Going Rate: $125/Hour

I don't make heaps of money in my current position.

I'm working on improving the outlook in that area, but for now: there's that.

Recently, on occasional days off, I've been picking up supplemental income here and there in the form of market research participation.

"Here and there" is a very literal term in this case. About six months ago I answered a Craigslist ad and drove to a Kohl's half an hour away to try on blouses in the presence of an employee from Zulu.com. Her job is to listen to people talk about the way clothes fit them and why they would or wouldn't buy certain garments.

It was a strange and interesting experience to share a fitting room with a perfect stranger and talk in depth about my body issues and how each blouse exacerbated or alleviated them (Don't worry; this wasn't recorded. I wasn't accidentally starring in fitting room fetish videos for a fitting room fetish website).

Not because it was her job but just out of niceness, the employee would explain to me the garments that I couldn't make sense of, and she offered occasional advice for my future clothes shopping moments of turmoil. A few times, women from the neighboring fitting room asked what was happening and if they could get somebody to sit in THEIR fitting rooms and help THEM!

At the end of that hour, I was handed 50 bucks.

Then, a while ago, a customer came into the branch depositing a payroll check from a market research firm, and she referred me to their website to create a profile. Four months ago this landed me in a room with four other folks where, in front of a two-way mirror, we offered our opinions about a number of Asian grab-and-go snacks a grocery chain is considering developing. An hour later I left with a check for $100 and $25 cash (bonus for arriving on-time--What? I can be early if you like).

Here's what I really like about doing this kind of thing: these market researchers are paying me to give my opinion. I mean I freely give my opinion (sometimes unsolicited) on a daily basis, but it is so, so much better to get paid for it. And it's not like the people are just smiling and politely nodding with that look that kids get when they want the lecture to just be over already(!). They are rapt. They are writing down everything I SAY! As if I were the last word on Asian grab-and-go snacks.

As if I know shit about...



So. That brings me to last week. Some way, somehow, I opened my front door last Wednesday and allowed four (four!) people to come in for the purpose of watching me clean.

And here's the real beauty of it. Within 10 minutes of their arrival, I let it fly out of my mouth that I hate (hate hate hate) cleaning. And they don't care! They didn't come to watch an expert cleaner. They want to know what and how people think about cleaning. They WANT to know what sucks about it and why people avoid doing it, because they are there on behalf of a company developing products to make cleaning easier...things people would find worth their money--strange devices for lazy cleaners like me.

So for about an hour we just sat at my kitchen table and talked about one of my least favorite subjects.

Also, they played with the cat, because these were normal, friendly people. No lab coats or clipboards or rigid directives. (In fact I was struck by the casual nature of the thing and I could have done my own market research on their choices of note-taking methods—two on smartphones, one taking notes right on the in-development product spec sheets (which would have been my choice), and one taking notes in black sharpie pen on dozens of 3x3 Post-It notes, in what has to be the least efficient note-taking method in the history of taking notes.

I told them how watching cleaning commercials featuring women get excited about cleaning products makes me feel like I'm missing a gene...because I never ever never get excited about cleaning products (though there was this one little pump windex-y dispenser thing I got from my parents that gave me a mild twinge of "this is not so bad").

I told them that I always feel like my place isn't clean enough and said I end up feeling bad because I think the boys deserve a really clean place to live. "Why?" one of them asked. "Why does anybody deserve clean?"

I loved that. A philosophic quandary. I don't have an answer that would hold up to any serious scrutiny, but it simply doesn't seem right that a bathroom should have grime in it, does it? And somehow I've absorbed the message that I am the person who is supposed to be most concerned about this issue.

And, despite my abhorrence for cleaning…I am (concerned about it).

I talked about how in my mind, every woman in the world is cleaner than me and that they are all judging me when they come into my house.

This led to a very enlightening moment for me because, through their questioning, I realized that I only know a handful of extremely clean people. That I-am-gross-and-my-house-is-gross feeling I have is a result of one those people happening to be my Mom. My Mom has always been neater, cleaner, and more organized than I will ever be. And knowing I won’t (by nature) ever stack up has left me with an ever-present sense of semi-failure.

The feeling isn't strong enough to send me cleaning all the time; it's just on the list of things I can choose to feel bad about at any given moment, if I suddenly want to feel bad about something.

At one point, about an hour and 15 minutes into the researchers’ visit, the below pictured was produced from under my bathroom sink.

Bucket O' Evil

Simple, I said: It's got 409 and Windex--the tools my Mom uses for the job. Comet would usually be found in there as well. No gimmicks. No magic tools. Just a crude collection of terrible smelling blue and clear liquids.

They asked me to clean a bathtub, my mirror and basin, and then the kitchen floor and to explain what I was doing and why. That portion lasted a merciful 30 minutes or so. 

Then, more questions about my relationship with de-nastification.

The more they questioned me, the closer I got to identifying the sources of my cleaning aversions.

1) I am not opposed to getting things clean. I LOVE when things are clean. And I love to do laundry--or, that is, I love folding clean laundry and the feeling when all the laundry is done. I also don't mind washing dishes or vacuuming. What I hate about cleaning bathrooms and dusting (for example) is the toxic smell of cleaners (or else the latex glove smell) left on my hands when it's all done. I don't like cleaning something and feeling like I've become dirty as a result.

2) In a few different ways, one of the researchers was trying to get to the bottom of whether it is the energy or the time that I don't have for cleaning. I told her that I could make a case for neither. What I don't have, I said, is the desire. With the limited free time being a working mother leaves me, the last thing I want to do is get on my hands and knees and fucking scrub a floor. I called this the "Cinderella Factor." I don't think I'm above cleaning...as though there is a type of person in the world better suited for life's Cinderella moments. I think we all have better and more interesting, less Sisyphean things to do with our time.

In the end, they showed me the concept cleaner ideas and asked the likelihood of my purchasing them, were they available.

And then they left.  But not before telling me that, for somebody who hates cleaning, my house was pretty darned clean. That was surprisingly good to hear.

And I will receive $250 for this.

Two hundred and fifty smackaroos for spending two hours detailing all the ways in which I would rather be doing anything else.

Not bad.

I don't exactly plan to make a career out of this sort of thing; I don’t see it as a viable alternative to landing the well-paying job of my dreams. But for the meantime--and for the supplemental aspect of it--the market research thing is great. If I can manage to score a project in which I get to taste yummy things or borrow and test cutting-edge technological gadgets, so much the better.

Kevin's Sketch

As I mentioned before, Kevin is going to be doing sketches rather than the kind of painstakingly intricate drawings with crazy shading and all that jazz he puts many, many hours into. The below is a sketch of a door from Indonesia which sits in our bedroom. It's a solid black carved wooden thing that weighs about 600 pounds. It was given to him by a friend. I think of her as a protector of sorts.

Scenes from Manzanita Project Work Time, Week 1

I thought it would be fun, even just for our own memory, to capture scenes from the time we put aside to work together during the week. May not get that special time every week, but when possible...

Speisekammer is a German restaurant a few blocks from our house. It has a nice little outdoor beer garden and a convenient electrical outlet, meant for a string of outdoor lights that lines the patio.

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