Tag Archives: Craigslist

More on House and Pet Sitting

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I’ve written a previous post about how I find house and pet sitting jobs.

I have more thoughts on house and pet sitting to share before I move on to other subjects, but the previous post on the topic was already quite long, so I decided to make this a two part-er.

As I already said, most of my house and pet sitting jobs have been for friends or for the friends of friends. I recommend to folks who want to house and pet sit: share your desire for this kind of work with all of your friends. I haven’t always been able to find the kinds of gigs I wanted where I wanted them and when I wanted them, but often friends did help me get jobs when I needed them.

If I were willing to travel more to get to house/petting sitting jobs, I would get a lot more of them. I suspect people who want to travel and do this kind of work could see the country (and probably other countries) this way. I have a sort of route I do through the West, and don’t want to drive to Austin, TX (for example) to spend a couple of weeks there taking care of someone’s dog. In my House Sit America profile, I am shown as available in only three states because I currently have no desire to drive all over the U.S.

When I responded to the Craigslist ad for my first dog sitting job, I obviously didn’t have any pet sitting references to offer. Instead, I offered contact info for people in the area who knew me well, such as the friend whose guest bedroom I was occupying. (Now I can’t remember if the woman who hired me asked for references or if she even contacted anyone to ask about me.) Once I had some experience under my belt, I was able to offer previous employers as references. However, since most of my jobs came through my friend network, I was already vouched for.

Money has always been a touchy subject for me. Maybe that’s because I grew up in the South. In any case, I often have a difficult time bringing up financial issues. When I took the dog sitting job I found on Craigslist, I didn’t even know I was getting paid!

Often, I don’t charge for my house and pet sitting services. Many times, I’ve felt it’s a favor to me to have a place to stay, especially times when I was living in the van and it was cold out or I didn’t have access to a shower. When I was living in my friends’ guestroom, I felt as if walking their dog while they were away for Christmas was the least I could do. In such situations, I felt as if I were participating in mutual aid, and I didn’t ask for money.

Other times when I house or pet sat for folks I knew had money but weren’t rich, I did ask for a small daily payment. In situations with multiple pets, pets that need medication, and/or long, bumpy drives over dirt road(s) to get to the house in question, I’m more likely to ask for some money to compensate for my extra effort. Houses offering desirable amenities (WiFi, the Food Network, the History Channel, bathtubs) are more likely to get free sitting from me.

House Sitters America recommends using a house sitting agreement. The company’s website says,

…using an agreement can prevent potential problems and misunderstandings. Both parties can state what is expected and organize the terms of the house sit, and then sign it.

However, I’ve never used such an agreement, maybe because most of my jobs have come through my friend network. When I mentioned a written agreement to the woman I’ll be sitting for through her ad on House Sitters America, she wasn’t interested.

So I think that’s everything I know about house and pet sitting. Feel free to ask questions or tell about your house and pet sitting experiences in the comments.

Dead Plant, Blue Sky

Here’s another photo I took near one of the houses I sat .

How Do You Find Houses to Sit?

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One of the Facebook groups I belong to is The Non-Consumer Advocate. It’s a closed group, the description of which reads, We are citizens, not consumers. It’s linked to the blog of the same name, written by Katy Wolk-Stanley (http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/). Ms. Wolk-Stanley says about herself,

I am here to help people learn to live on less, and to do so in a way that lessens their environmental impact. I define myself not by my purchases, but by my goals and actions. I am a library patron, leftovers technician, Goodwill enthusiast, utility bill scholar, labor and delivery nurse, laundry hanger-upper, mother and citizen.

Recently someone in the group asked who was living in unusual housing to save money. I wrote,

I live in my van. I have a sort of circuit of seasonal/temporary jobs. I score student responses to the essay or short answer portions of standardized tests in the spring. In the summer I am [a] camp host in the mountains of California. The goal is to earn enough [money] in the spring and summer to not have to work in the fall/winter. I also house sit in between. House sitting gives me some time out of the van, time to have house comforts with no out-of-pocket expense. Sometimes I house sit for free if the house is in a very desirable location, sometimes I sit for a very small amount, like $10 a day.

Another member of the group asked me how I find houses to sit. After writing a long answer to her question, I thought this topic would make a good blog post. So for anyone wondering how I find my house and pet sitting gigs, I’ll give you the answer.

I’ve found house/pet sitting jobs in a variety of ways.

The most common way I’ve gotten house and pet sitting gigs is through friends. Not only have I house and pet sat for friends, I’ve gotten house/pet sitting gigs from the friends of friends. Of the 18 house/pet sitting jobs I’ve had since 2012, only two were for absolute strangers. (Both of those absolute strangers hired me again to sit their houses and dogs during subsequent absences, but by that time, they were no longer absolute strangers.) The other times, I was either sitting for people I already knew or the friends of people I already knew.

I often scour Craigslist for jobs in whatever town or city I am in, but I’ve only found one house/dog sitting job that way in over three years. I suspect most people want a little more accountability than they think Craigslist provides.

The Craigslist ad for that job was honest to the point of comedy. The woman looking for the house/pet sitter put it right out there that the sitter would be sharing the bed with the dog! (I wonder if anyone but me applied for the job.) What the homeowner didn’t put in the ad was that the dog had a tiny bladder or was a scam artist or both, and I would have to get up several times each night to let the dog out into the backyard. She also didn’t tell me the house was possibly haunted. (Read more about that house and dog sitting experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/07/01/southern-gothic-declining-gentility-edifice/.)

