Staying in Your Blaine: Getting On the Slow-Track to Success-ish
I was 11 years old when K.C. Irving first rolled into Saint John.
The year was 1925. I remember the sight turning some heads when the young tycoon arrived in a brand-new Ford automobile.
None of us had ever seen one in person before — only in advertisements on the back of penny dreadful magazines and in our hunger-induced fever dreams. My family’s primary mode of transportation at the time was on my Uncle Willie’s back whenever he was under the opium-fuelled delusion that he was a horse. Needless to say, I was impressed.
I was born in Woodstock: the largest haven for prostitutes this side of the border. Not satisfied with living out my days as a bordello sweep or contraceptive washer, I had begun commuting into the city, making the 196-kilometre trek every weekend to find good, honest work. Failing that, I soon took to grifting.
My scam at the time involved running up and grabbing at the faces of Saint John’s gentry, placing my thumb between my middle and index fingers, offering to sell their nose back to them for a hefty sum.
“Return my nose this instant!” they would admonish.
“Not without proper payment,” came my firm reply.
“But this is blackmail!”
I would shrug and move to put the “nose” up to my mouth, as if to eat it, at which point the mark would inevitably concede and pay up.
I was in the middle of one such engagement when Irving, stepping out of his car, took note of me.
“You, boy,” he said, extending a limp finger in my direction. “How much for that nose?”
I looked down at my hand, then back to him.
“A buck, sir,” I said.
He removed a tiny coin purse from his jacket pocket and removed two crisp bills. “I’ll double it,” he said.
Startled by this unexpected competition, the original patron grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face him.
“Three!” he cried. “I’ll give you three dollars to return my nose!”
Irving’s eyes narrowed.
There was a brief silence. Unable to counter this, the gentleman slumped his shoulders, turned, and walked away, presumably to live out the rest of his noseless life in shame.
“Come with me, child,” said Irving, ushering me into the vehicle. “I will get you your money.”
I eagerly hopped into the back of the automobile. This was the ‘20s, remember. We had no instilled distrust of powerful men. And yet, the eminent entrepreneur did not molest me on that day. Nay, if one were to call my treatment molestation, then all children should be so molested — for on that day Irving took me under his wing, and I became his faithful apprentice.
He had, of course, seen right through my “got-yer-nose” trick, but was nevertheless impressed by my tenacity and business acumen, and resolved to adopt me as his ward. I was set up in in a small cupboard in the family’s upstairs bathroom, where I stayed well into my 20s, catering to the man’s every whim, want and wish.
After 33 years under Irving’s tutelage, I left the company with a valuable knowledge of the inner-workings of how a successful business operates and in possession of a set of skills that, in part, led me to my current role as premier of New Brunswick.
What’s that, you say? You want to know how you, too, can reach this marginal level of success? Is that what you’re saying? I literally cannot hear you. You’re talking to a book.
Well, if so, then strap in, because in this series I will be presenting my tips for becoming a corporate big-wig — or, at the very least, a medium-sized toupee — in the Canadian business scene.
Now, this isn’t the same old hogwash you’ll find in just any old self-help book. I’m not here to lay down some easy-peasy three-step system for reaching the top of your chosen field. No, what I’m offering is more of, like, a four-part methodology that will put you on the path of being a veritable rockstar in one of the following five industries:
- Municipal politics
- Sports gambling
- Napkin ironing
- Making butt sounds with your armpits
Still interested? Then let’s dive in!
Explore more of Premier Higgs’s business tips in the first installment of Staying in Your Blaine!