From the Seinfeld episode “The Shower Head”
Kramer, Newman and a ‘salesman’ are at the back of a van in an alley.
Salesman: All right, I got everything here. I got the Cyclone F series, Hydra Jet Flow, Stockholm Superstream, you name it.
Jerry: What do you recommend?
Salesman: What are you looking for?
Kramer: Power, man. Power.
Newman: Like Silkwood.
Kramer: That’s for radiation.
Newman: That’s right.
For close to 15 years, this scene wasn’t funny for me at all. Because the Seinfeld episode – where Jerry, Kramer, and Newman suffer from pathetic low-flow showers – hit too close to home.
When I lived in my childhood home, I was spoiled. I didn’t think twice about the quality of our showerhead.
My wake-up call began in college. The dorm showers provided a pitiful amount of pressure. But I didn’t pay much heed – no appliances were top-tier in the building.
Then, when I lived in Florida and later Colorado, I realized the bitter truth:
Most showers suck.
It’s not just limp pressure. The designs are lousy. Even with showerheads that offer your choice of setting. Water can hit you with a needle-like singular spurt. No thanks. Or drizzle on you from a ring, like you were planted in a delicate flower garden.
My frustration grew because I knew a real shower’s potential. Where water sprayed you so evenly, over such a wide surface area, that it felt like a dense fog was pushing you. Instead of raining down on you, the water enveloped and danced over your skin. Like a blanket of mist.
I ordered fancy showerheads from Amazon. 5-star reviews gushed how great they were.
Meh. They never quite lived up.
What surprised me most, was my childhood home’s unassuming shower nozzle. It didn’t flare out to the size of a dinner plate. Instead of seven different spray settings, it featured only a button to cut off the flow.
Sometimes, I’d try to convince myself I was idealizing the past. Until I visited home and its spray greeted me like a warm blanket, fresh from the dryer.
I’d never experienced anything like it elsewhere… except… a cross-country trip when I stayed at a Super 8. Much to my shock, they somehow almost captured the essence. But that was only a fleeting caress…
For almost 15 years, I wondered. And searched.
Until, during a visit home for Thanksgiving, I asked my mom where she got that showerhead. Within mere minutes, she showed me a link to a local hardware store’s website.
I purchased one. A few days after I returned home, it arrived in the mail. For some reason, I hesitated to make the switch. Maybe I didn’t want to face more disappointment. But, after moving apartments and bringing the new showerhead with me, I knew it was time.
As soon as I screwed it in place, turned the water on, and stuck my hand into the blast… I knew I’d finally found it.
Since then, instead of languishing in a cold, damp room while tolerating a small section of my body getting rinsed with water… I’m transported into a vibrant vortex of cleansing mist.
All from a humble showerhead. Here it is:
I didn’t know it at the time, but that book would change my life… and lead me to create Should You Date Nate.
Over a decade ago, I was sitting in my college dorm room, reading through emails. I certainly wasn’t out partying, even though it was probably a Friday night. After all, I was a depressed freshman without friends, dates, or a speck of social savvy…
… and if what you’re reading now were an advertisement for a sex or dating info-product, I’d go on to say I bought the Killer Orgasms book and rode some mystical pleasure train to success, fulfillment, and hey let’s throw financial abundance in there too.
But this is a true story of my life, which would go on to suck for the next several years. So I’ll skip to the pertinent details:
In my dorm room, I happened to be reading an email newsletter by a guy in the “attract women” niche.
An ad appeared in the middle of the content, for a book called Killer Orgasms
I wondered who the heck would write a book with a title like that. So I checked out the name:
Maybe you’ve heard of him. Maybe not.
I had not. So I looked him up.
And I found the same thing you can find today, over ten years later. It’s the self-proclaimed “Most Valuable Website On The Internet” authored by Gary Halbert. I dove inside, and discovered a treasure trove of marketing newsletters, all available online, for free.
For me, it really did turn out to be the most valuable website in the internet. Very soon, instead of attending college classes, I sat inside and studied Gary’s lessons.
Later I’d drop out of college and go on a bizarre entrepreneurial journey
That’s a story for another time.
But you’re wondering about PR secrets. And how I did what I did. And why.
(If the link doesn’t work, just Google: Gary Halbert Personal Ad)
That link will take you to an online replica of an ad Gary Halbert wrote, decades ago. It’s a personal ad for himself. Except, instead of running some tiny ad in the Personals section of the newspaper, Gary ran it as a full-page ad in the LA Times.
