The glamorous life of a writer: Part 2: Bar hunting in the swamplands

The glamorous life of a writer: Part 2: Bar hunting in the swamplands

So let me contrast the notion of glamor with the reality of the moment, because as I’m typing this, I have a damp bottom and an aching knee and I’m still working on my first cup of coffee.

Yesterday afternoon my publicist sent a reminder for this morning’s live radio interview. The station would call on my cell phone. Unfortunately, last night I discovered that our condo is ideal for a paranoid schizophrenic who would love to seal off his brilliant mind from anyone who could access his brain to steal his secrets: sound proof, cell phone signal proof, internet proof (read: no wifi), landline proof and cable proof. Even the air conditioning is “proofed”. This place, though absolutely beautiful and comfortable, is basically off the grid. This is also ideal for a writer wanting to focus on getting a manuscript finalized, but not so ideal when you know you’ll be called in a few hours and need to be clearly audible for live radio.

This was same old, same old, because a few weeks ago in Colorado Springs, I also went a hunting for cell phone signal. I did it by car, that time. Nearer and nearer to town I drove with one eye on the road and one on the cell phone’s signal indicator. One bar … two bars … one again … THREE!! Stop the car! I parked, made myself comfortable and saw that I had three minutes before the station would call. Time to scout out my surroundings. A sign was clearly posted right next to me: NO PARKING AT ANY TIME.

Hurriedly, I got back on the road and took a left turn towards what I hoped would be Verizon country. One bar … two … FOUR! But no shoulder to park on, only a ditch lining both sides of the road. I had one minute left. I sped up a bit, even though I had calculated the risk. I forgot to grab my purse with my driver’s licence when I hopped in the van. If I’m pulled over, I could be arrested on live radio!

Finally, with about 20 seconds to go, there was a farm gate to my right, overgrown with weeds, which meant I could park in front of it. I pulled over and just prayed the noise of passing vehicles wouldn’t interrupt the interview. I quickly scribbled a note I could flash to a trooper, should I be suspicious looking here on the side of the road: I’m on live radio. The call came in before I could write, You can arrest me as soon as I’ve finished talking about my new book. Fortunately nobody noticed or cared.

Today, people noticed. I crept out of the house in shorts and a T-shirt while the rest of my family were still asleep. I had 15 minutes to find a good signal by foot – barefoot. We do this in Africa. Plus, it was super soggy outside, and I didn’t think any of my shoes would survive the Verizon hunt. My flip-flops were missing for the moment. Over to one side of the neighbourhood, wooden planks were being offloaded on a building site. Super noisy, so I headed the other way. One bar… one bar … one bar. I went a little faster towards the communal swimming pool and the lake. Beautiful open scenery away from the houses could equal great signal, I thought.

I found three bars right next to the loudly humming swimming pool pump. That wouldn’t do. Off I went again, looking like a Pokemon Go addict. I’m cutting across the marshland towards the “Warning: Alligators” sign. Three bars … nope, one again. I’m going to follow the footpath with the early morning joggers. I fall in behind a gentleman in running shoes. He slows to a walk for the huge puddle that has formed over a section of the footpath. I follow suit, with both eyes glued to the cell phone screen. The next moment the lack of traction on bare feet becomes evident as the slippery path flips me over. I barely manage to keep the phone in the air while I plop down into the muddy water. The man ahead of me spins around, but I’m already up and rather convincing, I thought, as I held up my phone. “It’s still dry!” Water was streaming down my legs.

Thank goodness, I’m NOT a celebrity! Nobody would know who to tag as they upload potential pictures of me onto Facebook or Instagram, so with my wet bottom I kept hunting. I found four bars and planted my feet in the mud, bottom turned towards the lake, face towards a row of condos. Just then, a mom and a stroller burst through a front door engulfed in screams. Fortunately they were heading somewhere fast. I set off again in the opposite direction, now in search of a quieter spot. I noticed two benches near the water. At both benches there was one bar of reception, but right between them, there were three. Being soaked already anyway, I sat down on the soggy lawn, because that is what a glamorous writer has to do when the radio station calls. As I waited out the last minute off air, I flicked off a tiny scorpion from my left knee. Yep, this is glamorous, all right!

At the end of the interview the generous host remarked that I was the first South African author on his show. Suddenly, I was overcome with such gratitude and the realization that many people would happily trudge through the marshland of Florida for this privilege I have. I sneaked back to the condo with my wet pants and an overflowing heart to write this post that will be uploaded once I’m back on the grid.

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