

“I’m writing.”

He laughed. “You’re always writing. You should do something amazing with your weekend! We could go out somewhere.”

He and I clearly had different ideas of what an ‘amazing weekend’ meant. I was able to weasel my way out of committing to plans with him and get out of the truck. Once I got back to my basement suite, I started looking for jobs pronto. The fact that he was being creepy wasn’t the only issue with that job, but people started calling in asking for him because he owed them a refund and would never call them back. From what I gathered, the company didn’t always do the best work and they left their customers hanging when they called to ask for a redo or refund. I had to get out of there.

I got a call back from an ecommerce company that sold shoes and it sounded like the perfect pick-me-up kind of job. I pictured working with another group of girls who would be fun to be around. I could wear cute outfits again. I had the interview and the office was gorgeous and modern. It was a larger office, more typical of a call center, but the open concept, big windows, and trendy couches gave it a nice flair. I couldn’t wait to start. By this point I had really settled into the city and knew the places I enjoyed going to the most. My favourite places were Gastown, Yaletown, Metrotown, and English Bay/West End. When I’d write in Gastown, I’d imagine how it would feel to live right in the heart of such a chill, artsy area.

As I settled into the job, I noticed right away that there was a wall between me and the other people who worked there. They seemed to hate it when I smiled. I wondered if I said the wrong thing at some point. Maybe my social skills were a little rusty after working alone for a few months at the other company, but I did try my best to be friendly and talk to them on breaks.

One day a manager took me aside and told me I was doing the best in sales at the moment. For the last few months, it was a tie between me and two other people. I was astonished. I had no idea I was doing so well, because I wasn’t even trying. She opened up her notepad and looked at me. Her hair was curled, her outfit was on point, and her nails were perfectly filed.

“So, what is your secret?” she asked, shaking the pen in her hands. “How do you get to close so many sales?”

I swallowed hard. “Um, I honestly just take a lot of calls and people buy from me.”

She nodded. “I know you make a lot of calls, but what’s your strategy?”

The honest truth is I had no strategy. “I offer them a happy day discount. That often solidifies their decision to buy.”

“Hm. That’s a good strategy,” she said, nodding and writing it down.

I stared at her in amazement. In all my years working in sales or customer service, I’d never had someone ask me what my strategy was. It was nice the supervisors here took my knack for sales seriously. It made me feel good since I wasn’t really fitting in with my coworkers.

When the next training class was finished, my team lead sat a girl next to me named Shannyn. I think they purposely chose her, because she was more like me. Girlie, introverted, nice. We hit it off right away and started going to Starbucks. People would laugh about how we were basic white girls and I can’t lie – it hurt. I was working on a gritty Western novel at the time and wanted to break in to the punk crowd, but they couldn’t see past their projected image of me being a basic blonde. At least I had Shannyn and the managers liked me. Despite doing my best to stay optimistic and cheerful, sadness worked its way up from the pit of my stomach. It’s a terrible feeling when people you like don’t like you.

One of the supervisors named Andy kept promising me that he’d get me on emails soon. Every time I tried to get there, one of the ladies would block me. The animosity toward me escalated when the managers announced that me and two other people as the top 3 sales people of the month and they wanted everyone to try upselling. This did not go over well. I’d come into work and my chair was missing or my mouse would be taped to the desk. One of the girls left me out of a group list written on the board during a team meeting once. She laughingly pointed it out to me.

“I guess I forgot about you,” she said smugly.

I walked up and wrote my name on the board. I did it with a smile. Her glare showed her disdain for me. All I did was work quietly and tried to be nice to people, but it’s like that made them hate me more. Later on I won a contest for a pair of free shoes. I chose New Balance runners so I could up my running game. My prize didn’t arrive for over a month until I finally inquired about it. One of the female managers had hid it under her desk all that time.

“I was wondering when you’d finally ask,” she said boisterously. “You really need to get more aggressive, or you’re not going to get anywhere in life.”

I wasn’t surprised she said this. I could already feel a lot of people didn’t like my personality. She just said it out loud. One of the other nicer team leads with gorgeous purple hair overheard what she said and looked at me empathetically.

“You know,” she said to the obnoxious one, “I think our company has been losing some of its culture. We should have a meeting soon on how to get some of it back.”

I loved her. I also loved when Shannyn would sit next to me on the shifts we worked together – she was like a blanket against the hatred that seemed to be growing for me. One day, one of the girls walked by me and eyed up my legs.

“Man, you sure like to flaunt dem long legs, don’t you?” she asked.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that she had the look of someone who wanted to stab me in a dark alleyway. Yes, I dressed in a way that showed the shape of my body. To quote Erin Brockovich, “I dress like this because I think I look good.” It wasn’t that deep for me. The office consisted of mostly women and I felt good dressing in form fitting silhouettes – I felt confident, happy, and healthy. The fact that I was quiet and had my own thing going on outside of work probably made me seem conceited or vain, even though that was far from the truth. I really thought the people there were cool. A lot of them listened to punk or metal and a few of them went to shows. They didn’t seem to think I was ‘punk’ enough to fit into their world.