And when I found out what he did, it planted the seed in my mind to try the same thing in modern times.
Of course, I knew I’d have to do things a little differently than Gary Halbert did. A newspaper ad today wouldn’t work, unless I felt like dating someone in the 70+ crowd. Age may be just a number, but that’s pushing it. And in the writing, I knew I could only reach for the same level of Gary’s genius, even if I fell short. His ad is worth a long, careful study.
For many years, the idea remained a seed buried in the back of my mind. But then, roughly two-and-a-half years ago, it began to grow… and then explode.
Tune in next time for when I pull back the curtain on how I wrote my website. How on earth would I write to single women, to attract them? Did I have any idea what I was doing?
Why did I end up writing something so bizarre?
I’ll answer all of the above, and more. Then we’ll go on to traffic-generation strategies… website-building stuff… and how to apply everything you will learn to your situation.
P.S. Because Gary Halbert always included some P.S. and I want to honor him:
Today I’m going to the Underground marketing event here in Denver. Then I’m flying to LA for a Digital Marketer event. Then to Portland for some chi gung training. Then Vegas for SupplySide West. Then Baltimore to visit Agora. Then Cabo for the Mimosa MasterMind. I’ll be living out of a small backpack the whole time and I’ll let you know how it goes.
One of the major catalysts I had in creating exponential publicity was the “cringe factor.” Or the “ick factor.”
Other than my stunt being obviously bizarre, many people had a visceral reaction that something was just off, when they saw it. And there’s actually a scientific hypothesis why.
It’s called the uncanny valley. Here’s how it works:
Think of a teddy bear.
They’re nice, they’re cute, they’re cuddly
And they’re purposefully designed to look very different from a real bear. Instead they often share some human traits – which is endearing.
Many dolls look like people too. Much more so. And a problem was discovered with this. Because if you create an object that looks very close to a person… but isn’t quite 100%… it’s freaky-looking. The fascinating part is, this effect only kicks into gear when the percentage is very high. Which is why a realistic doll can be off-putting, but not an obviously-simple doll or even a smiley face. The same effect occurs with a robot’s appearance.
Some advertisers have felt the wrath of this effect, when testing out a new mascot idea.
I believe something similar happened with Should You Date Nate.
The website was just weird enough that people couldn’t tell if it were real
On top of that, my professionally-made video added to the realness (that’s why it was included). But there was still some doubt. The icing on the cake was that I was reading from a script, and did so smoothly. But there was still a script.
As a result, there was a lingering “is this real? Something’s off about this” effect which – if it’s small enough (yes, small enough) can be unsettling.
And before any haters pile on, yeah I know that people are also put-off by narcissism but that’s not true in this case. Arrogant prick? Sure! But not narcissism.
Another factor that made this cringe-worthy was the twist that, just by putting on a big show to get a date, I’m automatically signaling that I have trouble getting dates, which can be unattractive.
I thought about that while creating this project, and that’s why I included a bunch of disqualification selling. But I knew it wouldn’t be enough, and I’d have to deal with the cringe-factor. Any normal, rational person would probably have scrapped the project.
Of course, I chose to move forward and test it anyway 🙂
The cringe factor aided in the free publicity, and severely skewed the ratio of the public reaction. It became almost 100% negative. However, it also increased the website’s exposure, and increased the private reaction, which was much more balanced towards the positive.
I’ll have much more to say on this soon, but I’ve been busy prepping for travelling, which I’ll begin in a few days.
“You should be proud, man,” my friend said.
“… yeah… I know… I just… yeah, I just need the perspective.”
I was glad he texted me Thursday night, asking about the publicity I’d been getting. He reminded me that there’s more than one perspective on this whole thing. And I don’t mean a positive mindset – although that’s important – but an actual, nitty-gritty perspective on measured results.
It’s an extremely important lesson in business. Here’s an example:
Imagine you’re at a backyard BBQ about a year ago, talking about Trump before he became President Trump
You’re standing in a group of 10 people. A few begin foaming at the mouth and shouting about what a pig he is, how stupid he is, and how everyone hates him.
Others nod in agreement, and then pile on.
“He should just stop.”
