Academically dishonorable adventures in the freelance economy: a pathetic story from the Adirondacks

There’s kind of not a hell of a lot to do up here, especially for people who get themselves into my current derpy living arrangement. Maybe I have comrades in this idiocy; cocooned losers don’t much talk to one another, so damned if I can say. Anyway, my car is now inexorably wearing out its sixty-day welcome at the Reno-Tahoe economy lot, not taking advantage of a quite open-ended invitation to chill in economy parking at the Sacramento Airport (an example of the Yolo lifestyle, if not the #YOLO lifestyle), as it did for nine weeks earlier this winter.

The bill was a bitch, but the airport parking authority wasn’t. I had to get my car jumped, and after a dispatcher told me that it would probably take half an hour to get someone out to me, my car was running again within fifteen minutes, half of that time needed for the roadside assistance guy to Magyver a loose terminal on my battery. He asked how long I’d been parked there, and I pretended not to really know but to think that it had been, like, a bit over a month, but that was just because I didn’t want to drag a nice innocent fellow into the deep end of my family drama just because he had been sent out to jump my car. There was actually a movie about that sort of thing on the flight from Dallas to San Francisco, called “The Good Lie,” although to be fair it was about the ethics of allowing someone else to borrow one’s passport and identity in order to illegally immigrate to the United States after years in a Kenyan war refugee camp, not why someone ended up with a dead battery and a big parking bill on account of stupid bougie family bullshit over the holidays.

This is the broader context of my current lifestyle. I ended up in this missionaries and cannibals situation with two cars in three different airport “economy” lots within five days, and in the process got to watch a movie about a real African whose brother got eaten by a real lion, and now I’m saving up money for my next parking bill by crashing with my parents for probably too long at a stretch. My mom’s car got to do time in Newark because my dad thought trading cars every weekend made more sense than my getting a rental car for my commute to the orchard job, what with their needing the extra money to buy a pontoon boat and vacation in Europe again, or something. There’s also the matter of my dad having given a $15,000 auto purchase grant a few years ago to some nogoodnik moocher relatives who like to preen about their own self-reliance, so the here-have-a-car trust fund may have been a bit low. Learning of this handout didn’t help me understand how in hell that clusterfuck can be fixed, but it did help me understand how those two fuckers were no longer running another 1987 Tercel into the ground every six months. And, no, I don’t resent them for their bitchin’ ride; I resent them for being too goddamn smug and disingenuous to deserve that kind of help in propping up their frivolous back-to-the-land lifestyle.

My current lifestyle, meanwhile, is one of not giving a shit about getting a slice of buffalo chicken pizza at Stewart’s three hours after second breakfast. I know it won’t help me attract the ladies, and it’s kind of sad that the non-televised highlight of my day is getting pizza at a gas station (Mike Cernovich wept), but at least I’m not following the more troubled locals into a watery eighty-proof grave. For that matter, it’s been a couple of weeks since I found myself spending a Saturday night in a crowded restaurant with my dad, blubbering through a veil of tears about how everything would be better “if I can just get on that fucking plane to Sacramento.” Trust me on this much: I didn’t get into that car mess on my own, but I got out of it a lot more on my own than I got into it. I think it was the first time I ever kept a transcontinental round trip secret from my parents until I was on my way back to the airport.

If you think that I should be looking for work instead of biding time at my parents’ place, hanging out on blogs and shit, guess what, asshole? I have been looking for work. There are structural reasons why I’m having trouble finding work, and if you want to be part of the structural solution, here’s an idea: offer me a farm job or something that doesn’t require drug screening horseshit or new hire paperwork that violates Scott v. Napolitano. If you’re trying to hire farm workers right now, you probably aren’t the target of my foregoing truculence; principals who need to hire roustabouts, like, really soon don’t usually have the time or energy to hang out at Salon, bitching about how everyone under thirty is lazy.

And don’t tell me that a pizza break at the local backwoods convenience store never offers any professional inspiration to the seasonally adrift. Two items on the Stewart’s bulletin board caught my eye yesterday. One was an offer to “Stand out of the Crowd/Resume Writing” from someone who claimed to have five years’ experience writing resumes. (Why?) The other was “I Write Papers On Any Topic!” Wow Much Capitalization. Interestingly, the phone numbers on both fliers had 917 area codes, so these are city slickers trying to hack it in Bumfuckville at a time of the year when all the summer people have retreated back to the 917. Embarrassingly, both fliers showed AOL e-mail addresses, with the handles of Naturalzoo and Popscar.

