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Odd Jobs — The BlogJonathan Krieger | Writer, Podcaster, Trivia Host, Actor, Odd Jobber | Jonathan Krieger | Writer, Podcaster, Trivia Host, Actor, Odd Jobber
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Odd Jobs

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Published on: July 18, 2011

Welcome to Odd Jobs. Every week, I’ll do something new to try to pay the bills or make ends meet, then blog about it. If I give plasma to earn a few bucks, you’ll read about it here. If I become an insane couponer to save money, you’ll read about it here. And even when I fail miserably, like if I bet $200 on the Cubs to win the World Series, you’ll read about it here.

 

Scroll down to get started, and may I recommend clicking on the title of the blog post to bring it up on a separate page, so you don’t have all this messy sidebar stuff getting in the way of your reading?

Week 50: Why You Should Never Discount The Aphrodisiac That Is One Direction

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Published on: February 28, 2014

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.[1]

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.

——

“So my boyfriend Charlie,” Denise explained over the phone, “is a huge One Direction fan.” I can’t believe he was single when you met him, I thought. “I want to surprise him with someone doing a silly version of the song ‘Kiss You.’” Now, I should take a moment to point out that the mission of doing a silly version of “Kiss You” has already been accomplished by One Direction themselves. In case you haven’t seen the music video– and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there’s not a ton of overlap between my readership and people who watch 1D music videos– here it is.

 

 

If you stopped watching after the one guy on the motorcycle tickled the other guy in the nipples, then you made it farther than most.

“Now there’s a parking lot a couple minutes from my boyfriend’s place,” she explained. “You’ll have to walk from there since you can’t park directly on campus.” Did she just say campus?

“I’m sorry, did you just say campus?”

“Yeah, he lives in a dorm.” Did she just say dorm?

“So we’re doing this in the middle of a college campus?” I asked, hoping my phone was having reception problems.

“Yeah, we’re both in grad school.”

“Wait, so is there a chance that we’ll be waking people up at 8:00 on a Friday morning to the sound of me cranking out One Direction?”

“I don’t think anyone will really mind being woken up at 8:00 in the morning,” she said, showing a total understanding of how the average college student feels about sleeping past eight.

We covered a few other details like what dance moves I planned to use (I made the mistake of proposing sexually suggestive dance moves as I figured that’s how boy bands must dance. This was a mistake because she eagerly agreed, going so far as to say, “The more sexually suggestive dance moves the better”) and some ways I could alter the lyrics so it would be about their relationship. It was gonna be a fun time.

——–

The next day, I got to work. I poured over the lyrics, playing the song on repeat while I emulated the vocals and choreographed dance moves. While I wasn’t necessarily getting better, I was managing to make my brand new roommate seriously question her decision to move in.[2]

As I played the song over and over, something mortifying started to happen. I started to like it. I feel we’re all allowed to listen to a certain amount of guilty-pleasure music while still being respected for our music taste, but there’s a line somewhere along the way that when you pass it, that respect irrevocably disappears. I’m not sure exactly where that line is, but I’m pretty sure it comes before the point when you find yourself listening to a band that allowed this picture of themselves to exist:

Interesting question: which is more dangerous, being in outer space with no oxygen supply or riding a motorcycle without a helmet while someone tickles your nipples? Food for thought.

 

———

Time crept along, and soon it was Valentine’s Day. Denise was waiting for me when I parked my car and unloaded my sound system.[3] “So, my boyfriend ended up staying at my apartment last night,” she told me as we walked up the path toward campus. “So, unfortunately, we’ll have to do it there, and not in front of the entire dorm.” It’s possible we have different definitions of the word “unfortunately.”

“Oh that’s too bad.”

“Also, I told him you were a friend visiting from Chicago. He’s pretty sketched out because I’ve been acting so evasive and I’m meeting up with this guy at 7:30 in the morning and bringing him to our apartment on Valentine’s Day.” Great!!

“No problem.”

When we got to the apartment, Charlie was waiting on the couch, already looking uncomfortable.

“This is my friend from Chicago,” she told him.

“Don’t have much luggage,” he said, nodding at my sound system.

Ha, yes, well, you know, I uh, I mean I uh— “I travel light.” I said. He nodded skeptically. “I’m sorry to do this, but do you mind if I just check something with my sound system?” I asked. “I’m worried there might be an issue and my band has a show tonight.”

Charlie looked at me with a bit of distrust in his eyes. Why not, right? I’m already some random guy who’s gonna be staying at your girlfriend’s place that she forgot to mention. Might as well make myself at home.

Denise pulled Charlie into the other room while I readied the equipment. When I finished setting up, I took a few deep breaths. Here goes nothing.

“Charlie,” I said into the mic. Denise and Charlie walked back into the room. “You probably have figured out that I’m not visiting from out of town.” I explained that Denise knew how much Charlie loved One Direction and that the band was sorry they couldn’t be here, so they had sent me to sing to him on this special day.