You’d probably walk away from this exchange, thinking Trump didn’t have a chance. I mean, it’s obvious, right? Nobody was going to vote for him.
… except they did. So what gives?
Here’s what happened at the 10-person gathering, that you didn’t notice:
A couple folks standing there, didn’t say a word. Maybe they remained stone-faced. Or they nodded just to be agreeable. So you didn’t include them in your mental tally of Trump supporters. But that’s exactly what they were.
That’s not all. A couple folks who shouted how much they hated Trump, were covering themselves.
Why would people do this?
Because oftentimes behavior trends have nothing to do with visible trends on social media. Especially if that behavior can be done in private. Like voting.
Look at it from a practical perspective
Why on earth would someone who is going to vote for Trump, put up with rage, insults, and potential violence? It’s smarter to stay quiet and do your thing anonymously.
A similar dynamic occurs in business online. When a business puts an ad online, you can sometimes publicly see denouncements and insults.
You don’t see the people busting out their credit cards and buying the product. Even if they’re doing it in droves.
In the same way, you could visibly see the hateful messages about me – and they were definitely backed up by ones sent to me.
But you didn’t see positive words of encouragement publicly – not many.
Because those were all sent privately, straight to me
It gives a skewed perspective unless you’re able to see everything.
Same with dating. There’s no way in hell any woman who’s interested, is going to bother telling a bunch of spiteful people online. Why put up with that?
(And for anyone reacting to a comparison between President Trump, online businesses, and me – it’s just a teaching metaphor – take it or leave it.)
This has massive implications for business and politics. Anyone catering to the internet and social media for public popularity is misguided at best. A better goal is private popularity among people who count.
That’s the difference between fostering activity and productivity. Which would you rather have?
I’ll go into more detail on this on my private list, which you can still get on at www.shouldyoudatenate.com
To be clear, sometimes the two do overlap, and you want to be publicly and privately popular. But if you’re in business selling a niche product and the vast majority of the population is not a fitting customer for you… you’d be surprised how useless popular opinion can be.
“Hi, this is suchandsuch from The Dr. Phil Show…”
As soon as I read the email while sitting in a coffee shop, I realized two things:
I briefly considered calling the number the representative provided…
… and then thought better of it.
Why bother? I could imagine any number of scenarios where I was lured onto the show and then condemned for being superficial, mocked for being odd, or some combination. Years ago, a businessman I was learning from almost ran into the same trap, when an HBO show called him.
Instead, I continued wading through the 258 unread emails in the special inbox I set up. A new one appeared every two minutes or so. Separating out the hate mail was easy because gmail lets you see the first few words of every email. I simply selected all of them, marked them as “read” and dragged them into a Hate Mail folder I created.
My plan is to print out all the hate mail in a stack and make art out of it
Speaking of email, let’s break down the initial numbers – plenty of people have asked me.
Hate Mail: A little over 900 messages.
Cheerful Mail: A little over 250 messages.
Media Requests: A couple dozen.
Mail from women interested in me: Around 100 messages.
Let’s dive deeper because numbers can be very deceiving. I’m surprised the hate mail figure is so low. My website had a form you could enter a message into, without even providing an email address. It doesn’t get more anonymous than that, which most haters require.
Still, for a few days, 900+ messages aint bad
Around 100 messages from interested women aint bad either. But that’s not all it seems. The vast majority of these women are from all around the U.S. and even some in Europe, Australia, South America, Asia… which sounds amazing (it is) but it’s not like I can meet all of them in-person tomorrow. Although now that I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I should travel the world because meeting one great person is worth the effort.
But I’ve also met women locally. On my way to meet one, I wondered if I were being catfished. There was only one way to find out (and, no, I wasn’t).
The most popular questions I’ve gotten so far are:
No and no.
A genuine gold digger is going to be very precise in their targeting, and are often the aggressor. They look for certain signals. Someone offering a free vacation as an attention-grabber is not displaying one of those signals. I’m sure any savvy gold digger who heard about my offer, instantly knew I’d be financially aware enough not to be taken advantage of long-term.
And psychos? Easily spotted just from email.
Two more things before I end this first update:
First… if you want more in-depth how-to of the marketing behind this – both what I did well and what I horribly screwed up – you can get on the list at shouldyoudatenate.com.