I found myself missing the old office in New Westminster. Everyone got along there for the most part and no one wanted to punish me for enjoying fashion. This group of women knew they didn’t have any valid ways to get me in trouble, so they started creating rumours that I was put in the sales que because of favouritism. That was wrong, because I took more returns/exchanges calls than sales calls. They also made fun of the fact that I would offer a 15% discount on my calls. Even Shannyn poked fun at me for that. “Hi, thanks for calling! My name is Sara. Can I give you a discount, please?”

I admit the joke was funny. I won’t argue that it’s right or wrong to give discounts on every call. However, it seemed to work as I always had the top 3 sales every month. Our trainer also told us we were allowed to offer a small discount on every call to help spread the positive energy of the company. It was like rewarding the person for calling us rather than shopping at the mall. I will say arguing brazenly with a customer about a discount or refund will lose the company more business in the long run – and it did. I just did what I thought was right rather than try to power trip over other employees and customers. It’s a sad reality that if you’re the odd one out in a group they sometimes won’t accept you. It’s not like this everywhere, but it does happen in some places.

While things were pretty tense at the office, I did my best to enjoy life outside on my time off. My weekends always felt like a holiday. This was a very productive time for my writing. I was working on The Broken & The Foolish at the time and it’s one of the most fun books I’ve ever written. I could not wait until the weekend hit and I could write all day then go enjoy the sunset at English Bay. Sometimes I’d go dancing or see a concert. My absolute favourite concert was when August Burns Red came to Vancouver. I’d been listening to them since 2009 in Ontario. Their shows are always so amazing. I even got into a little hobby modeling. While I didn’t want to take it too seriously, it helped boost my Instagram a little bit. I’ve found I don’t really have the personality to model. I don’t like working with photographers (They can have an attitude or even be a little stalkerish). However, I’m glad I tried it again, because I got to see if it was really something I liked or if I’d outgrown it.

I do enjoy taking selfies sometimes though! This was me back in 2015. I wouldn’t have worn an outfit like that to work, but I did wear it out and about in the summer on weekends.

One of my favourite restaurants in Vancouver is a Peruvian place in Gastown. The Chicharron breakfast is one of the best things I have ever tasted. As you can see in the photo above, it’s a nice mix of protein, healthy fats, and veggies. It’s divine in my opinion.

Most of my story writing happened in Gastown or at the English Bay Starbucks. I’d write for an hour or two at one café then travel to another for a change of scenery. I found this process to be very effective for finishing novels. I’d often mix it with eating out at different restaurants. I learned how lovely it is to “date yourself”. It builds confidence and it can be a lot of fun. It’s better to be alone than with the wrong person.

As the summer passed, I found myself thinking of Banff and how much of a shame it was that I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I could have when I was there. After thriving in Vancouver for a couple of years, I toyed with the idea of visiting it again so I could enjoy it for what it is. When a new crew of employees were hired by the company, I hit it off with a guy named Tyson. I actually met him walking home one day. He biked behind me and said ‘hi’. On my breaks, he’d come up and we’d chat sometimes. When he found out I was a writer and interested in psychology, our conversations became richer. Over work chat, he asked me if I wanted to meet up with him over the weekend. It happened to be the weekend of my birthday, and I figured it would be nice to spend it with someone. My parents sent me a really nice package with cards and gifts. Him and I went out to see some live music at Guilt & Co. It was pretty fun. When he found out that I’d never watched Harry Potter before, he invited me over to his place to watch it. I wasn’t in the mindframe to watch it back when all the movies came out, so it was great finally being able to see it.

I confided in him about how I felt about being shunned by some of the women at the workplace. He was surprised to hear I was unhappy there since I always had such a nice disposition. He thought it would be a good idea to host a party at his place and maybe it would help break the ice. Funny enough, only some of the guys came to the party. So it was me and a bunch of the guys from work. It really did go to show who didn’t like me that much. According to my work pal Shannyn, none of the women there liked Tyson, including her. She never stated why. I wondered if there was something about him that I wasn’t seeing or if they just hated anyone who wasn’t salty.

As it turned out, he was unreliable. As I grew more attached to him, he would play mind games. One weekend we were supposed to meet up and maybe go dancing then I didn’t hear from him. He texted me the next day saying he’d accidentally drank a drink full of drugs. It sounded so bizarre coming from a guy who was a year older than me. Maybe it was true, but I think he was just making an excuse. I decided to give him one more chance after he promised to make it up to me. One day, I walked over to his place a little earlier than planned since I had more free time than I expected and saw that it wasn’t just him there, but one of our supervisors from work, Fran. Their hair was wet so they must have both taken a shower – or maybe it was another reason. I wasn’t surprised he’d like her as she was a beautiful tall brunette French woman. She had the same sparkling blue eyes that he did. When I made that remark, they both laughed uncomfortably.

