The last few months, as the economy has folded in on itself and the once employed have become the unemployed, people have been quick to put a more positive spin on the situation by repeating the old adage that, “The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ combines ‘danger and opportunity.’ ” Like so many references in our popular culture, this conclusion is apparently a misread of the Chinese characters involved, and thereby says more about our own American ideals and the mythologies we like to cling to than it does about the culture it supposedly arose from. In English, a “crisis” indicates that awful things beyond our control are happening to us. But we prefer to think that everything is within our control; hence, we decide that this awful thing could be the proverbial “blessing in disguise” that forces us to rethink our priorities and move in a direction that might be better for us in the long run than the path we’ve complacently traveled upon in the past.
Of course, the muddied translation could also be an indication of our propensity toward considering all Chinese phrasing to contain “wisdom” that seems to have a lock on the best way to live one’s life. The misunderstanding in this case calls to mind the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry dates a woman who changed her last name from Changstein to Chang. George’s mother takes advice from “Donna Chang,” but when she finds out “Donna Chang” isn’t Chinese, becomes furious and reverses the decisions she made under Ms. Changstein’s guidance. “I thought I was taking advice from a Chinese woman!” she screams. “This changes everything!”
Still, while it might be disingenuous to say that the Chinese see crisis as containing both “danger and opportunity,” when faced with a personal upheaval, one finds that it is still more appealing to respond by being proactive, rather than freaking out and retreating under the covers. And so, when you find that your job isn’t as secure as you thought it was, you might decide that the “danger” of being out of a job could also be an “opportunity” to investigate other dreams or passions you once put on hold.
Once you start looking for employment, however (especially if you’re looking for it in a state that expects to be unable to pay its bills by July), you might find that there’s a lot less opportunity than you’d like. If you are securely and happily employed, you may wonder, “Is it really that bad out there?” The answer, I’m afraid to say, is, “Yes. Yes, it is that bad out there.” Need proof? Read on for a glimpse at the “opportunities” awaiting you in this time of crisis.
This first ad appeared on Craigslist, with the heading, “professional letters needed.” My first response, of course, was, “Hey–I can write. I could do this.” So I clicked the link and found this text (typos and such included):
Alternative foods will barter cases of (turkey sausages) for professional letters.
I will fax you the letters and you will send thedrafts via e-mail to ******@aol.com for corrections
or come to my office in San Leandro in exchange for the turkey sausages.
Please call B.J. to discuss details. (***) ***-****
(also looking for partime administrator willing to work now for sausages)
Please check my web- site, *********.com
This ad may or may not be evidence that we have found ourselves in a post-dollar economy, that we may now exist in a revolutionary monetary system in which goods (turkey sausages) are exchanged for services. But it is definitely evidence that B. J. does indeed need a professional letter writer like nothing else. I have quite a few questions: First, is B. J. essentially telling applicants that if they want to be paid in (turkey sausages), they will have to drive to San Leandro themselves to pick up said sausages? Second, why is (turkey sausages) in parentheses in the first line? Third, what is the job description of the “partime (sic) administrator,” and would that person receive more (turkey sausages) than the professional letter-writer? I wonder.
While this ad was wacky, the next actually kind of depressed me. I clicked it because it said, “Nitpicker Wanted.” Thinking that “nitpicker” might refer to an editor or proofreader, I clicked on the heading to see what was involved. I didn’t expect that, in this case, “nitpicker” was being used in the literal sense. I mean, how often does anyone use “nitpicker” in the literal sense? How often are any of us talking about someone who pulls lice from other people’s heads when we use the term “nitpicker”? In fact, who even knew such a job existed in the first place?
I don’t expect you to read the tiny print; I include the screen grab here as evidence that such a listing existed, and that yes, people actually do this for a job. Here’s what it says:
Now, when I first saw this ad, I thought, “Why would someone pay someone else to get rid of their lice?” But after doing some research, I found out that not only is lice removal a thriving industry, but it is a necessary one, apparently. According to the various lice removal companies whose web sites I visited, shampoos and special combs alone are ineffective at completely eradicating head lice, hence the need for people who will meticulously and patiently pick every last nit off of someone’s scalp. You can see, then, why these folks are looking for candidates who are “extremely detail oriented” and who have “a good sense of humor.”
I just want to say that I like imagining the reference-check phone call: “Hi. I’m calling from the Hair Whisperers Lice Removal. Donna James has applied to be a nitpicker with us, and she has listed you as a reference. Do you think Donna would be good at picking lice out of people’s hair? Would you hire Donna to be a hair whisperer?”