Second… the 250+ messages of cheerful mail
I was not expecting them. They were vastly outnumbered by the hateful comments, and didn’t have the same predatory cleverness… but they impacted me much more. I replied to every single one, thanking the writer (although I think a few slipped through the cracks as I waded my way through all the emails – if I missed yours, I’m sorry).
And some people reached out because they needed a little kindness themselves. I was honored to hear from them. I hope I cheered them up even a tiny bit as much as they did me.
A few nights ago, I had a vision after finishing a standing meditation.
Nothing scary. I didn’t take any bad shrooms or other psychedelics. I merely quieted the mind for long periods of time, so it could step out of the way.
When my vision ended, I received a very clear sign of its significance and felt inspired to write it here. I’ll reveal exactly what happened at the end of this piece.
I imagined myself at a marketing seminar, chatting with fellow attendees. No idea where – except we were grouped together in a hotel lobby.
A younger guy asked about friends and family.
“How do you know when to cut them out of your life?”
When do they become a bad influence?
Which ones are just looking out for you, when they say something you perceive as negative?
How do you tell the difference?
“That’s so easy,” I answered. “Sometimes, when I talk, people really should take notes. This is one of those times…”
Think about the things you need, to accomplish what you want. If it’s building a business, then you need a marketing plan. You might need product. A website. A storefront. Training. It goes on.
Or perhaps you want to get in better shape. Maybe you’ll need to change your diet, join a gym. That list can grow long as well.
Let’s call everything you could think of… stuff
There’s a big ol’ list of stuff you need to get, do, or have.
And then there’s you.
So, we have two different things here. The stuff and the you.
Now consider someone in your family, or a friend of yours. Someone who’s criticizing, and you wonder if they’re holding you back, being a bad influence, or just looking out for you.
Here’s an easy test to determine that:
Let’s say you’re trying to start a business. And the critic is a friend of yours. The next time you’re talking and the criticism comes up, shrug your shoulders and say something like this:
“Yeah, I know. What I’m attempting is a long shot. Maybe a bunch of the stuff I try won’t work. But I’m going to keep at it until I succeed.” Then, look that person right in the eye and ask: “You believe I’ll eventually succeed… right?”
That person’s answer… is the moment of truth
If the answer is “Yes!” or some equally enthusiastic variation, then you’ve got a keeper.
If the answer is some mutant concoction of other things, like a sideways glance, laughter, some eye-rolling (reading body language is important here), or a dithering “uhhhh” or shoulders shrugging… then you just got your answer.
Don’t wimp out when it comes to your judgement. If you observe anything other than a crystal-clear affirmative answer that you’re going to succeed, then your “friend” might as well be screaming a big, fat “NO” to your face.
If it is indeed a friend… end the friendship.
If it’s a family member… put distance in between yourselves.
If it’s a spouse… consider a divorce.
Because you just found out the root of that person’s skepticism
They’re not skeptical of your plans. That’s fine – healthy, even. YOU should be skeptical of your plans. And training. And ideas. Your stuff. If you have friends or family who can help you weed through stuff that’s not worthy of you, cherish them.
But if you find out the root of someone’s skepticism is you… then you have a deal-breaker. Because it means you’re taking part in a relationship with someone who expects you to fail. Period.
Remove that person from your life.
To quote from Charles Bukowski’s Roll The Dice (a fitting poem for this topic):
“Do it… Do it… Do it… Do it. All the way.”
As far as how to end things, I’m not the authority on that. I’ve always operated on an oddball wavelength, so unsupportive people drifting out of my life has been the norm. I will say that cutting off an abusive friend (if they don’t support you and they do make their lack of support well-known, they’re abusing your friendship) seems more a matter of letting things die down than dramatically cutting things off.
Or you could let the cognitive dissonance machine in your head roar full-blast on this issue. You could make excuses, recoil at such “extreme” measures… and keep your compadre crab positioned perfectly to drag you back into the bucket.
Maybe everything will work out. You’ll keep growing and changing as a person (essential for succeeding in business or transforming your health) and somehow your relationships with the same people will evolve perfectly.
You can keep rotting on barstools with friends, spending Visa or MasterCard’s money on drink tabs while gossiping about people who don’t give a shit about you
Or wasting away weekends on sofas with friends, sharing your latest pre-programmed reactions to the pictures and sounds emanating from your televisions…
… and still somehow land ass-first into riches, a great body, enlightenment, whatever. It could happen.
