• The Demo Tape Issue

    We Do Dumb Shit for Money

    The Demo Tape Issue
    Precarity 1

    Illustration by Emilja Frances

    What do kids without real jobs do for money these days? Matt Casciano interviews five people looking for the answer.

    We Do Dumb Shit for Money

    I am never surprised by the things my friends do for work. My family is shocked, of course, and I’m sure people think we are all lazy and sad and aren’t “doing anything with our lives” or whatever. In some sense, they are not completely wrong. It seems like people my age aren’t really doing anything important, that it has become harder for the Millennials to land jobs and start careers.

    Personally, I’ve had a few “real” jobs of greater and lesser legitimacy but I’ve been legally unemployed for almost three years. I’ve worked under-the-table construction jobs; in high school, I was a lifeguard; I was the only employee at an Italian frozen yogurt shop on the second story of the mall. That job was awesome because I read comic books all day, but the business failed and then I had to wait weeks and weeks before cashing my checks. An acquaintance hired me to convince people to participate in market research surveys, which I did for almost two years before my six-month stint delivering pizzas. During those months, I stole as much dish soap, garbage bags, and pizza as possible. When that ended in the spring of 2011, I started doing under-the-table gigs, return scams, focus groups and whatever else I could for money. 

    It isn’t just irresponsibility and sloth that makes us all failures. College diplomas mean jack shit. The people I know with diplomas all work the same stupid jobs everyone else does, except they’re in debt, so they can’t quit when they’ve had enough. I have friends with masters’ degrees working part-time in package stores, ex-regional managers living on saved up unemployment insurance, union construction workers taking part time jobs as line cooks – I could go on and on. 

    Aside from a few hairstylists, I don’t really know anyone who can speak meaningfully about stable and worthwhile employment. So, I decided to talk to some of my friends about this to see what the fuck they do for money and how they feel about it.


    What do you do?

    I’m a pizza slave. I’m a slave to pizza.

    What do you do in your free time?

    I mostly spend it doing crimes and hanging out. Loitering, shoplifting...

    How did you get the pizza job?

    Friend of a friend. Actually it was just my friend.

    How do you feel about your job?

    I get free food, and free access to shows. But I hate working, and I hate pizza now that I work at a pizza place. I think it’s OK. The job, that is.

    Who do you work with?

    Half the people that I work with are friends, half are “frenemies”. Some people I’m friendly with because I work with them, but in real life I despise them.

    Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

    I see myself in the same situation – poverty stricken. I work a dead-end job. My job gives me the flexibility I need in life; it lets me take time off so I can do the things I want to do but it doesn’t give me a living wage.

    How precarious do you think your situation is?

    I feel pretty stable. In the past, people have worked there for over five years – it feeds you and gives you time off et cetera.

    Craziest thing that ever happened at your job?

    In the past year there have been two kegs thrown out the window at different times. Also, people pee on the windows. Fights break out all the time. 


    What do you do for money?

    Nothing, I’m broke.

    What was the last job you had?

    I worked for a nondestructive testing company for two years.

    What’s that?

    I worked as an assistant radiographer doing radiographic testing on various materials.

    So, like in a factory?

    Mostly in power plants and along gas lines.

    Why did you quit?

    I didn’t quit; I got laid off. I only did contract work for them. They kind of just stopped giving me work.

    Did you have other jobs before that?

    Before that I worked for a telecommunications auditing company. I went to all of the schools in the county and took down info from their printers and fax machines. I also worked for a pizza place very briefly.

    Why did that job end?

    I moved to work for the other job. Now I don’t have a job. I’m trying to sell my body.

    For money?

    Yeah. I’m volunteering to – I don’t know how to say it – take experimental drugs for money. Like pharmaceuticals.

    How do you feel about that?

    I feel great about it. I hate work. The idea of being given three meals a day and a snack and free drugs and thousands of dollars sounds like paradise.

    How did you get the job?

    I got the auditing job through one of my high school teachers. Then I got the other one through family. Then I heard about medical studies from friends.

    Where do you see yourself in five years?

    Probably in prison.

    Craziest work experience?

    I don’t know. I mean, I guess the times when I’d drive one hour to work a 10 hour day shift, drive an hour somewhere else, work a 10 hour night shift, sleep in the truck on the way back to the day shift. I did this for weeks. It was horrible. But I was making a ton of money. I was pretty miserable. A lot of people there didn’t seem to have a problem with it so it was kind of weird being like “what the fuck are you guys doing, this sucks.” But people just needed the money. I also have stories of people essentially just being idiots and exposing themselves to huge amounts of radiation.

    Can you give us an example?

    One time there was a crink in the source tube and while trying to reel in the radioactive source it got stuck and people didn’t realize it for* a while* … until they did, at which point they were already being exposed to radiation. You wear equipment to measure the radiation dose rate, with an alarm which goes off if you’re being exposed to over 500 mg. But people don’t wear the equipment because if you’re exposed to a large amount of radiation you get “suspended” – people don’t wear it so they can keep working. Everyone there was a drug addict. There were times when people did coke all night, including my boss.


