Let me tell you about Denise.
You got your girlfriend flowers for Valentine’s Day? Ha.
You got your boyfriend tickets to a basketball game? Psh.
Denise hired someone to come to her boyfriend’s place at 8:00 AM and serenade him with a rendition of “Kiss You” by the band One Direction.
Now let me tell you about me.
You think it’s bad when you sing? Ha.
You think your high notes crack and your low notes grumble like Jabba the Hutt? Psh.
I am the guy at karaoke who clears the floor. The guy who gets to the mic in front of a room full of people– people who had been dancing and singing along to the act that preceded me– and sings with a voice that sends them flocking to the restrooms, that reminds them to return that text from their friend, that encourages them to just sit silently and wait for the horror to be over.
This is the story about the day Denise hired me to sing to her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day.
Odd Job: Shoveling Snow
For most kids, snow days were about sledding and hot cocoa. For me, they were about money. Starting at age eleven, every time it snowed, I would go door-to-door offering my shoveling services, and frequently clearing $150 for five or so hours of hard work.
This year, when it snowed, I stayed in bed and watched a few episodes of House of Cards. It is a sad moment when you realize your work ethic peaked at age eleven.
Denny The Dentist’s office was about what you’d expect from a company with such a classy name. Their door was adorned by a cartoon tooth triumphantly holding a toothbrush and giving a sparkling white smile. It was the kind of picture that was cute and charming until you started thinking about the idea of a tooth with teeth. The poster in the window advertised X-rays, cleaning and a checkup all for the low low price of $57, because apparently they didn’t think anyone would find it disconcerting to get oral care from a dentist who advertises specials like a mattress store run by Crazy Larry.
My friend and I stand in the middle of a convention center, the two of us squeezed into one jumbo-sized T-shirt, playing the role of conjoined twins for the amusement of the passersby.
At this point I don’t even find these gigs strange. They are just normal. This is my Friday.
The real victims of the time I learned how to make balloon animals were my roommates. Our apartment overflowed with deformed flowers and guitars that looked like strap-on dildos. The constant nails-on-chalkboard sound of balloons rubbing against each other was only interrupted by the gunshot sound of balloons bursting. The place stank of rubber. But perhaps most annoying was my newfound habit of giving away my practice creations as gifts. Not just to my roommates, but to everyone I could find.
You may not believe this, but I’m not famous. I know what you’re thinking: A 27-year-old who spends a rather inordinate amount of his time in pajamas, cranking out blog entries that are primarily read by his friends and family, how is this guy not famous? I know. It’s crazy.
“So what is this?” A mousy woman asks as she peers into our display at a local Whole Foods.
“It’s called Origins,” says Pete, the man training me for my latest odd job. “We sell cold-pressed, organic, non-pasteurized juices.” Cold-pressed means the beverages are formed by applying an extreme amount of pressure to produce, then bottling whatever juice comes out. Organic means we can sample the product at Whole Foods without fear of being stoned by their clientele. And non-pasteurized is another way of saying incredibly expensive. Like $10-a-bottle expensive.
Odd Job: Participating in the student-faculty basketball game
Pay: When you consider my hourly rate and how long we were on the court, probably about $12
It was one minute to game time and my heart was racing. My hands shook and my stomach turned. I hadn’t felt this nervous in years. I was moments away from a showdown with the eighth-grade girls basketball team.
I want to welcome back guest writer Peter Papachronopoulos who penned this week’s installment of Odd Jobs. He’s a funny guy and if you like his stuff here, feel free to check out his website: http://theloweststair.wordpress.com/. But enough of that, let’s get onto the column.
Odd job: Holiday puppet show
A fateful text alighted on my phone one Sunday morning this past November, jarring me awake with its endless buzzing. My brain streamed groggy profanities as I reached out to silence the noisy message. It was from my friend, Katie, who needed help. She and her partner had agreed to substitute for two other friends in a kids’ puppet show. But her partner had just dropped out. So she needed a sub for a sub. Was I available? I let an F-bomb loose and prepared to let Katie down nicely. Me plus puppets plus children would surely equal disaster, as puppets creep me out and I hate everything about children. As I texted her back, though, my instinct to help a friend seized control of my brain. Reflexively, my fingers wrote back that I’d be more than happy to help!! Yes. I used two exclamation marks, which legally obligated me to help.
Odd Job: Selling my old DVDs
I had just finished telling the children at the after-school program where I work about the toy I spent two years saving up to buy as a kid. A toy I absolutely adored and used to play with all the time. And now Doug, a scruffy-haired second grader, was raising his hand and asking the inevitable follow-up question: “What happened to it?”