But based on my experience and observations, it’s rare. Most of the time, people who transform their lives surround themselves with other life-transformers. Or they change their associates, as they grow.
In fact, these kinds of people never really fit into traditional social circles in the first place. They don’t need this advice. So much so, that I hesitate to write any of this, because I wonder if it’s at all useful to a true entrepreneur.
Perhaps if you need this sort of advice… if this sort of thing is hard for you… it might be too late.
I don’t know – but I’m optimistic enough to publish this anyway
The night I had this vision, I imagined finishing my impromptu speech to the young man at the seminar… and even visualized myself having a “mic drop moment” where I nonchalantly drop my microphone to the floor as I walk away.
Right as the microphone hit the floor in my imaginary world… my apartment’s air conditioner, which had been running for about fifteen minutes, shut off. The exact moment.
“Ah, a good sign,” I thought. And I knew I’d write this one down.
In less than an hour…
… you can exercise your body hard enough to cause your brain and your sex organs gush out hormones that keep your sex drive high, your muscles strong, and your fat deposits small.
… you can relish the peacefulness of breathing slowly and deeply as you walk around your neighborhood.
… you can volunteer for a charitable organization (assuming you can find one that doesn’t perpetuate psychological dependency or amplify the condition of learned helplessness – good luck with that).
… you can meditate, at the very least causing a positive change in your brain chemistry that upgrades your creative ability to solve problems that would be otherwise insurmountable in your current state of mental health.
But instead of doing any of that… please, please grab your remote control and, for at least one hour per day, willingly submit to more dogshit programmed to push your emotional hot buttons and fuck your brain into demanding more prescription drugs.
Several entries ago, I wrote about how one of the proudest achievements of my life originated from the money my friend loaned me for business. Now I’ll reveal why.
It wasn’t the advertising campaign succeeding – it failed.
It wasn’t either of us making a ton of fast money – we didn’t.
Instead, it was how I paid my friend back.
Every month, without fail, I wrote and mailed him a check for $500. Somehow I made it work, even when I was earning $12 an hour, paying for rent and food and car repair… and then eventually state taxes owed on top of that.
Then the gold-buying business went bankrupt.
Few people living a middle or upper-class lifestyle in the United States understand how vital it is for those near the poverty line to get their hands on consistent “right now” money. A mere missed week of income can mean the difference between paid bills and a roof over your head… or penalties, a repossessed car, or worse.
Imagine being cut off from oxygen… for a “mere” five minutes
(Which is why savvy employers offer daily pay for low-wage jobs.)
In 3 days, I landed a new job. But it didn’t officially start for another week, and that gap punched a near-deathblow to my finances.
I called my landlord, explained the situation, and asked for a few more days to send my rent check. He allowed it.
Then I wrote another $500 check to my friend, and sent. Paying back my business loan would absolutely not be delayed.
That was, I as much as I can remember, the second-to-last check.
Eventually, I paid off the entire loan. Not a single payment was even a day late.
No drama. No whining…
No twisting his arm because he was a friend. No avoiding the issue. And no making excuses because I was near-broke.
When it was complete, I knew I had planted a multi-million-dollar seed, in a way no other action could have done.
After all, anyone can talk shit about money. It seems most people do. How they want to make more, how they try to save, and why they should definitely, totally, really really should have some. I PROVED when the chips are down, you can count on me. How rare is that? What repercussions would it create?
These are just off the top of my head:
Not a bad return on investment, just from doing the right thing.
If more people understood and practiced this, there’d be many more rich people out there
Note: I’m compelled to answer the question permeating the energetic airwaves: What would I have done if I truly couldn’t pay back the loan on time? Like if the new gig had fallen through and I was unemployed for 30, 60, 90 days or more?
Again, off the top of my head, I would first determine that I truly couldn’t pay him on time. Then I would immediately contact my friend to explain the situation. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy would not be an option as I’d done so only a couple years prior. Filing a Chapter 13… eh, maybe, but I’d rather negotiate in private.
I’d ask to change the terms. Longer payout in exchange for more interest. And even if my friend turned into a cold-blooded animal, the profit derived from him squeezing me wouldn’t be worth the financial expense and mental effort. So I’m sure he and I could have reached a fair agreement.
