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What I Did for Money

Cash-strapped Seven Days readers give us their two cents


Published April 1, 2009 at 9:31 a.m.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for quick cash? Nearly everyone has a good story about a bet, a dare or a truly odd job.

We asked readers to share their most outrageous for-profit exploits for this week’s Money Issue. Most of the economic news is so grim, we figured a few entertaining tales would liven things up. We were mostly right.

A number of the submissions we received involved eating, and those were, uh, juicy. One woman described pretending to eat a cow pie for $1; another bragged about consuming a wriggling live mealworm for $5. A third woman confessed to sucking someone’s dirty toes for gas money. Gross.

We also learned that some people are willing to embarrass themselves for dough. One Stowe resident reports being paid to sing, “I’m Just a Gigolo” while standing atop a cafeteria table at the Mount Snow base lodge. No word on what that was worth.

Not surprisingly, we heard from a few grifters and schemers. A Winooski woman confessed to having posed as a high school cheerleader and gone door to door collecting returnables to raise money for a “trip.” Seriously? Get a life, lady. Another respondent related how, when he was “homeless and strung out” in Nevada, he stole a defective microwave from the Salvation Army donation box and sold it to someone. The purchaser used it and almost burned down his house. Nice.

We also received several stories of exotic employment (not the kind that involves G-strings). One woman cited her job standing on the street in wintertime dressed as the Statue of Liberty. A Burlington man had a grad-student gig reading aloud from James Joyce’s Ulysses. One anonymous woman said she was paid by a mystery shopping company to fail a graduate-school entrance exam. Why? She didn’t say.

We were surprised to receive just one entry describing sexual favors. (Maybe our request for names and contact information deterred some respondents.) The sole salacious submission came from an individual claiming to have been paid to sit on a dentist’s face in the patient’s chair. No dollar value on that one.

We’ve selected seven of the most appalling or otherwise intriguing stories as finalists in our “What I Did For Money” Contest. Read them, then vote for your favorite. The winner will receive a package of gift certificates to local restaurants worth $100. The polls close on Monday, April 6, at noon.

Thanks to everyone who entered!


#1 Molly Hodgdon, Burlington

Some people are born with a natural ability to regurgitate very well, and I am one of them. I have regurgitated live fish more than once — usually while drinking. It was usually on a bet. People would pool their money. I’d get between $20 and $50.

They were just little fish — the kind you can scoop up with a net from the lake. I probably could have done larger ones, but I never tried. I’d keep them down just long enough to show everyone that I wasn’t hiding them in my mouth.

I don’t recommend it; it’s kind of mean for the fishes. But if you do do it, drink a lot of water beforehand, or else the fish will die from your stomach acid. Professional regurgitating geeks have performed in sideshows and solo for centuries. I don’t claim to have anything like their dedication, skill or talent, but I have won a few bets and was even offered a job with the Coney Island Circus Sideshow for my modest emetic abilities.

#2 Kathy Blume, Charlotte

I was hired as a temp to pretend to be an employee at an engineering company. They were having an on-site inspection by a very large firm whose work they were soliciting, and they wanted to flesh out the place to make the company seem larger than it was.

I was set up at a workstation, given a bunch of blueprints, and told to erase all the circles and use a template to change them into squares, and then erase all the squares and change them into hexagons.

I did this for three days because they didn’t know exactly when the inspection was going to happen.

#3 Amanda Ryan, North Hero

I licked a pitchfork that we used for cleaning horse stalls. I only got $20.

#4 Joanne and Johnny Esau, Ludlow

When we were first married (a teacher and a carpenter), we had an old F250 four-wheel-drive and a towing chain. On snowy weekend nights, we would pack snacks/thermos/cribbage board and camp out near upscale restaurants. When late-night patrons found themselves with wheels spinning in the snow, we would drive up and offer a tow. After we hooked the chain on and were about to pull them out, we would ask for $20. Often we received more, and we improved greatly in cribbage.

#5 Auna Otts, Burlington

To make a few extra bucks in college, I freelanced with a roommate as a bartender/server duo for private parties. The craziest gig we did was for a “foot fetish” couples dinner party. They interviewed girls and guys with the best feet, and, after making the cut, we had to work the whole party barefoot. We were thankful for the “no touching” rule, but that didn’t stop the friskiest couples from trying!

#6 Dina Senesac, Burlington

As I was starting my career working as an American Sign Language interpreter, I got hired at a shop that employed many deaf people. I was so excited. I thought I would be interpreting meetings and staff conversations. That did happen once in a while, but most of the time I was making the product so that we could meet our daily goals. We were making enemas for the biggest enema company in The United States.

Not only was it a weird thing to make, with placing the tubes in the holders and then filling them up with the liquid and placing little valve covers on, but if the covers fell into the liquid gel, we would have to fish them out with dental equipment. Within three months, I was having carpel tunnel problems. It was a crazy, low-paying, body-damaging job. But I get the shock value of telling people I made enemas for a living.

#7 Lauren Quinn, East Montpelier

I kept a monkey awake. It was an awful, soul-killing task and I only did it twice. I was working at a medical school in 1987, and everyone working in the lab had to take a shift during the “sleep deprivation” studies being done on monkeys. My shift was usually 3 a.m., and I would sit in the bowels of the lab nudging the cage, rattling the door and generally startling Fiona awake.

Online Surveys & Market Research

It’s true what they say: Money makes the world go ’round. It’s also true that in recent months unfathomable sums have gone down the drain — and more are circling it — in the world economy. Unfortunately, that’s no April Fool’s joke.

Like everyone else, Vermonters have tightened their belts and hunkered down to ride out the recession … we hope. But not all is grim in the Green Mountain State, as some of our stories in this issue report. So, we’re watching the bottom line and counting our blessings.

Click here for other Money Issue stories.


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