The second stranger I house and dog sat for, I met at a garage sale.

I was visiting a small town in the Southwest, and I decided to go to a garage sale on a Sunday afternoon. As soon as I arrived, I met the very nice dog who lived at the house. After I hit it off with the dog, the woman holding the sale and I chatted. She too had traveled in a van when she was younger, and she understood me and my life.

A few days later, I was walking just off the town’s main drag when a car passed by. Someone was waving out of the driver’s side window and shouting, I need to talk to you! I couldn’t imagine who it might be, since I didn’t know anyone in the town. After the car was parked, the woman from the garage sale emerged from it. She asked if I wanted to come back to the town in a month and house and dog sit for her while she was visiting family in California. As a matter of fact, I did want to return and stay in her house and hang out with her friendly dog. It turned out the be a wonderful house/pet sitting experience and the start of sweet friendship. Also, the next winter when I was in town, this friend referred me to her friends who were looking for a sitter; I got to spend a very cold week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in a very nice and warm house with Direct TV and WiFi.

Last November, during a bout of what am I going to do with myself NOW? I paid $30 to join House Sitters America (http://www.housesittersamerica.com), which was recommended to me by an acquaintance who has happily used the service for some time. The website’s FAQ (http://www.housesittersamerica.com/sitter-faqs) explains the process this way:

House sitters register to list their profile on the House Sitters America database.

Here they can be seen by US homeowners via the website. These homeowners are able to contact the house sitter directly to discuss potential house sitting.

Registered house sitters are also able to contact any of the homeowners through their adverts.

Once one registers as a house sitter via the House Sitters America website, one can choose the state(s) one is interested in sitting in. When a house sitting position is posted in the state(s) of interest, a potential house sitter gets an email with pertinent information and is able to contact the homeowner.

I have a house sitting gig coming up that I got through House Sitters America. I will post an update on the gig once it is complete, but hopefully it will be a blissfully uneventful two weeks and not an interesting story. If that’s the case, I’ll just post the update in the comments section of this post.

There are other services that connect house sitters and people who need caretakers for their property. One mentioned in the Non-Consumer Advocate group is The Caretaker Gazette. According to the publication’s website (http://www.caretaker.org/),

THE CARETAKER GAZETTE is a unique newsletter containing property caretaking and house sitting jobs, advice, and information for property caretakers, housesitters, and landowners. Published since 1983, it’s the only publication in the world dedicated to the property caretaking field.

I have not used The Caretaker Gazette, so I can’t necessarily recommend it, but I did want to include it as a resource I’ve heard about.

So that’s how I find houses to sit. Any questions? Anyone do things differently? I’d love to answer questions or read about what others do via the comments section.

To read more of my thoughts on house and pet sitting, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/24/more-on-house-and-pet-sitting/.

Clouds, House, Fence

I took this photo of the area near one of the houses I sat.

Lucinda Williams and an Angel Named Al

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I wrote the following in early 2013 while I was spending winter months with friends in Austin, Texas.

Last night I got a free ticket to see Lucinda Williams perform at The Paramount Theater. When I lived in Austin [in the summer of 2000] I would go to the Summer Movie Classics at the Paramount. It was so wonderful to go there after a long day in the heat and humidity and sit in the coolness, surrounded by such beauty and watch movies on the big screen. I saw Easy Rider there, and Yellow Submarine (when I left the theater after that one, I felt like I was trippin’ even though no drugs were involved), Harold and Maude, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (for the first time), The Princess Bride, and Altered States.

I look at Craigslist a lot these days. That’s how I got my house/dog sitting job that has evolved into a housecleaning and cooking job. I got my temp job giving free samples from a Craigslist ad. I got the study at the UT neuroscience lab from Craigslist.(And I have another study with another UT department lined up, this one related to emotions. I am the control subject, matched up to a depressed 42 year old white female.)

As of the first of the year, I had only looked at job ads and the ride share board. Then one night as I was coloring Shrinky Dinks, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Craigslist Joe. (In a strange and interesting aside, as I was watching the movie, my new friend D. came over. I did not mention that I was in the process of watching a movie. She said, “There’s this movie you should watch…It’s called Craigslist Joe…” I told her, “I am watching it RIGHT NOW!” She didn’t even believe me until I turned the computer around and showed her what was on the screen.)

In the documentary, Joe goes out into the world with only the clothes he is wearing, a cellphone (with no phone numbers of anyone he knows on it), a laptop, and his passport. He has no money in his pockets. His plan is to spend a month getting all of his needs met through Craigslist. He goes to free events, meets people, tells them what he’s doing, and strangers feed him and give him a place to sleep. He rides with people and helps them drive and goes from California (can’t remember if it’s San Fran or LA) all the way to NYC and BACK AGAIN all in a month! Of course, nothing in the movie really surprises me because I live a similar way of life, although in the past, I haven’t used Craigslist quite so extensively. But for someone who thinks Craigslist is full of nothing but murderers and scam artists, for people who don’t believe in the kindness of strangers, this movie could be eye opening and mind blowing.

In the movie, one of the guys Joe takes a class from talks about how he checks Craigslist repeatedly every day. He lists the order he looks at different postings. He mentions looking at Strictly Platonic. I didn’t even know that list existed, so I started looking at it.

(Don’t forget, this is all related to Lucinda Williams.)

So I was looking at the Strictly Platonic ads one day and saw this

“Lucinda Williams Concert wed night – m4w – 61 (N. Austin)
I have two tickets to the Lucinda Williams concert at The Paramount Theatre Wed Jan 16th @ 8pm, Looking for a Lucinda Williams fan and a music / concert fan in general to join me for the show. We can talk about where when to meet and exchange pictures in e-mails. My Name is Al 61 years old 5’8″ about 175 lbs.”