Another note: If I had used the above process with all my creditors back in the day, including the IRS, I might have been able to avoid my bankruptcy and even ended up in a much better financial position – let alone the better credit history. Live and learn. Or, perhaps in the case of some folks reading this, read and learn so you don’t have to live and learn.
Life after working at the gold-buying store begins…
As we drove away from the store for the last time, my co-worker regaled me with how she was going to scam the unemployment system. The scheme was simple:
Say you sign up to collect unemployment. You must select your former employer from a database of recently bankrupt businesses. Then, every two weeks you get paid. However, you must submit proof that you’re looking for work. This can be done with something as simple as documentation that you’ve applied for five different jobs every two weeks. (When it comes to the specific numbers, I’m going off memory here.)
The deviousness, of course, is in the details
You can apply for jobs on the Department of Labor’s database. And you choose your standards for a potential job, which means you can select criteria that you’re grossly underqualified for. My co-worker made sure she was only sent information about jobs that paid almost six figures and required a PhD. She’d apply to them all, and would never hear back from a single one (probably). But she was still fulfilling her required “work” to collect unemployment for months and months.
For all I know, that’s exactly what she did while living off savings and her husband’s income.
(If you’ve ever attempted to hire employees, and were inundated with garbage resumes and applications… this scam might have been why. You were simply a blip on the sender’s bi-weekly effort to keep the unemployment spigot on.)
Anyway, I dropped her off, returned the Uhaul…
… settled back into my Aurora condo, and crawled under the covers for early sleep
The next morning, I awoke feeling like I was still in a dream.
The light shining through my tiny condo seemed stale and still.
Since becoming a sign-spinner, I’d changed cities… met dozens of new people… formed relationships… felt my heart open… blasted through challenges… heck even went through a bankruptcy… and through it all I had one common, comforting string:
And now that was gone.
It felt like my tether rope had just snapped
I had managed to grab a few mementos. One of the business’s posters. A sign I spun. A t-shirt. And a pair of shoes gifted to me by a fellow sign-spinner. In the next three months, I’d punish them to shreds.
But for the time being, I rummaged through Craigslist, continuing my job search.
On Monday, I drove to what I thought was a simple unloading job on a dock… but would turn out to be probably the grossest job for which I’ll ever apply.
At the address, I found a little office nestled in between massive industrial equipment – like a refinery.
Inside, a secretary and little dog greeted me with an equal level of enthusiasm. He (the dog) sort of sniffed my hand a bit when I placed it near enough to give him the option.
“I guess he kinda likes me,” I said.
“Yeah, he’s not too enthusiastic.”
I was directed to a room with some forms to fill out. Another man there, was already halfway through them. We talked about marriage. He highly recommended it.
Then I went in for my interview
The patches of frostbitten skin covering my interviewer’s face revealed his decades of outdoor labor.
“Are you scared of heights?” he asked.
“… A little.”
I wasn’t going to lie. But, I suppose a more truthful answer would have been heights terrify me. This wasn’t going well.
“Are you scared of confined spaces?”
“Now that’s a surprising answer. There are two kinds of people who can’t handle small spaces. Guys like me…” (he was a big guy) “… and guys like you.” He was referring to my height.
I pondered that a bit… and wondered if maybe I could get claustrophobic, if given the opportunity. But I wasn’t about to pontificate my speculative doubts out loud. Especially when a job was on the line, and I already had one strike against me.
At least he didn’t ask me about back taxes owed
Instead, he began describing exactly what the company did, and what my role would be. When I first saw the brief Craigslist ad, I had visions of unloading boxes of produce or something.
The truth was closer to this:
I’d don a protective Hazmat suit complete with oxygen tank, crawl inside a tanker full of human shit, and scrap the inner walls clean of shit residue
Maybe I had some details wrong, but that sounded like the essence.
The family-owned company contracted with other companies that used portable toilets. These guys would drive their trucks in, suck all the collected shit and urine out, and transport it back to their refining facility. They’d drain their trucks of the shit, and then a couple guys (in the position for which I was applying) would mop up the remainder from inside.
“It’s hard… dirty… smelly work,” he said.
Okay, maybe he hadn’t mentioned smelly.
Truth be told, I hardly recoiled at the nastiness of the work. Instead, I worried about how physically tough it’d be. Sign-spinning’s ease and simplicity was such a blessing. I feared my multi-year respite was over.
More than fear. I was terrified.
