There’s never a dull moment in the advertising business.

As you likely know, I work for a well known advertising agency in an active office in the delightful cosmopolitan city of Montreal. It is often said that for each job in some industries, several other people are supported. So, for example while a car plant may employ 4,000 people a further 6,000 jobs are created servicing the 4,000 people employed with things like transport, employment services and catering. In much the same way, my work supports not just myself, but also Sylvester my mechanic, Sebastian my personal trainer, Ali my gardener, young Max who helps with technology on my blog and several other assorted hangers on and peripheral individuals.  

I was talking on this very subject with Bernard, my photographer, when we were out on agency business just the other day. Ali, who so lovingly tends my garden, spends more time there than I ever do. Instead, while he enjoys my delightful Champaign colored roses in my garden I am out driving with Bernard on a task for the advertising agency. And I’m paying Ali! It all seems rather obtuse. That said, I do love Ali, and his daughters are sweetness itself. They arrived in Canada just a couple of years ago, refugees from the war in Syria.

After listening to me patiently Bernard said to me, “For goodness sake, Fiona! You must stay focused. We have to get these pictures done and the press release out for Devon! After all, he is one of North America’s most prominent motivational speakers, and this tour of his is important to the agency.”

We were on our way to meet Devon McDermot, who was in the middle of a well publicised speaking tour spanning the USA and Canada.  Now, if that name is familiar to you it’s because he is known to thousands as business mentor and an inspiration to both young and old alike. His many books on the subject of manifesting wealth have made him a household name, and inspired thousands to part with large sums of money to hear him talk on the subject of building business and leadership skills. I was indeed looking forward to meeting this icon of modern business.

Devon’s fast paced motivational speeches fill huge arenas and are usually sell out affairs. High priced tickets and flashing lights all combine to make Devon quite a profitable client for an advertising agency.

As we arrived at the address I’d been given I was surprised to find the front door of the large house ajar. While Bernard gathered his camera and tripod, I knocked on the door and called out, “Devon?”

Wearing the soft lemon colored summer dress, and a pair of strappy sandals, I felt I looked really quite delightful. I’d got a few interested looks at Starbucks that very morning as I ordered my macchiato, and so I was curious to see how this titan of modern life might react. I shifted a little nervously as I waited for his reply.  When no voice came back I pushed the door a little further open and walked into the well appointed hallway of a delightful house.

“Devon, are you here?” I called out once more.

As I glanced around I noticed a sheet of paper on the coffee table in the front room. Thinking that perhaps Devon had written the press release himself I walked into the front room and picked up the paper and began to read.  Bernard appeared in the hallway and glanced around, looking for a suitable place to get a nice picture. Just the right combination of background and lighting would mean we’d be able to get this done and be back in the office in an hour.

Bernard must have noticed me staring at the sheet of paper before me open mouthed.

“Fiona,” he said. Then again more insistently, “Fiona!”

I was staring at the paper before me in shock. I dragged my eyes from the note and turned to Bernard.

“Oh my god,” I said. “I think he’s off’d himself!”

“What do you mean?” asked Bernard.

“Read it!” I said and handed Bernard the hand written note.

In the precise copperplate handwriting of a cultured individual the words explained how Devon couldn’t bring himself to face another day and that at last now he was ‘able to step confidently off this mortal coil and find peace in the waiting arms of death’. Well, as you can imagine I found this all rather verbose and not a little depressing.

“Really!” I said at length. “’The waiting arms of death?’ Don’t’ you think that’s a bit dramatic? A little clichéd too.”

That was when I noticed the dripping water coming from the ceiling. I glanced up at the spreading stain of water coming through from the room above. As swiftly as a crossdresser in a lemon dress can move I got up and ran upstairs. Pushing the door of a bathroom open I was confronted with a sight before me that no advertising executive wants to find. To summarise it swiftly, I found myself looking at a motivational speaker and key client of the agency collapsed in the bath, a rope around his neck still attached to a broken water pipe, with a rather unpleasantly twisted ankle, a broken bottle of gin on the tiled floor and dressing gown with the motif emblazoned upon it declaring “Be The Change!” open exposing his corpulent and otherwise naked form.

From the bath where Devon was collapsed in a heap came a groan of pain. Water was pouring from the pipe, which had apparently given way as he’d tried to hang himself from it and end his apparently tortured life. In the ensuing fall he’d broken his ankle and slipped painfully into the bath before passing out, evidently drunk into the empty bath. His horribly twisted ankle must have been a result of the fall.

Another groan emanated from the direction of the bath, and a moment later a flailing arm attempted to find something with which to pull himself up.

“Devon, darling! I think you’d better just stay there for a moment,” I said. 

Devon’s incoherent voice came back, and I have to say that his half naked form was displayed in a rather undignified manner. I can confidently say his ego was rather bigger than his rather exposed physical form.

“Devon, you just rest there a moment,” I repeated gently and went back downstairs.

“He’s passed out drunk in the bath,” I said. “I think he’s feeling a little down.”

“Not so motivated then?” said Bernard.

“Not exactly,” I said. “He’s broken his ankle. Perhaps you could call an ambulance.” Then I added as an after thought, “And get Sylvester up here. He can fix plumbing, right?”

“Oh yes,” replied Bernard. “He’s great at that stuff.”

So it was that I came to be sitting with Devon in a bathroom, mopping up water and cleaning broken glass from the floor. We disposed of the note, cleaned up the place nicely and I believe that Devon’s speaking tour continues later this month. So much for being an inspiration to aspiring and up and coming leaders of tomorrow. Needless to say, none of this will ever end up in the hands of the press and will never disillusion his adoring followers.

I guess we are all struggling each on our own particular journey. As I sat enjoying a glass of wine in the garden later that day with Ali and the appalling Amanda, who had dropped by unannounced as she so often does, I was reminded how wonderful life really is and how cheaply we sometimes sell it. Ali was telling me about what he’d be doing this weekend with his lovely daughters and wife, and Amanda was recounting the tribulations of being editor of Pig And Pig Farmer Weekly. It was really quite a beautiful moment. And that lemon dress, catching the evening light and sparkles from the crystal glasses. Ali sipped his wine and placed a couple of roses before Amanda and myself, as he spoke in his lovely soft broken English.

We sat around a table in my garden and reflected on how lucky each of us really are, in the midsummer evening sunlight. Amanda, happy in her tweed world reflecting on her job, and Ali having made the trek out of a war torn country to this most beautiful of lands with his family to a new life and to new hope. Each of us have our own ideas of success and each is as different as we are ourselves.

We really should be careful who we allow to influence us, don’t you think?

Have a lovely weekend. It’s Canada Day weekend here in this magnificent and welcoming country. Whether you’re a titan of industry or, like Ali, one who has found asylum in a new country and is building new life for your children and loved ones, have a wonderful weekend.

Fiona.

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