I started the song, incorporating the aforementioned sexually suggestive dance moves. Pelvic thrusts at moments not totally justified. Long, sex-like stares into Charlie’s eyes. And running of fingers down my body when describing the kind of ru-uh-ush I get every time we tou-uh-uch.

But I also pulled out some of the boy band classics. There was jumping up and down, bending all the way to the floor as I held notes, and even that one where you hold the mic to the audience during the “yeah yeah yeah”’s so they’ll sing along.[4]

As I sang, I became a rockstar. The two of them went wild. They danced and jumped and sang right along with me. You know, when they weren’t keeling over laughing at how stupid I looked.

When I finished the song and took my bows, Denise rushed over to thank me, even sliding me a tip. Then it was over. And the three of us were standing there awkwardly as I packed up my sound system, not really sure what kind of small talk to make. What do you say to someone who has just exposed that side of themselves in front of you in your own living room? I imagine it was the same awkward silence strippers experience when they pick up their clothes at the end of the bachelor party.

Then we said our goodbyes and I walked out the door.

———–

I assume Denise and I will never talk again, and I suppose that’s okay. But a part of me will always wonder how things turn out between her and Charlie. Do they break up a few months from now? Do they get married? Do they have kids? I don’t know. I guess all I know for sure is they won’t ask me to sing at the wedding.

 

_________

Odd Job: Singing One Direction to Someone’s Boyfriend on Valentine’s Day

Pay: $40

  1. [1] Or you got flowers for your boyfriend and sports tickets for your girlfriend. I’m open to non-hetero-normative views of relationships! Don’t hate me internet!
  2. [2] I kid. She was very patient and accommodating. She didn’t complain once except to say, “I didn’t realize when I took the tour how thin the walls are.”
  3. [3] Oh, did I not mention that I would be singing into a sound system? Yeah, my shame knows no bounds.
  4. [4] It should be noted that “Kiss You” is 60% yeah yeah yeah’s.

One Direction photo courtesy of http://thatonedirectionpage.tumblr.com/

In some but not all articles, names or identifying characteristics or individual lines of dialogue have been changed to protect identities or because remembering exactly how things happened is hard. But in every case, an effort was made to maintain the integrity of these events that did indeed actually happen.

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Week 49: Why You Should Never Work Too Hard When You’re Eleven

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Published on: February 21, 2014

Odd Job: Shoveling Snow

Pay: $44

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.[1]

This year, when it snowed, I stayed in bed and watched a few episodes of House of Cards.[2] It is a sad moment when you realize your work ethic peaked at age eleven.

My one moment of productivity for the day had been when I scanned the internet, looking for extra work, and found a notice posted by a woman named Ellen seeking someone to shovel out her driveway and sidewalk. The listing was on a website where people like me bid on the rate at which they would be willing to do the work people like Ellen need to get done. And in a moment of weakness, I bid $25 an hour for what I assumed would be around two hours of work.

Instantly, I knew it was a mistake. If I had proposed 50 an hour then I could have been rejected and told myself that I did everything I could and the world is really unfair sometimes, so I guess I might as well stay in bed and watch Netflix. Let’s be honest, that’s all I really wanted. Instead, I bid low in some freak moment of my brain prioritizing making money over comfort. I am not used to these moments.

Soon, the unfortunate news rolled in that my bid had been accepted. I regretfully got out of bed and threw on my winter clothes.

I have in the past on this blog commented on people’s reactions to my wardrobe, which consists primarily of items I get for free, then never throw out. My friends make fun of me, my mother suffers trauma-inducing sympathy pangs when she sees the holes in my clothes, and my co-workers occasionally ask, “What’s that smell? Is there a wet dog in here?” before realizing it’s my shoes which I should have gotten rid of ten months ago. So I’ll spare you the details of just how dilapidated my winter clothes are except to say that if that’s the quality of stuff I wear everyday, you can imagine how little care I put into the stuff I only wear a few months a year.

After a half-hour drive, I arrived at Ellen’s home in Somerville– a neighborhood just north of Boston. Getting out of my car in my homeless man’s winter gear, and surveying the area, I regretted my bid all the more. There was no way I would finish in my initial projection of two hours.

As I plunged my shovel into the snow, I thought about eleven-year-old Jonathan. How excited he would have been at the prospect of more hours and thus more money. Now here I was, hoping for some sort of miracle to get me out of here.

I have in the course of my life hoped for a lot of miracles. It seems like a bit of an eff you that the only one to ever get redeemed is the one that ended up costing me money. For at that moment, only a few scoops into my work, a plow pulled up, as if out of nowhere, and started clearing out the driveway I had been charged with shoveling.

I should tell him to stop. I told myself as he started pushing away the snow. I need the money.

I said nothing.

I could use the exercise too.

I said nothing.

At the very least I should tell him this isn’t my house. I mean, is he going to finish and then ask me to pay him? Am I supposed to tip? Does not speaking up make me the world’s biggest asshole?

I said nothing.