When I first got to Austin, Lou and I were flipping through The Chronicle and saw that Lucinda was doing this show. I mentioned that I had never seen her play and had always wanted to, then promptly forgot about it, as I knew I was not going to spend money on a show that wasn’t Furthur. Then a couple of days before the concert, I saw Al’s ad. I figured he’d probably gotten 400 responses and already had someone lined up, but I also figured what the hell, and sent him an email.

In the subject line I wrote, “I love Lucinda Williams!” and then said ,”Did you find someone to go to the Lucinda Williams show with? If not, let me know. I am interested. And I am a real person. My favorite Lucinda CD is Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. What a collection of songs of loss and longing.”

Well, guess who was chosen to be the recipient of the extra ticket? (You already know the answer.) Al told me he got a few other responses, but he chose me because I said right up front that I love Lucinda. I guess the other responders were lukewarm about Lucinda and that’s not the kind of person he wanted to spend the evening with. (If I’m anything, it’s not lukewarm.)

Al is a really nice guy. He told me about his long-haired hippie exploits before I was born. It was pretty cool. He’s from Michigan. He loves music, has seen Eric Clapton, George Harrison, just saw BB King at the Paramount. The list of musicians he’s seen is so long I can’t even remember most of them. I was pleased that I did get to impress him by telling about the time I won tickets to a Bo Diddly show in NOLA. (KJ was my companion that night, and if I remember correctly, we had a ball!)

The Kenneth Brian Band opened. They are from Alabama, and they are great.

There was an intermission after the opening act, then Lucinda took the stage. It was only her and her guitar player Doug Pettibone up there. No drummer, no keyboards, no bass. Doug is AWESOME, a really fantastic guitar guy. He played steel guitar and I think a mandolin too. He really impressed me.

They opened with “Lake Charles,” which is one of my favorites, but Lucinda sped it up a bit, and it sounded a little like she was just going through the motions. Then she ended the song in the middle of a line and I wondered if she were drunk.

She took a drink (of water?) and came back to the mic and admitted that was a weird place to end the song. “I had to cough,” she laughed, and my hope was renewed. She got better with each song she sang, her voice got stronger. By the time she did “Can’t Let Go,” (the third or fourth song of the set), it was ON! By the time she did “Drunken Angel,” she was on fire! I love her voice, so strong and raspy, just like the old broad singing the country blues that she is. Did her voice make her life or did her life make her voice? Before almost every song, she told a little bit of its story, when she wrote it, some little piece of information. I liked that part a lot too. And the fans were awesome, shouting “we love you, Lucinda” and similar sentiments between songs. It was nice to be in a venue small enough to really hear fan reactions and know she heard them too.

Last night was such a blessing. Thank you, universe, for sending me an angel named Al.

Southern Gothic Declining Gentility Edifice

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One of the jobs I found on Craigslist while I was in Austin during December 2012 was a house and dog sitting gig. The woman looking for the sitter was very upfront in her ad that whoever stayed at her house had to be ok with sharing the bed with her dog. I was at a point in my life where I couldn’t be too picky, so I took the job. I wrote about the house and the job while I was there.

This place where I am house sitting is weird. And kind of creepy. And messy. There is a heap of recycling (I think) in the corner of the kitchen. It’s a bunch of newspapers literally thrown haphazardly into a corner. There are old fashioned, creepy-as-fuck baby dolls under glass.

The refrigerator is full of rotting food. I am not speaking in metaphor or hyperbole. The refrigerator is full and a good portion of the food in it is rotting. (One of the disgusting items in the refrigerator was a whole pie covered in a fuzzy growth. Who lets a whole pie go bad? Sacrilege!) Usually I would be excited to dig through someone’s leftovers and eat what would go bad before their return. This refrigerator simply scares me. I dare not open a takeout box for fear that what is in that box will try to eat me! (The homeowner told me she would clean the refrigerator before she left so I would have room to put food in there. She did not. I tentatively moved some things so I could get my stuff in.)

I’m in some Southern Gothic declining gentility edifice.

I’ve already had a talk with the ghost(s) that I’m sure are here. I told it/them not to haunt me. I explained that if it/they have haunting to do, C. (who owns the house) is the woman to haunt, that I’m just here temporarily and they should keep it down so I can sleep. Not that I’ve had one good night’s sleep since I’ve been to Austin, but I didn’t tell the ghost(s) that.

The lady I am house sitting for didn’t tell me until I had already agreed to sit and came out here to pick up keys that I have to give the dog half a pill twice a day so she (the dog) won’t pee in her sleep. Seems to me a potential dog sitter should know the dog is half incontinent and in need of pills before s/he agrees to take the job. Luckily, the dog eats up the pill in a blob of peanut butter, but still! (The dog also woke me repeatedly each night so I could let her out into the backyard. Was she peeing or just checking out the scene? I don’t know. It was dark, and I couldn’t see what she was doing out there. I didn’t want to take the chance that she actually needed to pee and by not letting her out, I was setting myself up to mop up dog urine.)

Here’s another crazy thing that happened. C. hadn’t mentioned money, so I figured she figured my payment was getting a free place to stay. I hadn’t brought up money either. Yesterday when I came over, as I was about to leave, she said she would leave “half” on the table, would a check be ok, or did I prefer cash?  I said cash and told her I don’t have a bank account. I was pretty excited that I would be getting some money (especially since now the dog is getting pills and oh, there’s a cat to feed too). Well, when I got here this evening and looked on the table, there was NO MONEY. Weird. Weird. Weird!

