Poster of a girl

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I used to be a poster girl.

It started when I was in my first year at Ryerson and my parents were encouraging me to find work. I saw a poster on campus for a job that paid $10 an hour. I called the number and before I knew it, I was putting up posters for Think in Spanish.

Mark was my boss and co-ordinated the Think in Spanish advertising and classes. Our first meeting was scheduled to take place at the Tim Hortons on campus.

He explained to me that the job was intense. And he meant it.

Mark knew the ins and outs of schools like Ryerson, University of Toronto and George Brown. He knew all of the buildings on each campus and which days of the week the custodians cleared posters.

On top of that, he knew the tricks of the trade.

“Always fold the corner of a poster if you are going to slip it in the top of a locker,” he said. “That will make it curve and land on the shelf.” Sure enough I tried it and it worked.

He also taught me the golden postering rule: never poster on top of another poster. Mark told me that it’s bad postering etiquette and the company you poster on top of will get you back next time. It’s a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to postering.

I knew I couldn’t tell my parents about this job. They would think I was crazy.

So without their knowledge, I was postering my heart away. On the way to class, in residence and even gluing posters to lamp posts. Mark would spray paint each poster to track which ones I put up. He would then do walk arounds to inspect the work. Intense.

I would meet with him on a regular basis for updates, game plans and to receive my pay. Due to our schedules, it was usually at 11 p.m. at a coffee shop. He would leave new posters for me in a special spot on campus — so secretive that I can’t reveal it to this day.

Mark called me one day and asked if I could help him poster at U of T. I took on the challenge. Mid-way through the day we stopped for a chat.

“Amanda, you’re really good,” he said. “I mean, you could train people one day.”

I had impressed the postering master. I was honoured.

The conversation turned into a heart-to-heart about postering. He told me he had been doing it for over 10 years. No wonder he perfected the many postering tactics.

My parents, still upset because they thought I wasn’t working, cornered me and told me I had to get a job. I just stared at them. They began giving me reasons why I must work and how I can’t rely on them for everything and how I need to learn time management. And then I snapped.

“I’m working, OK?”

They just stopped. “You are? Where? Why wouldn’t you tell us?”

“Because I knew you wouldn’t approve,” I said.

“Why wouldn’t we approve? Amanda, what are you doing?”

“Well, I work for a couple hours every week, depending on when I’m free. I get paid cash under the table. I clock my own hours and get paid once a month. I meet my boss at random intersections. Usually at night. And I’m not sure if I’m breaking any laws, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.”

You can imagine their faces.

Eventually I told them I was a poster girl. They didn’t like it, but they preferred that to prostitution.

The school year came to a close and I had to reevaluate my job choice for the summer. I told Mark I couldn’t poster as much since I had a full time job lined up. But within a week, I received a call.

“Amanda, there’s a poster emergency.”

I never knew poster emergencies existed.

“I have posters advertising for a class that starts Friday. I need you to put them up as soon as possible.”

Mark had reeled me back in.

I continued to work for Mark all of my second year. He always paid me and I even got my friend a postering job too. But after two years, I was ready to move on.

It was like breaking up with a boyfriend. I tried each time I saw him, but I could never bring myself to do it. One meeting ended with us taking a one week break. The next time I told him to call me only when he really needed me. But as the weeks passed I knew that I was leading him on. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I had to call it quits.

“Are you sure? Not even a couple hours a week?” he asked.

I had to say no.

And I haven’t heard from him again.

But the Think in Spanish posters reassure me that he’s still out there.

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