Sunday, September 1, 2013

Private-Sector Misery

So, I've begun the semester at a new place of employment.  Let's just call it the "Almond Orchard" for now, for good reasons that I won't go into.  It definitely looks nicer than Wolf 359, in that the campus actually has grass and trees.  As I've done in the past, I've also sought to supplement my income with work in the private-sector as well.  The private-sector definitely has qualities that are enjoyable, in that one can set their own hours, their own pay-rate, and it's much easier to get people to meet at a location that is convenient for you.  A few individuals in my church came forward to have me help with some odd-jobs at their homes.  One man had me over to help him plant sweet-potatoes.  Another family had me over to pull weeds, and a third man has been using my services regularly.  He has me do all kinds of stuff.  A few weeks ago, he had me take the weed-eater to a long row of dried brush along his orchard.  It had become a fire hazard.  All last week, I was in his orchard pruning "suckers" from his almond trees.  He said he would likely find others things for me to do.  Everyone pays me $10/hour.

There's also a miserable side of the coin, and I would like to take the time to share some of that.

1)  "@#$$#&&"!   One man in my church had me over to help him with a cement job.  He told me he understood that I had no experience working with cement but that since he had everything all planned out, it should be a relatively easy task to carry out.  After all, we would only be pouring cement into the grooves on his patio.  Well, I'm not that strong to begin with and since it turned out that this job required me to lift things that are heavy for me, I ended up working rather slow in the long run.  By about 3pm, he was a bit pissed at me and commented rather angrily, "You know, you should have figured the job out by now.  I mean, you see what everyone else is doing.  But I guess I shouldn't expect much from you since you are an educator so you never learned how to pay attention.  Get in the truck."
    I rode with him in his truck down the two-lane road to his other farming property to pick up some sand-bags.  On the way there, he kept driving up onto the levy, off the levy, and swerving all across the road.  When we arrived at the farm, he slammed on his breaks.  Did I mention that there were no seat-belts in his truck?
    A few weeks later, he came to me wanting me to help him sell his boat on craigslist.  He knows very little about computers and how to use the internet.  He offered me a 15% commission on the boat if I took care of this for him.  He chose a username for craigslist and gmail and I signed him up right there.  The next day, he wanted to change things a bit.  Let's just say that his decision to suddenly change the name of both his craigslist and gmail accounts created quite a mess.  His old account was still important for forwarding messages to his new account, as craigslist lets you change your account name but still sends inquiries to your original email account that you signed up with.  He wanted to have nothing to do with his old email account so in order to receive inquiries from potential buyers, I had to set up forwarding (yes, this whole thing sounds silly so please don't ask me to provide more detail).  One would think that the obvious solution would be to disregard the current craigslist account and open a new one and have it link to his new email address.  Well, he absolutely ADORES the new name that he changed his craigslist account to, so creating an even newer account with 29 attached to the login name is completely out of the question (yes, I did ask him about this).  Oh, and did I mention that he threw a tantrum in his living room?
    He informed me that he was going to talk to his sons about deleting the old gmail account.  I told him, please don't do that, we need that old email account in order to get the forwarding to work.  He had it deleted anyway.  I double checked by accessing the craigslist ad and sending an inquiry.  Nothing was forwarded to the new account.  I even checked the spam folders. (By the way, he gave me access to his new email account in order to monitor inquiries.  He wants me to personally be in contact with the customers as a kind of agent.) So, somehow, they had the old email account deactivated.  I called him expressing concern about this and was cut off by his wife who told me, "No. No. No.  You have to remember who this belongs to.  This isn't yours and you don't have the privilege to tell us what to keep and what not to keep."
    Hind-sight is 20/20.  Had I known that he likes to pick at the cake after it has been iced, I would have just disregarded that craigslist account and opened a new one with his pet login name, rather than just change his old login name...  What part of don't delete the old gmail account, don't delete anything, was so hard to understand?  I'm not going to be doing any more work for this guy in the near future.  Funny thing is that he wants me to clean the boat but wasn't sure when it would work into his schedule.  So I told him to call me.  He gave me the strangest look and told me to keep checking.  So, after asking him if he had my number still, I told him to call me as soon as he wants the boat cleaned.  This is funny because I happen to know that he HATES calling people to do work for him, and expects them to come to him instead.  So, I'm avoiding him by playing him like a fiddle.  If he does call me, I'll be too busy to do anything.
    I'm not working for you.  I'm not selling your boat, as it won't sell anyway.  I don't work well with people who throw tantrums, and I sure as hell don't tolerate being insulted for being an educator.

2)  Homework Machines:  My next dose of misery began with an idea.  What if I did a google search for "math tutor", looked at the first few posts, and noted which entities carried the advertising for said tutoring business?  That way, I could use that entity/agency to advertise my own tutoring business and hope that my ad shows up in the first few google results as well.  Sadly, you will probably believe the kinds of posts I encountered regarding private math tutors within just 10 miles of the "Almond Orchard".  Here are some examples:

    "Guaranteed A on your next homework assignment!  Send an image of the problems to my email and I'll    work them out.  $1/problem.  $30/hr if we meet in person to cover additional topics.  I use pay-pal."