When C. returned to Austin, she did pay me, and she hired me to clean her house and cook for her. We had the following exchange one day when I was working at her house.

C. told me that she is only the second owner of her house. It was built in 1932, and the first owner (a woman) DIED in the back bedroom (C.’s bedroom, where I slept with the dog while house sitting) in the 80s. I fucking knew there was a ghost in the house! I felt it! Not that it did anything. I think my little preemptive speech took the wind out of its ghostly sails. Anyway, I asked C. if she believes in ghosts. (She is a psychologist, so I would not have been surprised if she had said no.) She said, “Probably.” I asked if she ever thought there was a ghost in the house and she said no, but maybe there was a guardian angel. I didn’t tell her that I felt some kind of presence there, and I didn’t tell her I did a little out loud talking about how I was not there to be haunted.

He said/I said

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Yesterday I shared a post about an ad I put up in the “strictly platonic” section of the Austin, Texas Craigslist a couple of years ago. In my ad, I sought guys to buy me ice cream in exchange for conversation.

One of the first men to respond was R. He immediately wanted to IM, but had very little to say. (What he did have to say was poorly written.) He also wanted to exchange photos right away. We set a time to meet, but he kept initiating contact before our meeting. The following exchange occurred the day after our initial contact and about two days before we were supposed to meet. (I copied his side of the exchange directly from his emails, so all mistakes are his.)

He said: i had a stoke 5 yrs ago im good now no peranent damage

I said: I am glad the stroke left you with no permanent damage. That must have been scary!

He: after stroke … i know u dont want , dont let it affect us, not sure if my dick gets hard now. could you give a hand just to ck.hand in pants is all. dont hate me now . you seem nice i can talk to you dont just ignore mew now

Me: No, I don’t hate you now, but I am kind of surprised that you asked me this…

Haven’t you tried masturbating or looking at porn? Does it get hard when you look at porn?

I hope you are being sincere and not just trying to bait me into talking sex with you. Because if I find out you are just playing me to get me to talk about sex, I am going to be really pissed.

He: no never did i stopped masterbating thats what worries me
no im not trying to bait you promise there are plenty girls out there willing. just like i saidi dont want sex

Me: You know, I am nice, but not nice enough to stick my hands down a stranger’s pants just to see if his dick works, especially after posting on strictly platonic AND telling you that I’m not looking for sex. But I am nice enough to give you some advice so you next time you meet a woman on Craigslist you don’t creep her out within less than 24 hours.

Get to know a woman before you start talking about your dick and worrying that it might not work, especially if you meet her through a strictly platonic ad. Strictly platonic means not interested in sex. So if a woman posts an ad on strictly platonic, don’t mention your dick at all. If you meet in person and she seems interested in your dick, then you can tell her that it may not work. She’ll let you know if she wants to stick her hand down your pants to see if she can get you hard.

In the meantime, try masturbating. Look at some porn. You obviously have a computer and internet access. There’s plenty of porn out there. Find something you like and see if you can get your dick to work. If porn doesn’t do it, I’m probably not going to get you going.

And you know what? I am not meeting you for ice cream on Thursday. You are already off my calendar. If you are more concerned about your dick than you are about the boundaries I set in place, I really don’t want to hang out with you. I understand being concerned about whether or not your dick works, but you just asked for too much too soon.

He: sorry really

Ice Cream and Conversation

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In the winter of 2012/2013 I was staying with friends in Austin, Texas. I was spending a good portion of time on Craigslist, looking for jobs. After watching a documentary called Craigslist Joe, I started checking the “strictly platonic” listings.

I came across an ad from a guy wanting to have drinks with a woman after work. I responded to his ad. He alcoholic beverages, bar, beverageresponded to my response. We decided to meet after work (meaning after his work). I picked a bar close to where I was staying so I could walk and not be concerned with driving after drinking or getting into a car with a stranger. I put on cute clothes and fluffed up my hair and met him at the bar.

I had a beer. I don’t remember what he had–a beer or a cocktail. We ordered an appetizer sampler platter. He was pleasant, a businessman of some kind dressed for casual Friday. We chatted. He wasn’t someone I would have spent time with normally, but we were getting along well.

Then he mentioned his wife. I must have looked at him strangely. I didn’t realize I was having Friday afternoon drinks with some woman’s husband.

Then he clarified. He was talking about his late wife. He was a widower with two small boys. He loved his wife; I could tell. That’s probably why he posted his ad under “strictly platonic.” He probably wasn’t ready to get involved with anyone or even have a one night stand. He was probably tired of hanging out with the guys in the office and just wanted to have a drink with a nice woman.

We never saw each other again. We talked about seeing each other on another Friday afternoon, but we never did.

However, his ad gave me an idea. Would strangers buy ice cream for me in exchange for my company?

I wrote the following ad and posted it in the “strictly platonic” section:

Brown Cone With White Sprinkled IcingIce Cream and Conversation

I’m a mostly broke traveling lady with a young spirit who likes meeting new people, laughing a lot, and having fun. Why don’t we meet at Amy’s Ice Cream? I’ll wear something cute and you can buy me an ice cream cone. We’ll talk about whatever is important to you, or if you’re the shy type, I’ll regale you with stories from the road. We’ll depart new friends with a fun Craigslist story to tell our old friends.

