Twice in my life, I’ve been mistaken for a sex trade worker.
How’s that for a gripping lede?
Let’s establish from the get-go there is nothing wrong with being a sex trade worker, so long as one is safe.
The first time it happened was about 10 years ago, at a large conference being held near Pearson International Airport, in Toronto.
There had been a day’s worth of sessions for the executive of the Ontario Community Newspaper Association and we were lounging in the bar after dinner.
I was getting ready to leave, as the event was not confined to one location and I’d plans to meet friends just a hop, skip and a jump over the QEW, at another venue.
Being a working mom, there was a last minute urgent phone call from one of the spawn regarding homework.
So I took my Blackberry out front to do some remote parenting and math, pacing back and forth in front of the lobby. The signal kept dropping so repeatedly I called back, pacing, pacing.
When family issues were resolved I signalled one of the cabs in the queue to pick me up, and when I gave the driver the name of the hotel I was destined for, he regarded me with large, brown, sad and worried eyes.
“There are better ways to make a living,” he said.
No kidding, was my reply. This business fairly sucks most of the time.
I was, of course, innocently referring to the newspaper industry.
“You need to be very careful,” he said. “You shouldn’t be doing this. You need to think about your life.”
It dawned suddenly that we were talking at cross purposes and the next question naturally is: What were you wearing?
Honestly I was dressed for success and corporate battle, as opposed to solicitation (arguably they could be considered the same thing) — short skirt, knee high leather boots and a full length black lamb’s wool coat.
After an awkward shuttle the cabby let me out and promised he would pray for me.
The second time was just in May of this year. Given that I recently celebrated my 52nd birthday it can only be explained by the fact that it was extremely dark out.
It was on Granville Street in Vancouver, a rare and wonderful excursion with friends to spend the night in the city, enjoy some sights and attend a really great concert.
Everyone else went to bed, in the wee hours, and I wandered out front to sit at the bus stop and have a cigarette, soak up the lights and sounds of the city.
Of particular interest was a club just across the street. It had a red carpet and a rope line and everyone going in was frisked first. Some were turned away without explanation.
To someone who is essentially a small town girl this was fascinating, like watching a special on Netflix. No one pats you down when you walk in the Brown Bridge Pub on wing night.
A young and attractive fellow darted out of the bar, crossed the road and sat down beside me.
After some desultory conversation about the weather (it was quite balmy) he said his friends owned the place that was so interesting, they were ‘very smart businessmen’ and could ‘take care of me’ if I chose to come over and ‘work’.
When I responded I was just going to go to my room and get some sleep, when he realized I was a guest at the hotel, he ran faster than any man I’ve ever seen.
(For perspective, in 52 years I’ve seen a lot of men run. )
It’s a measure of your relationship with family when you can arrive home and announce, ‘Hey, I was mistaken last night for a sex trade worker.’
The eldest son rolled his eyes and said: “AGAIN?”
The middle boy instructed I was not allowed to leave Princeton, going forward.
The moral of the story is two-fold.
There is nothing wrong with being a sex trade worker, as long as one is safe.
And you simply can’t judge a book by its cover — no matter how dark it is.
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