“We were playing tennis,” he whispered nervously. “We’re just friends.”

I didn’t buy it. We weren’t in a committed relationship, so it didn’t pain me to see them together. What upset me was that he didn’t keep the plans we made. He was trying to paint the picture where I was this hopeless romantic waiting to marry him while he was the bad boy who needed to be tamed. I did not want to be his girlfriend, especially after learning how he treated me as a friend. The more I got to know him, the less I liked him.

The three of us sat down and talked about work – Fran assured us everything we’d talk about was off the record. She was surprised to learn about how I felt about working there and she felt a little bad. Her role was to do the admin stuff, so she didn’t really see what was going on at the call center. I didn’t mean to complain, but it was validating to tell them both about how the people could be sometimes.

“Maybe if we had more work related events, they’d get to see the real me,” I said. “Those ice breaker exercises they do in training don’t seem to work so well.”

“I guess that’s a good point,” said Fran. “It’s something to keep in mind.”

“We should have a big BBQ or something,” said Tyson.

We agreed that could be a good idea, but maybe it was a little naïve. If a big part of the office decides they don’t like someone, or a few people, it’s pretty difficult to break that bias.

At work one day, the managers called a big group of people up and laid them off. I was one of the ones remaining, but it was so sad seeing everyone walk out without a job. Some people were in tears. One guy was a young dad who needed that job. The lay off happened out of nowhere. No one had any idea that the company was doing so bad. I took it as a sign to jump ship as well. After all the work I’d put in, I didn’t get any raises or commission. With all the people gone, the workload was insane. Some days there were 100 people in the call que. It wasn’t a smart way to run a company. One day, I decided that I was finished with it and quit. I went to English Bay on a beautiful hot sunny day and relaxed fully for the first time in months. That job took an emotional toll on me.

Tyson was so sure that he had me wrapped around his finger.

“Take a month off with me. We can just bum around together.”

Little did he know, I was not the type to bum around. With the job being behind me and my landlords about to sell their home, it seemed like it was a good time to pay Banff a visit.

While the idea of visiting Banff again spun around in my mind for awhile, it was time to make it happen. I wanted to experience it again as a new person. I think in some ways, I wanted to see for myself if I really healed.

Tyson wanted to see me before I left. He wore sunglasses when we met at a café, presumably to hide his tears. It must have been very difficult for him to lose one of his main sources for an ego boost, but I had a far better role to fill.

He gave me his Swiss army knife, which surprised me.

“Here, take this with you. I don’t like the thought of you traveling alone on the bus.”

“Oh, I’ve taken many buses now. It’ll be fine I promise.”

“Take it anyway. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

“Okay,” I said, taking it.

We hugged then I went home to pack my bags. I was sad to leave, but knew I would be back in a few months. I just wanted to experience Banff in the best way so that I wouldn’t associate it with those dark memories. As the bus traveled outside of Vancouver, I took a photo of the sunset and blinked back a few tears. I’d lived in the city of my dreams for a couple of years and it was everything I hoped it would be. A part of me wondered if I was doing the right thing.

Why leave the city of my dreams? I needed to have a great time in Banff so that I wouldn’t crave visiting there anymore. Vancouver was just one bus away from Banff. I would come back when the time felt right – and I could enjoy my dream city without the guilt of my Banff memories eating away at me.


Flashback to the time in your life
When you thought it would be easy
But it’s hard when you take on the world alone

-Martin Garrix Now That I’ve Found You



  1. It’s too bad there was so much jealousy at your sales job. It’s funny how that works. However, being appreciated by the managers is a great thing. I have to admit I don’t think I could ever do a sales job. I find that dealing with customers directly is intimidating. A quiet engineering job is good for me.

    Something totally different; I am curious if you’ve heard of Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They are identical twins and ice hockey players who played for Vancouver Canucks from 2000 to 2018. They were very good players who won several awards. Henrik Sedin is the Canucks’ all-time leading points scorer and he was the captain of Vancouver Canucks from 2010 to 2018. They were born and grew up in the small north Swedish town of Örnköldsvik, which is where I am from too. They lived just a few miles from where we lived. I’ve seen them play on a number of occasions.

    • That’s so cool about the hockey players. 🏒 I’m not surprised they were very good and also from Sweden. That’s a great heritage to have.
      And that’s true. I think if that work situation happened now, I’d ignore the haters and focus on the managers. It’s funny I’d prefer a quieter job where I could write or do creative stuff all day, but to make money I can put a different hat on for sales. I have a knack for that.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. 😊

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