    "Nervous about that test coming up?  Send me your login information for your learning platform, and I'll arrange for the test to be completed.  $1/question.  Pay-pal.  Ideal for homeschooling or students of "Online Connections Academy."

Holy cow!  Is there some kind of ethics-police to contact?

3)  Retention Deficit Disorder:  Colleges struggle with retaining students.  Why should I be any different?  Right now, for every 5 students, maybe 1 will actually commit to using me regularly.  My favorite requests are the people who want me to teach them an entire remedial course.  These people typically need the course in order to get a certain score on a placement test. You see, they will meet with me maybe twice and then disappear after that.  I have never, in 10 years of private tutoring, ever had one of those students actually stick with me for more than 2 sessions. It's especially revealing when they confess that the reason they don't want to take the course at the college is because the college covers too much material. Then they want me to cover less material in a much smaller time interval, but they also need me to teach it slowly.  Sounds reasonable. 
    There's one young man whom I really enjoy working with.  He's an ROTC student, and taking honors precalc and will be working with me regularly.  This kid is very bright and is actually interested in the material.  I also happen to know that his parents have instilled an excellent work-ethic upon him, and it's also obvious just from working with him. 

4)  Homeschooling:  Should I even touch this?  I mean, it seems harmless enough, but then...  What happens when a family hires you to homeschool their children.  Perhaps the family uses you maybe twice and then disappears, even after you went over the curriculum with the parents and made clear to them that a grade cannot be issued everything is covered.  But, then they decide to throw in the towel and contact you 3 months later wanting to inquire about grades.  I feel as though I would have to know how to word a release of reliability or commitment statement, or do what the colleges do by charging tuition and issuing drop dates or even making the "tuition" non-refundable.  I would be dealing with the same crap, all over again.
    Back at Wolf 359, I was approached by a family in my church who had just moved from Washington.  They wanted me to homeschool their 5th grade son.  The kid was quite bright and I looked forward to working with him.  The parents dealt with the paperwork with the local school district, with regards to informing them that the family would not be attending the public schools.  They wanted me to cover the math and teach the science curriculum from Answers in Genesis, so I went online to that site and began planning lessons (the lesson about UFO's was particularly interesting and imho their doctrine on extraterrestrials is a bit extreme in that it limits God's capabilities,  but that's one for the theologians to work out).  The mom announced, "We're shooting for the day after Labor Day!"  That day came, and nothing.  Two weeks went by, and I contacted them.  They said they had a delay getting the other curriculum materials.  We would be doing it in three weeks.  Then it became four weeks.  Then after four weeks, hey let's do it next month!  Yeah!  Then "next month" didn't happen.  One day, they introduced me to their teenage son who at first wanted to stay in Washington but then decided to join his parents in Wolf 359 about two months after they moved there. 
    "EMH, this is our teenage son!  He'll be taking the Algebra 2 component, but he didn't pass Algebra 1 so he needs a tutor to help him through Algebra 2."
    I replied, "No.  If he didn't pass Algebra 1, then he's not ready for Algebra 2.  We'll need to cover Algebra 1 first and I can certainly help with that.  You need to understand Algebra 1 before you can understand Algebra 2." 
    Insubordination?  Maybe.  But, I can't just watch someone set themselves up for failure all because they are in a hurry.  Even after that, when November came the mom was still enthusiastic about having me work with their kids.  She went around to everyone in the church telling them how I would be teaching them Geology, math, and other science and that they were "soooooooo" looking forward to it.
    November and December came and I never got a call to come homeschool this family.  I finally made the decision to move back home that December and shot the family an email when I arrived, basically informing them of my decision and that I was no longer available to be their children's teacher.  The gist of the reply was that they were "sorry things didn't work out" for me and that they had secretly been planning to move back to Washington and wouldn't have needed me to begin with.  Somehow, this "homeschooling" was some bizarre fantasy that I had gotten sucked in to.

Anyway, that about sums it up for the private sector.  I'll shut up now, it's time for bed anyway.


  1. My apologies for the grammatical errors. It was late and I was getting sleepy.

  2. I will pay you $15 an hour to clean my house and do yard work. Cash on the barrel. Won't fuck with you. Just show up and do shit and you get paid.

  3. When your "boss" is dumber than your students, it's time to quit. Sounds like you made the right decision to avoid the boat man.

  4. Oh, my. Plenty of misery there. This may be my big-city (and connected suburbs) perspective showing, but it seems to me that the best outcome of networking with church members would be to secure a steady job with someone who doesn't necessarily belong to the church, but with whom you get in contact via a member of the church (or a connection of a member of the church, and/or so on). Working *for* a member of your church, especially on a temporary/part-time basis, can be trickier, and tends to blur boundaries that might be better kept clear. Your mileage may, of course, vary.