Weekly Column by Daniel Kalder
As a man who makes his living as a freelance writer, I accept that I am unlikely to ever take a bath in my own money. Indeed, at least once a year I find myself confronted by an unexpected cash shortfall, when I find myself scrambling wildly to pay the rent. Yes, it can be nerve-racking, but on the other hand, at least I don’t have a boss.
Still, I do wonder what I would do if it all went horribly wrong and I suddenly had to find an alternative means of raising funds to survive. Even though I ponder this on a semi-regular basis, I’m yet to come up with a decent answer.
For instance, when I was a student I knew some guys who donated sperm whenever they needed money to buy records or intoxicants. It’s a low- effort path to a quick buck, but I’ve never been tempted. But man cannot live by sperm alone, and I dislike the idea of siring hundreds of children I’d never know…. In any case, ambitious professional ladies tend not to want 38-year-old freelance bearded Scotsman’s DNA.
Then there’s McDonald’s. I’d rather not work there as it’s probably not very interesting but at least I’d have access to cheap food.
I think I’d like to work in a clean, medium-sized airport like the one we have in Austin. It’s not too busy and I’d enjoy hanging about the terminal, helping old ladies with their bags, patting down the occasional suspected terrorist, and watching planes take off and land all day.
Yes, working in an airport sounds good…
… But I also must confess that I’ve long been tempted by the idea of participating in scientific research for cash.
I first learned about this option years ago, when I bumped into a girl I went to school with who had dropped out to have a baby. She told me breathlessly that she had just been paid £3,000 (about $4,789) for allowing a scientist to experiment on her person. Fortunately her baby, which was gurgling and cooing in a pram, had only one head so I knew that at least the research had not been carried out while she was pregnant. She wouldn’t tell me what strange deeds had been inflicted on her body, but with that pay check I knew it had to be serious.
Since then I have often pondered what kind of experiment I would be willing to participate in, not least because there’s a giant billboard in downtown Austin which is always advertizing for human lab rats to subject themselves to strange tests.
The problem here is that ever since I abandoned my “Snickers-and-hot-dogs” diet in my late-20s I have been pretty healthy, so I am of little interest to scientists. I remember that some researchers in Austin were testing a new anti-depressant and really wanted to find some people who were so desperately miserable that they’d allow their brains to be bombarded with mystery chemicals. But I was in quite a good mood that day, and even if I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have allowed anyone to fiddle with the contents of my skull. (In fact, I don’t like taking medicine unless absolutely necessary – which makes taking experimental drugs a very unattractive option, even if there’s money in it.)
This week however I saw what looked like the perfect experiment for me, as it mixed scientific testing with very little effort and high wages.
Apparently NASA in Houston is recruiting people to lie in bed for 70 days to see what happens under “microgravity conditions” or something. I don’t really know what it’s about (I didn’t understand all the technical jargon).
The point is: they’ll pay you $5,000 a month to lie in bed all day.
Now that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. In addition to the 70 days in bed you have to spend two weeks in preparation and then another two weeks recuperating. Add that altogether and you’re looking at over $15,000 for doing absolutely nothing. They’ll even let you look at the internet, and they give you a catheter and everything.
Better yet, since I’m a freelance writer, I could make even more money, since I could knock off some articles from my bed. Heck, I might even be able to write a novel with all that time, maybe about a man who spends months in bed while NASA conducts experiments on his body.
On the other hand, as a freelancer I already spend a lot of time indoors not moving very much.
I’ll even confess that in earlier days I wrote the occasional prose masterpiece while lying in bed, just like Robert Louis Stevenson. The problem was: The boredom was awful, and I’d have to go out in the evening and walk around for hours just to stop myself from going crazy. So I can’t help but fear that this 70-days-in-bed gig might not work for me.
And yet, Houston is only a couple of hours away, and that $15,000 is mighty tempting…
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
What does the world look like to a man stranded deep in the heart of Texas? Each week, Austin- based author Daniel Kalder writes about America, Russia and beyond from his position as an outsider inside the woefully - and willfully - misunderstood state he calls “the third cultural and economic center of the USA.”
Daniel Kalder is a Scotsman who lived in Russia for a decade before moving to Texas in 2006. He is the author of two books, Lost Cosmonaut (2006) and Strange Telescopes (2008), and writes for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of London and The Spectator.
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