Since beginning to read MBT, I’ve had a few “real life”
moments that strongly evoked a remembrance of something that happened in the
I’m about 1/3 of the way through Factotum now, and I brought it with me to the DMV last week when I had to renew my driver’s license, knowing there'd be a terribly long wait. Friends had warned me to avoid the DMV branch in the part of town closest to my home because it tends to be full of rather…interesting characters. “But I’m a writer now,” my heart sang. “Hold on, interesting characters, I’m on my way!”
I’m so very glad I chose this particular branch, because It
WAS the Brandenbrass knaving office that Rossamund visits in Ch. 4 of
Factotum!!! It was all: "Wait in this interminably long Vision Test line next to
the chatty man in the hot pink curly wig. Then wait in this Document
Verification line behind the body odor lady flaunting her flesh-colored
skintight leggings when has no rightful business flaunting any-colored skintight leggings. That’ll be $200 to register your 13
year-old POS vehicle and now if you’ll just sign your life over to the State of
NC in blood on the dotted line, please! Oh, except it looks like you’ve brought
an uncertified copy of your birth certificate and you see, we really need a certified copy, or preferably a piece of your umbilical cord to prove that you really were born. So come back on Monday
and let’s do this whole process over again from the start, shall we?” [Perhaps I exaggerate mildly, but that was the gist of it.]
The whole scene felt awfully familiar. I flipped back to p. 70 and had myself an indignant laugh (silently, though no one would’ve batted an eyelash in that place if I had LOLed) as I read: “…Rossamund had to agree it would have been entirely unseemly for Europe to stand there like some common agent, meekly waiting her turn. Even he, in his weathered blue frock coat, looked finer than many of the dowdy bravoes ahead of him….Staring at this collection of gaudily dressed destroyers, he suddenly felt acutely anxious for monster-kind. How could they survive such a horde, incompetent or not?”
And that's very close to what I felt as I waited amongst my
own horde of gaudily dressed folk, dowdy bravoes and not-so-bravoes. That thought was followed closely by the
realization, as I drove out of the parking lot, that the cast of characters
inside the DMV must be, by reason of basic logic, the very same folk who are out on the roads with me every day. Perhaps I’ll begin
commuting by bus.
Mostly, it made me realize that I need to get serious about finding and hiring a factotum. Preferably one who will accept payment in chocolate chip cookies and the occasional pint of Coors Light.
So thank you, Mr. Cornish, for writing such vividly detailed stories that the MBT bleeds into ‘real life’ in the most unexpected and delightful ways. And truly, anyone who needs inspiration for unique settings or characters to write about should just sit at the DMV for a few hours with a pen and notebook. I'll tell Mr. Hot Pink Curly Wig Guy you're on your way. I can’t wait to return with the certified copy of my birth certificate for Round Two.
Share your ‘MBT moments’!