I was lucky enough to go to a Creative Mornings event last Friday and lo and behold the theme this month was money. I was so excited to hear true, personal and hilarious stories about people and money. I walked in and was given a nametag. On the nametag, it asked, “What is the strangest thing you’ve done for money?”.
The question, if nothing else, is thought provoking. I got to thinking…..and I thought some more. I’ve done some pretty strange things for money over the years.
I worked as a telemarketer for an arts organization. We used to have this game, that whoever gets hung up on the most, wins. At one point, one of my callers tried to have phone sex with me. How awkward (and creepy) is that? I started an innocent enough conversation about the theatre, his favorite shows and somehow it turned into what am I wearing, how old am I? Yuck.
I once got paid to “look busy” at an office in LA. I answered a Craigslist ad for a company whose CEO was coming to town. The company wanted the office to look more flush and busy. I could do whatever I wanted on the internet, I just had to “look busy”. It was so strange, but kind of awesome. I got paid $11/hr to surf the net and do what I would’ve done at home anyways.
I worked an all night rave from 10pm-6am as the “water girl”. Essentially, I sold water bottles to crazy, drug-induced ravers. It was a packed event, with music that I didn’t really care for and people strung out like nobody’s business. When that many people are dancing and doing drugs, people are dehydrated and will pay anything for water. I think I found my market there, but the rave scene really isn’t my thing.
I did a performance outside of NYU begging for tuition money. This was really interesting, and was originally a project for a class and a social experiment. Who would give money to a white, privileged student? The reactions were diverse: chuckles, sneers and surprisingly $29 in donations after 45 minutes. One guy even bought me a bagel and coffee. This piece simultaneously restored my faith in the world but also made me feel awful. Do people that really need money make that much? Do homeless beggars who need a meal get food? The answers, I still don’t know. I have a feeling that my experiment was successful because people could relate to me. I dressed the same, I looked “normal” and I could be their daughter. I was interested in highlighting the high cost of tuition and making visible the pain of student loans– but I ended up learning a lot and was ridden with more questions. I ended up giving the $29 away to others that I thought could use it more than me.
I sold books that I got from the free section of my apartment. My boyfriend really thinks this is low, so I’ve stopped. He thinks the whole point of having a ‘free section’ is to avoid monetary value and capitalist consumption. I get it.
There was also a time I sold an unused package of ProActive (yes, the acne treatment) to a thug looking dude in a parking lot at Rite Aid. (Oh, Craigslist)
While at NYU, I participated in medical research. I got hooked up to all these cords and had an electrode attached to me, while watching a screen. I had to press a button every time I felt the signal. I started feeling dizzy from the screen, so I asked them to stop. They paid me my $30 and said I was now ineligible for future research!
2 years ago, on Christmas, my boyfriend and I helped out a Woody Allen-esque Italian family for Christmas dinner. Did I have catering experience? No. Did I cook at the time? No. But I know I am super helpful and organized! I did a great job at cleaning, and organizing but my boyfriend and I burnt their green beans and the fire alarm went off. One of the mafia like Uncles proclaimed, “Who hired these guys?”. We still left making $250 on Xmas and lots of memories.
Some other questions that came up at the event were also fascinating to think about.
What have you spent too much money on? I think the obvious answer here is school. It really is the only thing I sort of regret. It’s complicated, because I went to a great school and had a great time, but I don’t know if it was worth it. I also don’t know if I would have ever lived in New York, or met the people I did. Although I spent too much on it, it felt right at the time.
What do you wish you spent more on? Art. I love the arts in all forms and want to see more plays, concerts, dances, take more workshops and classes. Sadly, because of my debt and lack of finances I’ve forgone these experiences that I cherish.
What’s the best financial investment you’ve made? Studying abroad. When I was 21, I worked all year making minimum wage to pay for myself to study abroad. At the time it seemed like a bad investment. I had student loans (that I didn’t really think of at the time) and was taking a couple months off of work to live in Spain. But I was determined to make it work and it’s been the best investment of my life. My Spanish improved dramatically in a short period of time and afterward I was able to call myself proficient. I have been hired for exactly three jobs, including my first ever career job because of this skill. I would not have my current job if I didn’t have the experience of studying abroad. Considering the skills I developed and the experience I had, this has been the best investment. I spent 5k to study abroad. I’ve made that money back in no time given what the experience has afforded me in terms of jobs.
What’s the stupidest thing you’ve spent money on? Now, this is embarrassing. When I was a teenager, I was made fun of all the time for being flat chested. When I got my first job at 17, I spent $250 on breast enlarging “vitamins”. Of course, they didn’t work. It was so stupid and such a waste of money. It’s pretty funny now, in retrospect. The other stupid thing I spent money on was a psychic. After my last breakup, I was devastated as my love at the time dumped me out of the blue and didn’t want to talk to me “so he could move on”. I was such a mess, I decided to go to a psychic. They would have the answers! I was desperate for any information or any morsel of faux truth I could cling on to.The psychic told me we would get back together, have three kids and live happily ever after. HA! Thank goodness that didn’t happen. I am now happier than ever with my love of almost 5 years!
Now that I’ve shared my crazy, personal and hopefully funny stories with you, I want to hear from you!
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done for money?
What have you spent too much money on?
What do you wish you spent more on?
What’s the best investment you’ve made?
What’s the stupidest thing you’ve spent money on?