Down the Drain

It’s been a while again, I know, but when a game keeps changing rules, it’s hard enough to keep up without adding another moving piece. Not that I have forgotten about this blog. Of late, I’ve spent most of my time trying to figure out how to make it through the rest of the season without declaring bankruptcy. As much as I wish I could simply escape into another world and hid from reality, I am an adult, and adults aren’t allowed to crawl into their respective holes and stay there too long. At least, real adults aren’t. We have to re-think the situation we face and try again.

As a seasonal park ranger for the last 11 years, I’ve forgotten more about adaptation than many people will ever learn. One of the not-so-glamorous facts about my profession is that unless a person comes from money, or has some sort of back-up source of income. Finances are a nearly impossible struggle for a seasonal ranger. That’s where I’ve been for the last month, fretting about whether I’ll ever contribute to my savings again let alone save for retirement. Even achieving debt-free state seems like a pipe dream.

At this point, I’m certain that I will have to take on two jobs if I hope to get ahead. One will make ends meet, but the savings is already gone. I’ve heard the advice to make your education work for you, but there is no market for people with bachelor’s degrees in small, rural towns, and I’m still gun-shy about going back into emergency medicine (another story I may never be able to fully disclose in public). Besides the fact that in rural areas, EMS is a second job that pays little, if at all. Boiled down, my only option is to substitute teach primarily with part-time EMT work on the side. Both require funds for licensure.

Which leads me to the question of: How it is that an application for a substitute teaching license first costs $80 as stated in the state education board info page, then turn out to be $110 with the $30 application fee after starting the application? Then, I’m required to submit an additional $40 for an FBI and state background check, plus a $4.50 processing fee for that, which was just done by a separate state agency not even three months ago. I hate to see how much the county will charge to take my fingerprints.

The point here is this; if there is such a shortage of substitute teachers in this state, why do they charge so much to get the license? An Emergency Medical License in the same state is roughly $60 with no background check. And too, why don’t they just charge $175 or $200 up-front rather than have all these fees tucked in corners of the rabbit hole. It starts with the $80. After $80, what’s another $30? After the $110, I may as well pay $44.50 because I’ll lose the $110 anyway if I don’t add on to that. Everyone’s out for money, and penny by penny, they bleed you like parasites until you have nothing left. If it isn’t money, it’s time. It’s set up as a bait and switch.

For the last four years, I’ve worked where over time was not an option. Sure, the bosses promised that I could make up time by getting off early or coming in late, but the problem with off the books comp time is that it does not exist. It’s an honor system, and honor systems don’t work among dishonorable people and those too tired of fighting a system stacked against them to get what they rightfully have coming to them. I lose 15 to 30 minutes of my life every day I work because I get that one camper who wants six bundles of firewood delivered in the middle of final patrol 15 minutes before the end of shift when I still have a half-hour worth of work to do. Sure, I could ditch the rounds or tell the camper to wait until tomorrow to get their firewood, but both of those options represent “poor customer service”. The one I really love, is finding that someone has trashed one of the bathrooms in that final 15 minutes of my shift, requiring 45 minutes of cleaning. Is it really that hard to get your ass over the toilet seat before dropping a duce? Or better yet, rinsing your muddy feet at an outside hydrant before walking into the showers? Or leaving trash all over the floor when it should have gone in the abundantly available bins?

Yeah, why do I have to pay more to earn more when the state has already gotten so much from me? And some people probably wonder why I have no interest in returning to volunteer work. I have been bled dry. I need to start using the one commodity I have to trade for to my greatest advantage: time.

Time is all I have to sell. No one wants someone with expertise, just someone who is willing to sell their time for the lowest rate. On the flip side, as a vendor of time, I have to sell it to the highest bidder, and that’s not just in dollars. There are also benefits in the form of medical, dental, retirement and vacation/sick time, but there is also the benefit of experience.

Experience is an often over-looked benefit. Sometimes people get so caught up in advertising their existing experience and focus on the pay that they forget about the experience they gain from a particular job. Some jobs, not just internships, offer little more than experience in payment for your time. It’s called charity or volunteer work, and it’s great for the rich and the retired, or those who don’t care about eating. In most ways, I think Charlie Hoen was wrong in “Recession Proof Graduate” when he proposed that volunteer work will help you land the job you want. In my experience, after 10 years without gaining an advantage through free work, I KNOW it’s a waste of time to go about it the way he proposes. While volunteer work will get you added experience, I don’t recommend putting your entire career on hold for more than the duration of your college career. After that, you’re just being taken advantage of.

To sum it all up; Your time is YOUR time. Spend it to your best advantage whether that is for financial gain or mental/spiritual refreshment. Go ahead and be selfish about YOUR TIME, but remember to respect other people’s time. Don’t ever allow someone, or some corporation, to steal it from you.



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