On one occasion, I was selected to be in a focus group for a board game that resembled the game Risk, which has some semblance to the presidency, I suppose. Basically, I was contacted via a staffing agency to come play a new board game for two hours with random people. I don’t always play board games, but when I do it is for money and with complete strangers.
This is just part of my pattern of stumbling into weird jobs. For example, I was an extra for the sequel of “Donnie Darko,” called “S. Darko,” which went straight to DVD. My scene was a bearded version of myself, dancing by myself at a high school party while other party people drank fake beer and made out. The scene was only 8 seconds but I think I made a pretty big impression because I’d get some random texts from friends who would say “Were you in ‘S. Darko’? What?”
Another time, I was a relay operator. Being a relay operator involves speaking for the deaf or hard of earing when they want to make a phone call via the Internet. So, I’d read what they wanted to say and then type back the response from the person they called. It was very interesting at times, often weird, and always awkward. Sometimes I’d have to relay for a needy girlfriend who wanted to share her love poems with her boyfriend. The caller wrote a poem giving reasons and bad analogies to express her love, which I read to her boyfriend. In this role, my acting must’ve been so good because the boyfriend got caught up in the moment and said “You’re my baby, for real!” to which I responded “You want me to relay that?” just to break up the intensity of the moment. It was hard to take myself out of the moment and just relay.
Other calls, I might be a lesbian lover or a mom or just a guy calling his doctor about something suspicious on his body. If anyone was interested in acting, I’d encourage them to work there. The role of a lifetime on each phone call. I was encouraged to use a lot of strong intonation and emotion, like the people who do sign language on TV or for a play, where it almost seems like they’re being sarcastic. If the caller was calling a friend and the friend had an accent, I would try to mimic that accent. If the person was upset and typed swear words, we had to read it verbatim. So, I can say I’ve been paid to play a board game, dance in a high school party and use expletives at strangers over the phone. Can you?
I was fired from that job. Not for my amazing acting skills, though. It was because I signed a petition — giving my employee information — to have relay calls get more restrictions for avoiding fraudulent callers. You know, like idiot teenagers who just wanted to make someone say something really gross over the phone or perverted calls from men wanting a female operator, they would transfer those to me and then they’d promptly hang up. Or we would get a lot of fraudulent callers from Nigeria, where they would order strange things over the phone like helicopter propellers, spark plugs or gold chains.
That was the first time I was voted out of office by my boss. There was another job where I was quitting on Friday and got fired Thursday. Have you ever seen those big trucks for lawncare? I was one of those guys. A pesticide applicator. I had a green uniform, lots of fertilizer and a truck full of chemicals. I don’t know why I applied to apply pesticides to people’s lawns. There was a huge truck with a dalmatian on it that I had to drive in the hot sun, looking for certain addresses. Given the heat, the anxiety and the chemicals, I was very ineffective. People sometimes yelled at me for their grass still having weeds. I was so exhausted and hot that I didn’t have the energy to respond with any kind of appreciation for human life. So, I just stared at them blankly till they went back inside their house. But, this didn’t get me fired.
The first car accident was a minor one with someone who told me he had gotten in a car accident in that exact spot the year before. What was the universe trying to tell him? What was the universe telling me? That I should quit, probably. I told my boss I would be done on Friday and he felt bad and didn’t want me to go. But, he had no choice to let me go after this next accident.
Being stupid, I tried to enter in a gate to a gated community without the gate password by following someone who put in the password. I ended up scratching the giant dalmatian off my truck and moving the bricked password post out of the ground. When I drove back in, my boss saw the dalmatian gone and had to let me go that Thursday. It was against the policy to have two accidents in one year, and I had two in one week. Just as well, the only part of the whole job I enjoyed was the cheesy “Sexual Harassment” video which had lines like “Whoa, look at her, she could be competition for Sharon Stone!” or “Girl! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for days to tell you about my weekend with Ken. He took me places I couldn’t believe.”
Well, I decided to not do any hard labor from that point on. I should’ve learned my lesson the first time. Before that job, I worked laying carpets in schools during the summer. It was an interesting job for a while because any off-color jokes or phrases would really get you some notoriety among the construction workers. I really liked that aspect. Just like as a pesticide applicator, I was mostly useless because I lacked any desire or physical abilities. But I didn’t let that stop me. I worked the whole summer and on my final day, I decided to not use gloves and ripped the skin off of my hands while pulling up old carpet. My hands looked like “Silence of the Lambs.” Just pieces of skin hanging off my hands. My brother got me that job and said they talked about me for years because of that. I still haven’t healed emotionally from that endeavor.