Escaping college poverty

If this campus parasite can make money and get laid, you can too.

By Hank Hyena
October 2, 1998 2:12PM (UTC)
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Are you eating Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese (75 cents) for dinner every
night? Reading all your homework in the campus bookstore, because you
can't afford to buy the books? Sneaking out of Kinko's without paying for
your copies?

If you answered yes to these questions, you're a pitifully poor
starving scholar, like I was, haggard with hunger in the halls of
knowledge. If you're wondering what "War and Peace" would taste like
baked and lightly salted, or boiled with a bouillon cube, you've descended
to the same dismal depths.


Do not despair, my dear famished prisoners of the Ivory Tower. There
is hope for you. With only minor ingenuity even the most abased academician can defeat destitution. I succeeded, and so can you.

Turn your thin ears toward my tale, gaunt creatures of the cap and
gown. Listen, I will teach you how to use your marbles for money. But first let me tell you my own tale of deliverance.

I plummeted rock bottom in the fall semester of my junior year. I began sneaking into fraternity houses on Tuesday mornings; my fingers dug under couch cushions, hoping to discover coins that dribbled out of Docker pockets while frat brats couch-potatoed for Monday Night Football. Sure, I
found $1.17 at Phi Sigma Kappa, but soon realized I was morphing into
a scavenging jackal, a deplorable pigeon-man. I needed to improve my
self-esteem and my income with an imaginative Money Plan.


I cruised the campus pub, nabbing pizza crusts off soggy
tables. Beautiful girls laughed all around me, rich boys were buying them drinks. I glowered in the shadows -- green with envy because I was hideously sex-deprived. Wealthy lads were burping up delicious meals and pawing curvaceous co-eds. But me? I was getting nada.

I desperately needed cash and cuddles, a concise but thorough plan
that would satisfy both lusts, simultaneously. Wistfully, I prayed for
guidance to the Deity of Dinero, the Muse of Money.

Suddenly ... Yes! Yes! A duet of lights exploded in my cerebellum --
I received not one idea but two beautiful visions that successfully put bills in my bank and babes in my bed for the remainder of my collegiate years.


The first inspiration was: Teach Massage. A week earlier, I'd found an
oil-stained how-to massage book in a trash bin. I could instruct others in the Groping Art, I could get paid to fondle. Sweating, I imagined a roomful of bikinied women lying supine before me. "Rub me!" they moaned. "Higher up my legs!"

That night I shivered wildly in anticipation. The next morning I
designed a New Age poster offering my services in 1-Day, 2-Day or 5-Week
workshops. I littered this ad all over campus, and at the appropriate
housing and departmental venues. Within a week I was scheduled to teach at
the Peer Counseling Center, at a human sexuality class and at Santa Rita
Hall (a freshman dorm).


I stuttered my way through the first dreadful workshop -- I had to
keep the rancid manual open beside me the entire time because I forgot all
the strokes. The students enjoyed themselves, though. Eventually, I
realized there was no way to ruin the experience. The students just
wanted an excuse to lounge around each other half naked, feeling each other
up in the name of health.

Dorms proved to be the most lucrative arena. I left flyers with the
resident advisors with notes attached suggesting a one-evening
introductory workshop, costing a mere $2/per student. Sometimes 75 eager
freshmen would show up -- the entire floor, plus dozens of curious friends.
Everybody wanted to check out their neighbor's anatomy.

Money came streaming toward me, accompanied by a sensuous new
identity. I became "the massage guy" on campus -- luscious women who had
wrinkled their noses at me when I was a destitute nobody were suddenly begging
me for back rubs.


When the massage frenzy died down, I launched into my second
enterprise: silk-screening T-shirts. Once again, I commenced with a flyer
-- I sketched a samurai warrior waving a squeegee instead of a sword, with
the words, "The Silkscreen Empire will print T-Shirts for your team or
club" emblazoned beside him. I plastered this notice in a wide circle
surrounding the women's gymnasium: I wanted a jockette clientele.