Popscar went a step further in her own self-promotion, putting a fairly large photo of herself smiling in the center of her flier. What this has to do with her writing ability is hard to say, unless one has trouble pronouncing “nothing.” I loosely resemble a balding version of Milton from Office Space, so I might not put my festively plump visage on my advertising copy, but it’s unlikely that being kinda hot makes this chick Popscar (emo much?) a better writer. I’m probably a better writer than she is, simply because I’m a better writer than most people. I should feel really oily for writing that, but it’s true, and in this case it’s also relevant. This photograph made me wonder whether “$20 per double-spaced page to write and $15 per page to edit” is the real professional service that Popscar is offering. It’s no secret around here that my mind naturally wanders to prostitution; it’s honest money for honest work, as opposed to Popscar’s nominal offer to do honest work for a dishonest reason. That said, putting her picture on that flier wasn’t totally not like prostitution. The message was “hire me because I’m cute and photogenic,” not “hire me because you’d probably like to not colossally fuck up that term paper.” City girls seem to find out early how to open doors with just a smile; me, I’m not putting on a game face for $20 a page piecework, and if I keep you from colossally fucking up your term paper, I’ll save your lazy ass while wearing a combover. Tolerate it or leave it.

(Sidebar: I keep meaning to get a haircut, but mine is an ennui that Holden Caulfield would understand, even if he wouldn’t understand the local white trash.)

Speaking of things that could use some freelance editing:

We are a stable company in the convenience business and feel a lot of our success is because we are stimulated versus frustrated by handling a variety of activities and interacting with a variety of people. The way you handle this variety can create a pleasant atmosphere to work in, and can make your day more interesting than if you were doing the same thing all day long.

Much of our success comes from how pleasant our partners are, it’s also why people often comment that they hear Stewart’s can be an enjoyable place to work. We think a large part of this is because our partners own 1/3 of the company and that ownership positively impacts the relationships they have with customers, partners, and vendors.

We work in small groups where we help and rely on one another and everybody knows who is effective and who is not. Having open and honest conversations can create trust, make the atmosphere more enjoyable and our jobs easier, being candid allows us to make long term fair deals.

Our vertical integration, with our own manufacturing plant, warehouse, and distribution system gives us the control to offer our customers quality products at a reasonable price, which can make it easier for partners to sell. It also provides strong support from our marketing, maintenance, accounting and personnel departments. This makes our jobs easier because we can adapt to change quickly in a rapidly moving world and can provide the support you need to answer a question or solve a problem, if you can understand and use the support.

With almost 4,500 partners in over 330 shops and departments we use Reasons vs. Rules to teach, make decisions, and problem solve, there are too many different situations to have a one size fits all solution. If you like to work through situations and make decisions with Reasons; you may find our environment stimulating. If you require a rule for everything, you could be frustrated here because rules are not effective given the variety of activities and the variety of people we deal with everyday. These reasons may help you make decisions outside of work in your personal life.

With such a variety of jobs in various locations, people usually can find something of interest. If you are curious to learn more about our current opportunities and to see if there is a fit for you here at Stewart’s, click here.

Mercy. That shambling mess of a mission statement isn’t the only reason why I didn’t go to the Stewart’s job fair in Warrensburg the other day, but it certainly was one reason. The Adirondacks are so seriously fucked up, to an extent that I basically understood by the age of nine, that I don’t really feel comfortable taking a nominally permanent job around here, especially one that might get me stuck in the area over the summer when I could be doing payroll vineyard work away from the piney crackers and the moneyed elements from downstate. The career opportunity to do minimum-wage cashiering work in a brown apron for a company that farms out recruiting copy to punctuation-challenged idiots certainly doesn’t sweeten the deal. It reminds me of a spot-on comment that Barrett Brown made, in his case, about the stylistic quality of PowerPoint slides from the clandestine services: “Of course, it’s been obvious for nearly a century now that the English-speaking world was on course to fall under the sway of some sort of amoral and quasi-literate technician caste, but it’s still jarring to actually see such a thing in action.” I’m supposed to apply to this convenience store so that I can learn about “Reasons. vs. Rules?” Fuckin’ A. There’s something badly wrong with the company if I can’t do what I did as a junior carny at Hersheypark, specifically, to instantaneously assess whether something my boss told me to do was stupid or immoral and, in the ninety-odd percent of cases that it was neither, to go ahead and do it. Anyone who isn’t retarded can do this. “Make sure that the pizza doesn’t stay in the hot case more than four hours because the health department says so.” Okay. I’m not here as a state microbiologist, so fair enough.