I’m not looking for sex or a romantic relationship. I’m just looking to spend a fun hour or so with a nice person who wants to buy me ice cream (although I might be open to lunch or dinner too). I don’t care what you look like or how old you are, as long as you are NICE. My life if too short to hang out with jerks!

I’m only in town for three weeks, so this offer is limited.

I started receiving responses almost immediately.

The first guy I was supposed to meet stood me up. Straight up stood me up. No call. No email. No apology. It was not a nice game he was playing.

Most guys did not stand me up, although I did not meet every man who sent me an email. Some behaved inappropriately and found themselves cut from the ice cream list. Some just couldn’t sync their schedules with mine.  (I did have a life–and obligations–outside of eating ice cream with strangers.)

A couple of fellows took me out for meal. An older Latino gentleman treated me at one of those upper-scale burger joints. He seemed so lonely and somewhat frail. Another fellow took me to breakfast at Kirby Lane. He and I hung out a couple times after our initial meeting and are still in-touch through email.

Several of the guys were from out of town, visiting Austin for business. I guess they wanted to get out of their hotel rooms and do something other than go to a bar or eat dinner alone. I didn’t have much in common with most of them, but I was pleasant, and they were pleasant, and the ice cream was always delicious.

One of the guys visiting Austin was from San Francisco. He was Asian and seemed like a grown-up surfer with long hair and a laid-back attitude. He told me all about Burning Man and encouraged me to get a reduced price ticket to attend. (I looked into it, and the process to get such a ticket wasn’t as easy as he’d made it seem.)

When I told the Lady of the House about putting up an ad to meet people who bought me ice cream, she said it was one of the saddest things she’d ever heard. (I’ll admit, that stung a little.) She thinks it’s sad that there are people so lonely they’ll shell out dollars to talk to a stranger.

But I thought the whole situation was fun and kind of sweet. It wasn’t just about the free treats for me. I enjoyed meeting people who seemed very different from me and trying to find common ground. I enjoyed hearing about other people’s lives and learning what they were passionate about.

And the ice cream was always delicious.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/alcoholic-beverages-bar-beverage-cocktail-613037/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/candy-sugar-party-colorful-108370/.

Too Fat to Slide

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I saw a post on Craigslist (where else?) with the subject line, “Airplane Evacuation Slide testing.” The body of the ad read,

60 positions open for a 2 day project testing aerospace equipment.
Must not be afraid of heights
Must be able to commit to both days

I’ve found that on Craigslist, the less information given, the more likely an ad is to be fake. (Although why someone would want to fake airplane evacuation slide testing, I cannot imagine.) I sent an email anyway, in the event the job was real. I’ve never slid down an airplane evacuation slide, so getting paid to do so would give me another good story in the “crazy things I’ve done for money” category.

I replied by email late on Monday night, and didn’t receive a response until late Friday morning. By that time, I’d mostly forgotten about the ad and my reply, so when I received the call, it took me several seconds to figure out what the guy on the other end of the line was talking about.

The young man I was talking to was a recruiter for a temp agency that specializes in the needs of airlines. I had no idea such a temp agency existed.

The fellow went over some information with me: when (6am on two days at the end of the month), where (at a test site not too far from the host family’s place), how much ($15 an hour plus free lunch). He told me that the company was recruiting 60 people, although only 50 were needed. He said if all 60 people showed up, 50 would be picked and the extras sent home with a minimum of four hours pay. Those who stayed would actually be sliding down slides. He assured me there would be plenty of padding all around the slide, in the event anyone jumped too high and missed the slide and ended up on the ground. Also, one part of the test would be a rain simulation where all of the participants would get wet. Was I still interested?

Sure, I was still interested. He asked me some questions about my general health, then said I’d have to go to their office with my driver’s license and social security card or birth certificate to prove I was eligible to work. I’d also have to get checked by a nurse and attend an orientation. Conveniently I could complete all three tasks that very afternoon. I was going to that part of the world anyway, to show my driver’s license and social security card to the human resources folks at the test scoring facility, so why not get everything done at one time?

I found the office building and parked in a spot for two hour visitors. I went into the swanky lobby complete with a security officer dressed like a guard, but acting more like a tour guide. She directed me to the third floor, and I asked where I could find a restroom.

There was a guy going to the same place as I was. He was standing next to me, and when he heard me inquire about a restroom, he told me I shouldn’t use the restroom because they were going to drug test us. I had been asked by the recruiter if I would submit to a drug test, and I’d said yes. I don’t like drug tests, but I can pass them, and I’ve done them before for employment. However, I thought it rather rude for this stranger to tell me not to pee. It was still twenty minutes before I’d been told I’d see the nurse, and I drink enough water to basically pee on demand (TMI? Sorry.) Strangers should pretty much mind their own business.

I accidentally got off on the wrong floor. When the elevator doors opened, I assumed we were on the third floor. I bolted, mostly to escape from Mr. Not Minding His Own Business. After using the restroom (I do what I want, mister!) I went into what I thought was the correct office. (In my defense, there was a big sign with the name of the company I was looking for on the wall.) Turns out I was at the corporate office, but I needed to be at the human resources office. Oh. Embarrassing!

So I got back on the elevator and went up one floor. I found the right office, thanks to the big sign with the company name on the wall. I handed over my driver’s license and social security card for photocopying. Once they were returned, I was ushered into a conference room and given a medical intake form to complete.

