Reject to Riches? Hope on the Internet

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Joys of Fame and No Fortune

If I were to pattern myself after a famous character in a book, I'd pick a heroine that was gorgeous, brilliant and amazingly successful.

I wouldn't pick Barbara Ehrenreich as she presented herself in "Bait and Switch, the Futile Pursuit of the American Dream." However, that character seems to have picked me. Try as I might, I can not escape the fact that Ehrenreich's adventures in that best-selling book are much like my own.

The biggest difference is that I didn’t get to write about my failure in the job market and make a bunch of money on book sales. I just got to endure my failure and realize that my life was a statistic.

That's always fun.

I've also read about myself in the pages of the New York Times. (See, I must be famous and they just forgot to tell me!) I'm so flattered when a guy like columnist Paul Krugman writes, "a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains…the real earnings of college graduates fell more than 5% between 2000 and 2004."

Paul, I'm glad you know me and I hate to criticize, but you got it wrong. For this college graduate, her income fell 100%, not a measly 5%.

But the gist of Krugman's writings, that the obscenely rich are getting more obscenely rich and everybody else is falling, is completely accurate. This economic unbalancing act is happening for lots of reasons, one of which is white-collar unemployment and under-employment.

My point is that my woes are not just mine. Many people are like me. I see them every time I make a trip to any retail outlet, folks who used to work at professional jobs selling lumber, light fixtures or lettuce. Older workers who may not have the pep of a 21-year-old; they have what the workplace DOES NOT reward, wisdom and experience.

I do not pretend to understand the irony of that; I just know it to be true.

To avoid falling into the same trap as my former white-collar buddies, I have elected to start an Internet business instead of taking whatever menial, low wage job I can find.

In part, I made that choice because I couldn't find a menial, low wage job. I interviewed for five. None wanted me. It must have been the orange skirt I was wearing that made me look like the great pumpkin.

Barbara Ehrenreich's job coach gave me that tip. (I couldn't afford my own job coach so I borrowed hers.)

Self-employment is risky, but it's the only way a person like myself will escape being a wage slave. The Internet is still open to the little guy so even though I'm a little late, I'm merging onto the information super highway.

Which brings us to the net neutrality issue. How much longer will the Internet be open to the little guy? If the big guys get their way, not much longer.


What option would be open to me then? Welfare handouts? The big guys would balk and call me lazy and undeserving. "Find a job, damn it," they'd bark.

"I'm trying," is all I would be able to holler back from my merry-go-round as it whirls past them, lazily enjoying their weenies and ice cream cones.

I'm trying.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

An Internet Mogul Enters Training

For years, I've joked about retirement being filled with greeting Wal Mart shoppers instead of cruising the Caribbean. As my 48th birthday approaches and my retirement account is less than it was twenty years ago, that joke is less and less funny.

Lingering unemployment has a way of devouring retirement accounts.

So the job title I gave myself, Internet Mogul, pays well. I need a good paying job for goodness sake! Surly a few months of being an Internet Mogul and those meager accounts will be flush with my success.

All the web gurus say I can do it, if I only buy their terribly overpriced product.

If I'm on a budget, $99 bucks will get me their hot-shot eBook with the 10 Magic Secrets of the Rich and Powerful. You know, the ones who work ten minutes a day in their silk jammies, don't know a bit of HTML yet rake in millions on the net.

Of course it's not worth the $99 that was so conveniently tacked onto my credit card bill in a nano-instant after I clicked here.

To really learn the secrets of the gurus, I gotta spend some money. After all, the honest ones will confess those free reports they give you aren't even worth that much.

So for a mere $997, I can get a glimpse of their incredible wisdom sloppily photocopied and loaded into 3-ring binders. Ten-thousand pages. Delivered to my door. Ah, the personal touch!

Is there a better learning system out there? This mogul needs better training is she's going to succeed.

The Dog's Hungry and So Am I

The definition of "being hungry" changes with age.

We're born, and it means, "give me milk so I can survive."

We reach adolescence and it means, "bring me a hot dog…and lots of friends, status, dates, cool clothes, a hot car…"

We enter the job market and being hungry translates into, "bring me challenges and riches, excitement way beyond the need for mere nourishment. Challenge my creative spirit, reward me with expensive toys, giving me tangible proof so I can flaunt my talents on the world stage."

Geez, it's embarrassing to admit, but after my "distinguished" career, (translation: twenty-five years as a cog in the wage-slave wheel) the phrase reverts back to just the basics. I'm hungry to fill the cupboard with food so I can survive. I'm not worried about satisfying a creative drive and I don't require riches, just enough to keep a sturdy roof over my head. The same basic needs my dog has. Luckily for her, she's clueless that the piece of lunch meat I'm sharing is getting harder and harder to replenish.

It's now been nearly a year without a paycheck.

Survival in the economic world. Remember the TV commercial for the large financial institution that praised the American spirit by claiming, "most people want to succeed, not just survive." True, true. But how exactly do you define success? Unfortunately, reality forces many hardworking people into being grateful for mere survival and realizing that to survive IS to succeed.