There are Reasons why we use Rules about punctuation in our writing, although I may be using the royal we in this case. I probably overuse semicolons, but I don’t use them in lieu of commas and simultaneously use commas in lieu of periods. Similarly, I’m judicious about capitalizing meretricious human resources theories as if they’re sacred names in a Protestant edition of the Bible. I’m not at all opposed to working under illiterate supervisors as a matter of principle, but this combination of bumptiousness, gullibility around crappy managerial theories of the sort found in the FedEx Office book section, and inability of the entire administrative brain trust of a major regional company to prevent the commission of atrocities against the English language in the company’s name doesn’t bode well at all. Stewart’s probably has mid- and high-level office staff who went to college and studied, say, communications, since studying a thing isn’t the same thing as being able to do it. It wouldn’t do to find somebody from the neighborhood who enjoys reading, can tell when the language has been butchered, and knows how to stitch it back together into something respectable. Only by going to college, and incidentally being at least a touch bitchy and inscrutable, can one learn how to look good in a business suit.

Maybe Stewart’s recruiting copy is so awful because the people who wrote it hired ghostwriters to write their term papers. Maybe their ghostwriters deliberately threw in run-on sentences and inappropriate semicolons in order to maintain an age- and major-appropriate voice (not good for English majors; great for communications majors). Why shouldn’t we get meta? Remember, Adam Gellin screwed the pooch by using big words in his paper for Jo-Jo. All right, you may not remember, but I remember because I like actually doing the reading. I wouldn’t hire someone else to jot down my thoughts about I am Charlotte Simmons because I’d probably wind up turning in a bunch of Bircher-grade conspiratorial authoritarian nonsense. I would, on the other hand, consider hiring a mercenary to articulate my thoughts on the parts of Sister Carrie that I didn’t read because it had to be the shittiest novel ever written about a Chicago sugar baby and I still don’t regret bullshitting two thirds of the book report back in high school so that I’d have more time to reread The Good Soldier Schweik. It’s all about priorities and values. “Honor” is a bit overwrought for a review of a novel in which a laconic Swede is on the record as saying, “Well, I guess she’s gone and done it.”

The Boy Scouts talk a lot about honor, too. LOL.

Come to think of it, I’m not constitutionally opposed to taking work as an academic ghostwriter. It feels vaguely fucked up in a White People way, kind of like the time a few weeks ago when the theme song from Dawson’s Creek came over the PA system at a Starbucks in Florham Park where, being in the fancy-pants part of suburban North Jersey where Bougie cannot rest on his laurels in the Red Queen’s race to get into a good school, the bulletin board was covered with test prep tutoring ads. It was as if I had wandered though a wormhole into something I had eerily foreseen in my own travels with Bougie but never expected to experience in the flesh. And all I was trying to do was to get my mom’s car out of that fucking economy lot at EWR. (It’s like Teterboro, but for poors.) Florham Park is obviously a better place than the low-rent parts of the Adirondacks to practice the shady art of mercenary writing for slackers and psychosomatic headcases. Working there, in addition to making me feel like I’ve been there before when I haven’t and that I’m in exquisite communion with Rod Serling, would allow me leverage to insist on the half-assed ethical standards that I’m still romantic enough to demand of myself. For instance, I wouldn’t be ethically comfortable ghostwriting technical papers for medical or nursing programs, or police academy, service academy, or OCS coursework, unless it’s self-evident wankery that will never in a million years have an edifying effect on anyone. (There’s probably more of that sort of thing in military and law enforcement education than we’d like to believe.) High-school coursework, on the other hand, would be, with the rarest of exceptions, an across-the-board case of hell yes I’ll let you buy credit for that bullshit.

And on the subject of nursing, specifically sexy nurse Orville Lynn Majors, understand that killing patients is something that he did, and history, which I formally studied, is the collected documentation of things that happened, so you won’t have to pick anyone’s brain if you’ve been assigned to write about a famous Hoosier who defied gender stereotypes. Be advised, however, that it will be incumbent upon you as the client to remove references to the sexiness of Nurse Majors and his mullet before turning in any assignment on the subjects of serial killers, Indiana, hairstyling, gender stereotypes, or the sexualization of nursing. You don’t have to observe this literary tradition, but I do.

Most of what I wrote beyond the mention of the Dawson’s Creek theme song was sound and fury signifying nothing. I’m not about to hustle for work ghostwriting papers that never should have been assigned in the first place. It sounds ridiculous and not awfully lucrative, especially in a dump like the Adirondacks. I’m all ears, however, if you don’t want to do your own undergraduate or JD work at Columbia, and I’m not entirely in jest. I’m in no position to materially worsen the academic ethics at that nightmare of a university. Bitch please; I am a symptom, not the disease.

May I have a BFA in poetry now?

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