The nurse came into the room right at one o’clock and started looking at each potential slider’s medical form. The nurse was an older lady, but not a sweet and cuddly grandma type. She was more of a rough and cocky biker chick type, the kind of woman who might wear a t-shirt announcing that she’s nobody’s old lady. She started eliminating people left and right. One man got really mad at her (his face got really red) because she eliminated him for something he’d told the recruiter about over the phone. She just shrugged and said, People get hurt doing this. Yes, that caused me to have some second thoughts.

Luckily, I’m pretty healthy and I’ve never had any broken bones, so the nurse didn’t find a reason to eliminate me on my medical intake form.

Next on the agenda were the one-on-one meetings with the nurse. I was the last of the group to go.

I followed the nurse down a long hallway and into a tiny room with a table and two chairs. I told her I didn’t know my weight, that I’d only guessed on the form, so she pulled out her scale. I took off my boots and stepped on. On the form, I’d written my weight as 178 pounds. I don’t know why I picked that number. The last time I was on a scale was last September while at my yearly woman’s exam, and I have no recollection of what my weight was then. The nurse’s scale said my weight was 164.8. Hey! That’s like losing 14 pounds in one second!

As I pulled my boots on, the nurse consulted her BMI chart. She told me she’d just remembered to take it out, meaning she’d not checked the BMI of any of the other potential sliders. Upon consulting her chart, she saw that the cutoff weight for someone of my height was 162 pounds. I am 2.8 pounds too fat to test airline evacuation slides!

The nurse shuffled through the other medical intake forms (right in front of me, where I could see people’s names and weight, if not complete medical history), and found at least a couple more people with BMI’s that were too high.

I asked her if I should stay for the orientation. She asked me if they were paying me for it. I said no. I told her that if she was going to eliminate me anyway, I wasn’t going to sit through the orientation. She said she couldn’t pass me, but would call (her superiors, I guess) and find out if they could take people over the current weight limits.

I talked to the recruiter who told me there would be more orientations the next week, so I could come in later if the nurse got the ok.

I wonder if I am better off not doing this job. Sure, the money is good, but the nurse made it sound like the potential for getting hurt is fairly high. If the recruiter calls again, I will probably take the job (and hope I get cut within an hour so I can collect $60 for doing practically nothing), but I’m not going to call the recruiter.

Mock Jury

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I found the ad on Craigslist. Some nameless organization was looking for mock jurors. Although the jurors were referred to as volunteers, $50 was being offered for two hours of time. I responded to the ad with an email, thinking I’d never get a response.

While I was selling jewelry and shiny rocks in front of a fancy salon, my phone rang. I had no customers, so I answered it. The woman on the other end of the line was responding to my response to the ad seeking mock jurors. She explained that lawyers were meeting for a conference, and they needed people to pretend to be jurors for a training exercise. She said I should plan to be there from 8am to 10am, but I’d likely be free to go before 10 o’clock. Most importantly, she confirmed that I’d receive $50 for participating. I told her I was in, and I made plans to be in the appointed place on the appointed day at the appointed time.

The night before the mock jury, I had a chance to sell jewelry at an event that ran until about 10pm. But the time I packed up and drove to where I was staying, it was nearly midnight. By the time I ate a snack, brushed my teeth, and relaxed enough to sleep, it was 12:30.

I pulled myself out of bed by 6:15, dressed in the clothes I’d worn the day before, and ate some breakfast. I walked out the door with plenty of time to make it where I was going, but when I settled into the driver’s seat, I realized that I’d written down directions from the wrong starting point. (I thought I’d be sleeping at one friend’s house, but ended up at another’s.) Luckily I have a Google Maps app on my (otherwise app free, not quite smart) phone. I got directions and set out.

The directions were fine, the traffic wasn’t bad, and I’d put gas in the van’s tank the day before, so I pulled into the driveway of the hotel where the event was taking place at 7:48. I had to stop at a security kiosk and explain myself to an attractive young woman guarding the premises. Did I mention that the hotel is actually a resort? Nothing says I Don’t Belong Here like driving a early 90s conversion van with a driver’s side window that won’t roll down to the security kiosk at the entrance of a resort. However, the young woman smiled at me, told me where I could park, and directed me to the main entrance where I was supposed to find a woman holding a sign saying “JURORS.”

I hurried into the main lobby and saw understated elegance such as I hadn’t witnessed since 1987 when I participated in The American Academy of Achievement and was housed at a resort in Scottsdale, Azizona. (“The Academy of Achievement is like no other organization in the world. For more than 50 years, this unique non-profit foundation has sparked the imaginations of young people across America and around the globe by bringing them into direct personal contact with the preeminent leaders of our times.” Read more about The American Academy of Achievement here: http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/pagegen/brochure/p1.html.)

What I didn’t see was a woman holding a sign saying, “JURORS.” Was I in the wrong place? Did I get the date wrong? Was I late after all and had missed my connection?  I was looking around, trying to figure out my next move, when a woman approached me and asked if I were a juror. She was wearing a name tag bearing the name I was looking for, so I told her yes. Other jurors–two women and a man maybe 10 to 15 years younger than I am, a women and a (rather dumpy) man (with a strange look in his eye) probably at least 10 years older than I am, and a guy around my age–soon appeared, and we were briefed a little.

The mock jury (we were told) had been assembled as part of a learning exercise for a group of lawyers. We were told that during and after the “trial” we would be asked for our opinions and that we should be honest, as there were no right or wrong answers.

We then all walked together to another building, where the jurors were lined up in the order in which we would sit. This was the order: the younger guy, the older woman, the guy my age, me, the younger of the two younger women, the older of the two younger women, and the dumpy older man. At about that time, we were given our $50 checks. I was happy that was taken care of so I could get out of there as soon as possible.

