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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?
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?”
Odd Job: Giving Blood
Both sides take a leap of faith when you reply to a Craigslist job offer. The job posters are trusting that you will show up and do the work, while you are trusting that, when you arrive, whoever posted the ad won’t tie you up and sacrifice you to their underworld god, Zotan. If you’ve ever been on either side of a Craigslist post, you know that these expectations are both optimistic.
Odd Job: Serving on a “jury”
This is a trial.
It’s not Jack Nicholson hollering at Tom Cruise that he can’t handle the truth. It’s not Joe Pesci asking about two utes. It is boring lawyers and uncomfortable chairs and court-provided free lunches that taste like legal pads.
One day, I was doing what all writers do when they sit down to write: scrolling through my news feed on Facebook. My friend, Daniel Ferris, had posted something like, “I am bored and feel like it’s time to do what any self-indulgent liberal arts major with too much free time on his hands does: Start a blog.” It felt like a total slap in the face, but I decided to let it go once I realized that Dan would be the perfect guest columnist for the site. I asked and was grateful when Dan turned in this piece about the day he worked for a moving company.
Dan did end up starting that blog and you can check it out at http://danferris10.tumblr.com/.
Odd Job: Moving
As is so often the case with really bad ideas, this all started in a college dining hall. Winter was starting to let go of its stranglehold, and Vermont’s version of Spring (mud season) was just around the corner. My friends and I were finishing up Sodexho Catering’s surrealist interpretation of Mexican cuisine when my friend Andy’s cell phone began vibrating itself off the table.
Let’s pause here to describe Andy.
Andy stands at a towering 6’4”, was a power-forward in hockey, and has been known to routinely rip phone books in half. Clear enough picture? Good, we can proceed.
He caught the phone, interrupting its vibration-induced, suicidal plunge toward the cafeteria floor, and looked at the caller ID with surprise.
Between the cartoonish pictures, the bizarre alignment job on the title and the phrase “There is some opportunities,” it felt less like a call to civic duty and more like something a nine-year-old would design. But poor job posting or not, I still found myself at a polling station on election day, my eyes aching from the six AM start time. There was something exciting about the idea. About being a part of the process that ensured everyone a chance to vote. About being a part of what made our country great: Democracy.
I am very excited to announce that today’s column is penned by Peter Papachronopoulos (whose last name nearly detonated my spell check). He is a funny person and talented writer so I had been hoping to nab him as a guest columnist for quite some time. When he agreed to write the piece and then sent me a draft of his first column with an Ace Ventura reference in the body of the e-mail, I was worried I might have chosen the wrong guy. After all, was saying “Alllllllrighty then!” even funny 20 years ago? But Peter did an awesome job with this column about his experience playing Magic: The Gathering in some local tournaments for money. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here with my bizarre obsession with footnotes. The column is Peter’s, but any time you see a footnote, that’s me jumping in to make a random comment.
Odd Job: Writing a letter of recommendation for someone I had never met
“I was recently laid off.” Peter Randall’s job posting explained. “A neuropsychiatrist I worked for says he has ‘super high praise’ for me and would like to write an amazing letter of recommendation… but he wants me to write it.” Peter Randall had been given the opportunity for a blank-check letter of recommendation from his boss, and rather than doing a small amount of work to capitalize on a rather significant opportunity, he decided to post a job listing, seeking a total stranger to write the letter for him. It is possible that decisions like this are part of why he was laid off.
The levels of laziness at work here were staggering. The boss felt so bad about firing Peter that he offered to write a letter of recommendation. But that task– which presumably would take one hour, max– proved too much for him, so he delegated it to his employee. His employee, whose letter of recommendation clearly shouldn’t laud him for his ability to “complete any task assigned to him,” was in charge of deciding the content of a letter which would directly impact whether or not he was hired for future work, but he also didn’t feel like doing it, so he hired me. I was tempted to ask my mom to write it just to further the cycle.
Odd Job: Playing poker over the summer
Pay: $3500 in profit
There is perhaps no time when I am less fun to talk to than after losing at poker. I only half-listen to my friends as they talk, and I speak with an anger that has nothing to do with our conversation, and everything to do with that damn jack of diamonds on the river.
Unfortunately for my friend Rudy, he was the guy I owed a phone call to as I drove back from a frustrating tournament finish at Rockingham Park. “Well, I’m seeing this really great girl.” I told him, my teeth gnashing in the background. “Oh, I love my job, it’s awesome” I said like I was gonna punch someone in the face. “Yeah, I can’t wait to see you when you come to town in December,” I said as though I were scheduling a colonoscopy.
Odd Job: Participating in a research study on reaction times
Just past Harvard Square, Massachusetts Avenue forks twice in the span of ten seconds. I have driven this stretch a thousand times. I know these forks confound my GPS. And yet, just like always, I make the wrong turn, sending me away from my destination in Cambridge and towards Somerville– a different city altogether that probably owes half its population to people who were trying to get to Cambridge and took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. As I realize my mistake, I let loose a level of violent swearing and rage that most Bostonians reserve for Republicans and Bobby Valentine.