Suddenly, an entire team materialized. One man pushed a hand-powered plow. Another came in with a shovel to clear out what the bigger machines missed (this man would later explain to me that they worked for the city and were tasked with clearing the snow out of areas near crosswalks, fire hydrants and handicap ramps). Yet another pulled up his truck to cart away the snow. And finally, a late-arriving traffic cop came in to do what all cops do at public works jobs: stand around and do nothing.[3]

If you’re not from Massachusetts, I cannot emphasize how staggering it is to see the City of Somerville actually helping its citizens. Their M.O. Is enforcing parking laws with a swift ruthlessness that most governments reserve for punishing political dissidents,[4] and coating nearly every inch of sidewalk with “Resident permit parking only” signs. And you know how uncommon it is to see a team of people show up and cart away all the snow at your home just as you’re about to start shoveling. I can only imagine the odds against the two events happening simultaneously. It was the aurora borealis of snow shoveling.

As they worked, I resented the softness inside me that eagerly cheered the men on. I used to think of myself as the work-ethic guy. I was never the most athletic kid in high school, but I worked my ass off to make the baseball team when I was a Sophomore. I hated bussing tables, and the servers tipped out like shit no matter how well you did, but I busted my ass when I worked in restaurants. Now, at 28, I was the guy celebrating as the plow took money out of my pocket, and replaced it with more time to lie in bed and watch Netflix.

After fifteen minutes, the team pulled away, heading for their next street corner. My workload had been reduced by about 65%. I dug in to what little snow was left. I was almost done. I think this made me happy.

________

  1. [1] Or as $150 is known to an eleven year old: infinite money. I mean, that was enough for 300 plays on the X-Men arcade at the local bowling alley. There’s a line people like to use that money can’t buy happiness. If you’ve ever been eleven, you know that this line is total bullshit.
  2. [2] Or as it’s known to anyone who watches House of Cards: Planning to watch one episode, then suddenly discovering that you’re halfway through the season and your entire day has vanished.
  3. [3] On multiple occasions, the guy driving the plow backed up almost directly into an oncoming car. Each time the cop gave a look as though to say, “Woah nelly, that could’ve been bad.” But at no point did he either admonish the driver or stop oncoming traffic. Eventually, the plow actually backed into a cab, gouging a hole in the side. I assume the cop was paid $50 an hour.
  4. [4] Perhaps my favorite phone number of all time is the one for the Somerville parking department which unironically contains the digits 666.

In some but not all articles, names or identifying characteristics or individual lines of dialogue have been changed to protect identities or because remembering exactly how things happened is hard. But in every case, an effort was made to maintain the integrity of these events that did indeed actually happen.

Do you feel life would be easier if you didn’t have to check my site or Twitter or Facebook to see if I had new content up? If so, how lazy are you? Well then good news, you can sign up for some of these handy dandy mailing lists so that you’ll just get a letter in your inbox whenever I do something new:

 

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Week 48: Why You Should Never Skimp On Dentists

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Published on: December 18, 2013

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.

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Week 47: Why You Should Never Believe Conjoined Twins

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Published on: November 22, 2013

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.

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Week 46: Why You Should Never Settle For Their First Offer

Categories: Living On The Cheap
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Published on: November 15, 2013

How often do we really haggle with someone? Maybe when we buy a car. Or a house. Maybe once every couple years. We’re always told not to settle for the first offer, but man do we do a lot of settling. But this week I decided to start asking. Asking if I could have things for less. Here’s what happened.

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Week 45: Why You Should Never Make Balloon Animals Professionally

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Published on: September 20, 2013

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.[1] 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.
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  1. [1] No, Seriously. Click here.

Week 44: Why You Should Never Reveal Your Shortcomings in a Craigslist Job Posting

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Published on: August 2, 2013

Perhaps the best job listing I ever saw was from a man who needed help scheduling a time for a doctor’s appointment. It read, “Please take a doctor’s appointment for us. Take 2-3 times from the doctor and check with me to see what works best. Once confirmed with me, confirm with the doctor and let us know.”

Now let’s break this down. This man needs to schedule a doctor’s appointment. For the average person, this is not an insurmountable task. He calls the doctor’s office with calendar open, figures out a time that works, then goes on with his day, almost as though this was really easy task and took almost no time. Not this guy. First, this guy wanted to filter through e-mails from a bunch of people interested in working for him and find the right candidate. Then he wanted said candidate to call the office for him, find multiple times that could conceivably work, then call him back, check in on those times with him, then call the doctor’s office back, hope those times were still available, book one, then call him back and tell him that his time was successfully booked. Presumably, sometime around 11:00 that night, he would finally have himself a doctor’s appointment without all that hassle of talking to the receptionist.
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Week 43: Why You Should Never Be Famous

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Published on: July 19, 2013

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.

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Week 42: Why You Should Never Discount the Value Of Placebos

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Published on: July 10, 2013

“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.

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Week 41: Why You Should Never Go All Out in a Student-Faculty Basketball Game

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Published on: July 3, 2013

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.
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