    What is your job?

    I do a combination of freelance design, catering, and just whatever else.

    How many hours a week do you work?

    I work zero hours most weeks and eighty hours some weeks. I get in arguments with people sometimes about whether or not I work. For example, a friend of mine was talking about how she had four jobs. She would do grocery stocking, catering, medical studies, and I can’t remember the last thing. But she was saying she had four jobs and would harp on me for not having any, but at the same time I did all of those things except for the grocery thing, just with no schedule! So one moment I have no jobs and the next I have three or four.

    How long has this been going on? What was your last stable job?

    I’ve never had a stable job. I’ve never had a job that I’ve applied for. I contacted a medical facility to screen for a medical study when I was 17 because friends did them. You have to be over 18 do be able to participate, but the study started after my 18th birthday. I’ve been doing that ever since. Also, I immediately got food stamps as soon as I turned 18. All my friends were on it already.

    How do you find work?

    I’ve always found work by either being walked onto the job by a friend or filling in for a friend with no prior experience. I once got a job washing dishes this way.

    Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

    I don’t know, I’m probably going to have a stable job at some point. I’ll probably lie about work experience to get a stable job. I mean, I’ll either work at a coffee shop or potentially get good enough at doing things I like to do – like graphic design – to be able to sustain myself. Alternatively, I’ll just be doing small catering gigs, med studies, going to Alaska to gut fish, and installing drywall. Cleaning peoples houses. I don’t know.

    Craziest work experience?

    The medical study I did the most when I was 18 and 19. For about a year, once a month, I got a tube up my nose for a lung scraping. It was an hour and a half and paid $450 – a month of rent and expenses. I’ve also done multiple studies where I was intentionally sick or had to ride a stationary bike with a mask on my face pumping fucking ozone into my lungs while they monitored me. A friend once had to store all of their piss in jars and had a cooler as a rolling suitcase that they had to take with them everywhere for a study.


    What do you do for money?

    I have three different market research jobs. One, I work for a research company from home helping to complete trailers for movies that haven’t been released yet. Two, periodic and very random 1-day-only market research/focus group sessions. Brain caps, watching Coke commercials and so on. And three, medical studies.

    When was the last time you had a stable job?

    The last job I had was as a temp in a health insurance company office where I worked full time for about half-an-hour a day and surfed the internet for 7.5 hours a day. At double minimum-wage, $15 an hour.

    Why did that job end?

    The company decided my services were no longer needed. I worked there for 3 weeks.

    What other jobs have you had?

    One summer I worked in a liquor warehouse for 50 hours a week. I quit to go to school. I’ve had multiple jobs where I quit within an hour. Once at a child playplace. Once at a nonprofit. Once at a restaurant. The first job I ever had was when I was a teenager; I worked at a concession stand at an athletic park. I stole money from the register every single day and ate as much dip’n dots as I wanted. Which was a lot. I got fired because one of my coworkers snitched on me for smoking weed.

    Where do you see yourself in five years?

    Ideally, as the head of a market research firm in New York City. But, uhm, more realistically, the same place I am now.

    Craziest work experience?

    One time, in the middle of the summer, this semitruck came in with a load of tequila. One of the pallets had broken completely and we had to climb in. It was like 125 degrees in the trailer and we had to pick through all of the bottles, our arms constantly getting cut by glass. We were supposed to identify which bottles were broken. It took like 3 hours and was horrible.


    What do you do for money?

    Until recently, I was living off of $6000 in grants/loans that I got from school. Those just started drying up. I’ve been living off of these grants for about three years. I don’t intend to pay them back. I might go back to school at some point but probably not.

    Have you had any jobs during this time?

    I’ve done babysitting. I’ve worked at four pizza places for about two months each. It is always pretty easy for me to get jobs and things go well for a while but then they get weird and I usually lose jobs in two to three months – same with babysitting. I guess I don’t respond well to being told what to do. The last two jobs that I had I decided to quit and so I told my boss and walked off the job.

    Have you ever had a stable job?


    What do you do with your time now that you’re not in school?

    Mostly read and talk to people about books and hang out and eat with friends. I travel a lot more. Um, whatever I want.

    Where do you see yourself in five years?

    I have no clue. There are things I’d like to be doing more. I’d like to have more control over the food I’m eating – for it to be good food. I’ll probably be here, finding ways to make money for little work, or possibly in school, I don’t know.

    Craziest work experience?

    I talked with kids about some borderline stuff, like veganism. We’d be eating pepperoni pizza and they’d wanna know about it then I’d tell ‘em and not get asked to come back. I babysat this incredibly wealthy family’s kid. I was on-call even though they had a full-time nanny. They didn’t like me talking to their daughter about veganism or have other “deep” conversations. They asked me to stop. Once the kid and I did two hours of prank phone calls to my friends and random businesses. Since then I’ve not been asked to come back.

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