My interviewer grabbed a stack of filled-out forms from other applicants. “This is my week ahead.”
So even getting this shitty (literally) job was a long-shot
Still, I knew the raw odds were an illusion – displaying a modicum of common sense and congeniality in an interview can be quite the leg-up.
As I drove home, I felt it went perfectly. Not because I knew I’d get the job… simply because I was meant to show up and do my thing, whatever the outcome.
Open interviews for the laundry company truck-loading job, were the next day.
It would be the strangest, multi-hour-long interview process I’d ever experienced…
On March 15th, 2014, I ambled outside for my final shift as a sign-spinner.
On the southeast corner of Wadsworth and Mississippi, in Lakewood, Colorado, I listened to some music… a bit of an audiobook… and finally pulled down my headphones so I could take in the din of traffic.
I teared up, drowning in the dreadful knowledge that this chapter in my life was over.
Earlier in the day, two other guys and I closed the second-to-last store. I’d developed quite the reputation for clumsiness, and somehow managed to spill about fifty paper cups while loading a drinking fountain into the Uhaul. The guys couldn’t stop laughing. We ate some breakfast – our last meal together – and drove back to the final store.
After unloading everything, I headed outside to sign-spin one last time. If nothing else, for nostalgia.
I thought about the amazing people I’d met
One woman who’d overcome cancer in her teens, without chemo or radiation…
A man raising a child as a single father, who worked his way up from sign-spinner to buyer in the store…
Someone who’d immigrated from Russia as a teenager, and was working on a second Master’s degree here in the states…
The sign-spinner who did real-estate and dabbled in deejaying part-time…
The functioning alcoholic…
The ones who partied… meditated… smoked weed… were going to school…
… and too many more to list. I vividly felt how we weren’t exactly on the same wavelength, but I cherished my time with them, and listening to their stories.
Over and over I checked the time on my MP3 player, relishing every minute I had left
With about 2 minutes to go, I turned north to see the crosswalk light flashing the number of seconds left for pedestrians.
“Funny,” I thought, “It’s almost like a countdown timer for me.”
The world around me quieted as I stared at the numbers.
It was over
Well, I had two minutes left…
… but then a new feeling washed over me.
“Oh. It DID end.”
Everything felt flat. The noise of traffic was jarring and somehow alien. I felt so… out of place… standing there. The grief was gone. I knew I had moved on. A tiny bit ahead of schedule.
I said my goodbyes and walked back into the store.
There were still a couple hours left in the official workday. For no good reason, the remaining half-dozen people lingered around. The owner sat on the floor, legs crossed, distracting himself by playing with his German Shephard.
I may have been done with sign-spinning, but I still soaked up every moment I could inside the store. Because what faced me on the other side made my stomach churn:
But there was nothing to do… except frantically search through Craigslist for another job. I was back to where I started almost three years before. Nothing in the section for Marketing seemed to fit.* From the General Labor section, I could only find a few prospects…
… and one stood out. Actually, it was a post I’d seen a few weeks earlier, and had considered applying for back then. It was a job loading trucks for a commercial laundry company. From the description, it sounded like I could do it, and it seemed like the hiring process gave me an above-average chance of success. But the surface logic I was imputing, wasn’t my real attraction to the post.
The real reason was… something about the job listing felt right. A slight calmness came over me when I first saw it. I got the same reaction – although stronger – when I saw it a second time.
So I wrote down the info.
Finally, 6PM arrived – the usual time we closed for the day.
As good a time as any to leave forever
The owner and his girlfriend planned to hang around and pack some stuff. The rest of us shuffled past them as if to give our condolences, and said our goodbyes, one at a time. I was last.
The owner’s girlfriend gave me a couple gift cards for PayLess, and made me promise I’d use them to buy a new pair of shoes. I said I would (a promise I would keep… which would lead to an odd “leap of faith” turning point in my life).
I shook the owner’s hand and thanked him one last time. He quickly thanked me too, barely able to look me in the eye.
Outside, the Uhaul truck waited for me. As I latched the back shut, I choked back my tears so my co-worker wouldn’t see me crying.
Then came a weekend in limbo…
*If I weren’t in such a chronically-high cortisol-induced haze, I’m sure I would have been more creative in my efforts to get marketing gigs (apart from my constant testing in my direct mail business). This experience has given me a new appreciation for the mental challenges when raising one’s self out of poverty.