You will do a lot of crazy things for money when you’re a trustfund-less-twenty-something with no interest in parading a suited up version of yourself through New York City each summer just to earn $15,000. Seriously, that’s what some of my friends make between June and August. The only caveat? You have to live in New York City in its most miserable months. It is hot. And crowded. It’s not as pleasant as the song “summer in the city” would like to have you believe. (Not that these kids ever feel the heat. They’re inside all day every day, working in climate controlled buildings. Working on nights, weekends, while they eat and sleep. So maybe it’s a lot of caveats…) Call me a hippie-dippie flower child, but I’d rather feed my soul rather than listen to pieces of it crack off and shatter on the floor, which is what I imagine would happen if I worked in a windowless skyscraper making powerpoints. I’d work under those conditions only if it was to research cancer, or help starving children, or fight for stricter gun laws, or write comedy.
So, what kinds of crazy things will young, fit people do for money? Things like: sell 15 inches of your hair to someone on the street, donate blood plasma, keep your neighbor’s stuck up poodle company (they didn’t mention that he has a rare form of dog-diabetes and requires hourly injections), model for the art school (anyone looking to make a quick buck, buck naked, should absolutely try this), or babysit. Babysitting may sound like the most standard of the options I’ve mentioned, but man can it feel a little hellish. Especially when you show up to a party and your friend asks you “what’s that all over your shirt?” What? Oh, that’s just some mushed garden peas, in case I get hungry later.
This brings me to the tale of Martin. Martin was this first grade student I picked up from his after school art program twice a week. It was a great job: I got in a good 3 miles of walking, or running on ambitious days (OK, days when I left late), and was paid $35 per week in cash. Not too bad. Two and a half hours a week, and did I mention, paid. in. cash..! (which I, of course, included in my yearly income, if I’ve got any fans from the IRS out there). I started in September. The afternoons were warm and I was working on my fitness while earning money to go out (fine, money for my Netflix subscription). The first day I met Martin, he stared at me with squinted eyes and said: “You look like a teenager…” I had to explain that no, while my face may appear youthful and naive, I am in fact a fully-functional adult (alright, semi-functional college student). When we got to his house, we would play with Legos or work on his Chinese homework together. Everything was good; we laughed, we played, we attempted to copy characters from book to page, I attempted not to talk in a distasteful Chinese accent, but somewhere around October, the days got shorter, and so did Martin’s affection for me. Suddenly, I was walking not only with an upset little kid, but also in the cold and the dark.
It got bleak. Martin, sweet little Martin, developed a temper that I had no way of controlling. He was a screaming little teapot, and I was desperate to pull him off the stove. But how? One day he was really worked up about something, and so I leaned down to talk to him “on his level.” I thought that by stooping down so our faces were even with one another he might calm down. Instead, I was clocked right in the face by his mittened hand. My first ever fist-fight (obviously I was a Pacifist in this situation!). I was pissed. I told his mother, which is about all I could really do. His tantrums didn’t stop, but I didn’t quit the job. I’d like to tell myself that I stayed because I enjoyed the forced exercise. Or because it was good practice with conflict-resolution. Or because I admired his mother, a single-mom, and wanted to help her out. But in truth, it was that the money was too good to pass up. I guess this must be what the corporate drones feel, or felt, rather, before their souls were completely disassembled and sold at a 300% mark-up. Once you get used to additional income, it’s hard to imagine life without it. What a shame.