We were told the lawyers at this conference were part of an international organization of attorneys set up for networking and support. We were also told the presentation we were to be part of was concerned with tribalism and neurobiology. This combination of tribalism and neurobiology was not explained sufficiently for me to have any real understanding of what the fuck they were talking about.

While waiting, we were not offered any coffee or water or snacks. I’d thought we would be offered food and beverages, but there were none in sight.

We filed into the conference room filled with lawyers. We sat on the stage with the “defendant,” the “plaintiff,” the “lawyers,” and the “witness” (all of whom I presume were actually lawyers).

First the plaintiff’s lawyer explained the circumstances of the “trial.” It was a civil trial. The plaintiff, an older man sitting in a wheelchair, was a retired 25-year veteran of the police force. At the time of the incident in question, he had been a security guard at an upscale jewelry store. When the defendant, a Latino man who was dressed very casually that day, entered the store, the boss told the plaintiff/security guard to keep an eye on him. Later, the boss told the plaintiff/security guard he thought the defendant had put a piece of jewelry in his pocket. The Plaintiff/security guard approached the defendant and asked him what he had in his pocket. The defendant told him it was none of his business and tried to leave the store. The plaintiff/security guard then blocked the door and took out his gun. Some sort of (never fully explained) scuffle ensued, and the plaintiff/security guard was shot and was now paralyzed and suing the plaintiff for some unspecified amount of money.

The plaintiff’s lawyer began questioning the members of the jury as if we were going through jury selection. When she asked if anyone had problems with cops, I kept my mouth shut and pretended to be a normal person. A couple of the jurors answered questions aloud (the guy sitting next to me said he did not believe security guards should be allowed to carry guns under any circumstances), but most of us just nodded or raised our hands where appropriate and didn’t speak.

Next, the defendant’s lawyer spoke before questioning the jurors. He said that the defendant was an independently wealthy man who was in the jewelry shop to pick out a ring for his fiancee. He was found not guilty in a criminal case and was not responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and should not have to give him any money.The lawyer maintained that his client was singled out due to his ethnicity because the plaintiff was racist. The defense lawyer asked the jury if any of us had ever been accused of something we hadn’t done or if we had ever felt discriminated against.

At that point, the jury voted on whether we were more sympathetic to the plaintiff, the defendant, or neither. We voted with a small handheld device that looked much like a calculator. We just had to push a numbered button to vote. After the jury voted, the audience got to vote, also by pressing numbers on a handheld device. Once everyone had voted, the results were shown via bar graphs on a big screen. I was sympathetic to the defendant, but most of the jury and the audience indicated they were no more sympathetic to one than the other.

After the voting, the lawyers questioned the plaintiff and one witness, the owner of the jewelry store. It was never explained why the defendant was not interviewed. The plaintiff’s lawyer asked him a lot of questions which played up his career as a cop and his beating not long before his retirement by Latino gang members. I know what they’re doing here, I thought.

The defense attorney then questioned the plaintiff and the owner of the jewelry store. He tried to show that both of them were racist and singled out the defendant because of his ethnicity. He tried to convince the jury that the shooting was the plaintiff’s fault because he accused the defendant of something he had not done. The plaintiff basically said he was just following orders. (In my opinion, the plaintiff should have sued his former boss, the owner of the jewelry store.)

At that point, we voted again, first the jury, then the audience. I was still on the side of the defendant, but I don’t remember who got the most sympathy at that point.

Finally, each attorney gave brief closing arguments. The plaintiff’s lawyer again played up his career as a good cop, and she listed all the things he could no longer do (including make love to his wife). The defendant’s lawyer then reiterated the idea that the defendant, because of his ethnicity, was accused of something he had not done and should have been allowed to walk out of the store because he was innocent.

Everyone voted again. I was still on the side of the defendant. While the majority of lawyers in the audience were sympathetic to the defendant, the majority of the jury was sympathetic to the plaintiff. An audible grumbling arose from the audience when it was announced that the majority of the jury would have decided for the plaintiff.

The guy who’d organized this session spoke briefly after the results of the voting were announced. He mentioned that most of the lawyers present were defense attorneys. Oh, I thought, I like that I’m helping defense attorneys to do a better job. Then in almost the next breath, he mentioned that their clients were mostly corporations! What?! I was not happy to help slimy corporate defense lawyers. I had no idea I’d been sitting in the midst of the enemy, letting them pick my brain to learn how to manipulate jurors. (To be fair, unless they were psychic, they didn’t get much from my particular brain since I kept my mouth mostly shut.)

At that point, the presentation was over, and I got the hell out of there. The guy in charge of the presentation was shaking the hands of other jurors, but I didn’t want to touch his slimy corporate defense hands or talk to him, so I walked out and headed to the ladies room.

As I left the restroom, I saw where the lawyers were converging to drink coffee and eat pastries. I walked right over and helped myself to a to-go cup of coffee and a cheese Danish. I’d have thought a resort hotel would serve better coffee; this stuff was weak and not very tasty. I didn’t care though; I needed to wake up, and I wanted to get every tiny bit I could out of these corporate scumbag lawyer motherfuckers.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

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On Wednesday, I received an offer letter from the scoring facility. Yes, they want to hire me! Starting day is April 6. I had a lot of paperwork to complete online before I go in later in the week to prove I am who I say I am by showing my driver’s license. I spent most of the afternoon doing that.

Later in the evening, I got on Craigslist and started looking for a housing situation.