Should your references pan out, the company “will train qualified applicants.” The ad explains that, “Training is in Los Angeles,” and that the training “can take anywhere from five to ten hours.” I’m curious as to why the training can take as few as five hours but as many as ten hours to complete. Are some people just naturals, quickly catching on to the intricacies of lice removal, while others require more rigorous and intensive preparation?
If all of this has you feeling a bit queasy, then perhaps you can retrain for a job with less up close and personal involvement with your clients. In that case, may I recommend training as a “home stager”?
I saw an ad for this company while watching HGTV the other night. What caught my attention was that they referred to themselves as an “institute” for home staging, and that after completing their four-week training, one could become “certified” in home staging. But I wonder–do we really need such an institute? I’ve watched countless hours of HGTV, and I’d say that alone has probably qualified me to become a home stager. If nothing else, I at least have the basics down: paint the fireplace an “accent color” that will draw people’s attention to it. Get rid of all the crap that’s lying around the house, including children’s toys, the Playboy magazine collection, and the pile of dishes that have collected in the sink for the past week. Replace the hardware on the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen, and rearrange the furniture so that the rooms look as large as possible. Add a few plants and call it a day. What else is there to learn?
I don’t quite understand the woman pictured on the website. First, she looks like she threw on her oldest jeans and whatever shirt she found first so that she could run accross the street real quick to get some milk at the corner store. I’m guessing she’s supposed to be a “student” of home staging: her shirt cuffs are unbuttoned, suggesting she’s ready to “get down to business” and practice the heavy lifting that might be involved in staging a home, but then, her sleeves aren’t really rolled up enough to be out of the way for working, especially for an activity like moving furniture around. And those jeans look too tight to bend in comfortably. It seems it’d be more effective for the company to feature an after photo–a picture of someone in professional attire consulting with a client or something. Methinks this staging company needs to stage their website a bit better.
While I might scoff at the training this company provides, I can’t lie: I love the idea of a home-staging university. I envision sweatshirts for HSU; their mascot could be a fireplace with a nice mantle, or a ficus, or a brick path symbolizing the all-important “curb appeal.” They could have a football team that plays the nitpickers.
Of course, not everyone has the time, money, or inclination to be retrained; they need a job, and they need one now. But maybe lice removal isn’t your thing, and maybe you require that your compensation be monetary, not sausage-ary. If you live in the L.A. area or are willing to relocate, you may be interested in the following position, which my friend Beckey passed along to me recently, again via Craigslist:
Please submit your resume and picture if you do not submit picture and resume you will not be considered
Looking for hardworking person to be personal assistant and apartment manger.
The job comes with a apartment accross the street from the LA County Art Museum.
This is a 6 day a week job.
You must be a US citizen or have a green card.
We do not give time off for auditions.
You must be bondable and never been to jail.
The job requires you to take care of a gernan shepard 24/7
Since you will be planing parties and activities on a boat you should feel comfortable on a boat.
Your responsibilties include the following:
1. Managing a senior apartment building.
2. Running errands.
3. Planning parties on a private yacht.
4. Helping as a deck hand on the boat.
5. Driving a car for the principals in the company.
6. Organizing parties and social events.
7. Doing spreadsheets and typing letters on a computer
This ad just has the most fascinating mix of responsibilities: managing a senior apartment community, tending to a German Shepherd (“24/7”), planning yacht parties and serving as a deck hand. Any one of these activities would likely provide the employee with years of stories to tell, but throw them all together into one job, and you’ve got a sitcom on your hands for sure, even more so when you read on to discover the following:
The right candidate is a person who can think for themselves and feels comfortable in any situation and is a bit funloving.
There are parties that you are responsibe for every Sat and some Sundays. You must be able to lift 50 lbs. This would be in an emergency.
I absolutely want to know what “emergency” might arise that would require that the candidate be able to lift fifty pounds. My friend Beckey surmised it would likely have to involve the German Shepherd–perhaps if he goes overboard during one of the weekly yacht parties? From the looks of things, this job seems to offer both danger and opportunity. A crisis surely awaits!
These are just some of the exciting career paths that await you if necessity or boredom have you looking for a new job. In a few short weeks time, you could find yourself with a freezer full of (turkey sausages) or a new pair of gloves to wear to your nitpicking job. Or perhaps you’ll enjoy the glamour of weekly yacht parties with a passle of senior citizens–a German Shepherd by your side and a new set of skills as a deck hand at your fingertips. And hey–wasn’t it Confucius who said, “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”?
Or maybe that was Donna Chang.