There are several reasons not to live with my current host family while working at the scoring facility, the foremost of which is distance. The host family lives 22 miles from the scoring facility. I really don’t want to drive 44 miles a day, during morning and evening rush hour. I much prefer to be closer. Besides, anything I’d save in not paying rent, I’d spend in gas.

I’d been checking out “seeking roommate” posts on Craigslist for the past month, and I never saw anything that seemed promising. I guess the time wasn’t right.

After reading about a dozen ads (including one from a guy living in a one bedroom apartment and hoping to rent out his couch), I found an ad that seemed to be offering everything I wanted.

The room for rent was in a house, not an apartment. I’d have a private bath. Rent included water, electricity, and WiFi. The rental was short term, no longer than the end of the summer. The best part? The poster was only asking $400 a month for rent, but if the subleasee was willing to pay to money up front, rent for two months would only be a total of $600. It seemed like a good deal for $300 a month. Heck, even if I left in the middle of May, $300 was a pretty good deal for two weeks in this market.

(At the onset of my search for housing, I called a Motel 6 near where I will be working, as well as one of those extended stay places that cater to business people, and those places were asking $1,200 to $1,400 a month. Most of the posts I saw advertising rooms for rent were asking at least $400 a month.)

I quickly wrote an email to the person with the temporary rental. Here’s what I said:

My name is xxxxxxx. I saw your post on Craigslist advertising for a short term roommate.

I have been staying with family…and just got hired for a temporary position scoring essays… I want to be closer to my work and not have a big commute twice a day. So I am looking for a temporary, short term place to stay while I am working. The position would start on April 6 (so I would probably want to move in on April 4 or 5) and last through mid May, probably May 20th. I would definitely be willing to pay $600 in advance for two months, even though I would (most probably) not be staying for the entire two months.

I understand that you are looking for someone to move in now and would probably prefer someone you could get in soon and who would stay until the end of the summer. However, I wanted to contact you in the event that a situation could work out for both of us.

A little bit about me. I own my own jewelry business and have sold my jewelry…for the last three summers. I’ve worked [scoring tests] twice before…I am primarily a traveler, visiting friends and family across the country and house sitting when I am not staying in national forests, state parks, and on BLM land in my van.

I am 44, female, sober. I don’t smoke anything, don’t drink, don’t party. (Yes, I’m kind of boring.) What I really want is to have a clean, no drama place to come home to after working all day. I just want to take a shower, eat some food, write for my blog, read a book, then go to bed so I can get up in the morning and do it all again. Having a pleasant roommate would be a plus.

I don’t have any pets (or any kids). I don’t even have friends…that would come over and visit. If I’m not working on weekends, I am likely to visit my family…and likely stay over with them at least one night.

My one concern…Are you renting the house, and if are, do you have permission from the landlord to have a roommate, temporary or otherwise? It would be a huge inconvenience to me if I paid you rent, then your landlord found out about me and I had to move out.

Let me know if I am perhaps the roommate you are looking for. Please feel free to ask me any questions. Also, if you want references, I can provide them.

The guy who’d placed the ad wrote back to me the next day. Here’s what he said:

Thank you for replying.  I think that this sounds like a good situation for both of us, except I am trying to get someone in sooner rather than later.  That said, I will be willing to hold the room with a 200 dollar deposit, which would then go towards the rest of rent owed upon move in.  Of course, I will provide you keys and a receipt with an agreement statement upon receiving the deposit to hold the room.  I hate to do it that way, but I’ve had 3 people back out last minute over the last couple of months (mostly because they didn’t have money to move in when it was time to do so). 

Yes, the landlord has given me permission to sublease the house.  They are a close family friend, actually…I have a sister who will be moving [here] in June or July, so the short term stay for you is actually perfect.

Please call me if you’d like to come see the house.

So I called him. He sounded like a nice guy over the phone. He answered my questions, didn’t say anything weird or pushy, but let me know he had folks scheduled to look at the room over the weekend.

I’d been in touch with one other person about a room. That person was looking for long-term roommates, but said she (he? hard to tell with an androgynous name) would consider me short term. That person worked and stayed in another town for some portion of the week, but left pets (two dogs and two cats) in the house where I would be staying. She (he?) stated in the ad that if a roommate cared for the pets, there would be compensation. I wrote to her (him?) saying I am an experienced professional pet sitter who would be willing to care for the dogs and cats. We set an appointment to meet early next week.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt lukewarm about that situation. The rent there was $425 a month, and the ad poster was not likely to knock $125 off the rent in exchange for pet care. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to caring for animals while working a full time job. Maybe I’d rather get an extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning instead of taking two dogs for a walk. Maybe I’d want to leave on the weekends and not have to work around exercising and feeding critters. Also, that rental situation did not offer a private bath.

So I decided to go see the temporary rental house. I had to drive during rush hour because the guy doesn’t get off work until 5pm, and I didn’t want to look for the place in the dark. There were a few moments of stress, but I did fine and got there with no mishaps.

The house is nice. Spacious. Big comfy couch and flat screen television in the living room. Everything was very clean. It’s in one of those neighborhoods where every house looks the same, the garage is closer to the street than the rest of the house is, and the entrance door has metal mesh over it. It seemed very Mormon to me, tidy, a little regimented, no kids playing ball in the street and no one hanging out.

I like the house, and I like the guy, and I decided to take the room. We signed an agreement, and I gave him a deposit. I’m almost like a normal person: I have a job and a lease and a bank account, and I even drove back to the host family’s house in the dark, on not one, but two interstate highways.