Women's rowing called first, followed by women's field hockey and
women's rugby. I nodded confidently when they described what they needed.
Cheerfully, I accepted their deadlines. Then I requested 50 percent down payment. Securing this, I purchased a hobby kit, so I could learn the craft.

Silk-screening is simple: Push paint through the prepared screen,
iron the T-shirt to heat-set the ink, repeat, repeat, repeat. Monotonous,
but profitable, if you get the shirts wholesale for $30 a dozen and sell them
with the logo added for $7 each. My service was quickly in enormous
demand: teams, clubs, sororities, fraternities, department events.


The silk-screening Love Factor was excellent, too. I offered girl
jocks 15 percent off if they did the ironing and folding themselves, at my house.
"For sure!" they roared. They jogged over all sweaty and scrumptious-looking after a workout; they labored cheerfully into the dark hours, keeping me company, making me laugh.

I ended up dating two volleyball babes: setter Deborah and striker
Robyn. Plus I enjoyed a thrilling one-night stand with Kelly, the rugby
team captain -- she told me not to blab because she was also president of the lesbian collective.

That's my testimonial to capitalist ingenuity, dear cash-strapped
comrades. Now I beg you, take heed of the seven steps to student solvency.

1. Confront the ugly facts.
2. Examine your campus carefully. Deduce what your body and
student bodies desire.
3. Brainstorm entrepreneurial efforts that combine your many needs into one job.
4. Then offer it at a reasonable price!
5. Begin without knowing what you're doing and without going into debt.
6. Be charming while you fake it.
7. Move on before you get bored.


I challenge you: End your plight now! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT FEAR SKILLED COMPETITION FROM OUTSIDE THE IVORY TOWER -- you can do the job cheaper, you know how to advertise better (student newspapers, bulletin boards, word of mouth), you've got the contacts and, last but not least, your trump card: Students prefer to hire other students.

Here's Hank Hyena's List of 10 Sure-Fire Collegiate Enterprises:

1. Bike repair: My friend Barry at spoke-infested UC-Davis offers $20
tuneups to derailleured co-eds. Granted, this takes some skills you can't fake, but if you have a mechanical bone in your body, chances are you can help your student population.

2. Haircuts: Cute Cathy at UC-Berkeley trimmed locks for $5 a head,
colored 'em for $15. She learned her craft by enacting numerous atrocious hair cuts on her own head and the heads of a few indulgent friends.


3. Dictation: Jessica at Stanford scribbled lecture notes for truant
students. She went to any class, any time -- and she enjoyed it! "I
learned a lot about everything."

4. Bartending: Drink mixers are tres chic at elegant college parties. Don your dapperest duds, create a snazzy business card, learn cute concoctions with umbrellas and olives and put the word out that you're available for weddings, graduations and other fabulous fetes.

5. Scholarship advice: If you bagged some free dough, everybody wants to
know how you did it. Spend a week or two diving into the mind-numbing bureaucratese of information at the financial aid office and the grants section of the library, then charge $15-$25 an hour for researching grants for fellow students.

6. Tutoring: Teach English to international students. I had a charming
Nepali customer named Sarasvati when I pursued this line. She cooked a mean green curry.


7. Car repair: Provide on-site visitations to ailing automobiles. You'll be desperately desired, even off-campus, even if your price is high.

8. Computer repair and instruction: According to friends who have mined this vein, never do cute humanities students look so lovingly on geeks as when you have just recovered their hard drive with their thesis intact!

9. Campus calendars: It's shameless, it's cheap and with the help of your local copy store, you can transform a pile of cheesecake shots into cold hard product. Besides, anyone with school spirit or a secret crush has to
purchase "Asian Beach Beauties of Santa Monica College" or "Buff Men of
Nebraska Football."

10. Matchmaking services: All you need to become a modern-day yenta
is a file cabinet full of everybody's photos and identifying information. Collect a small initial fee to be in your files and a more substantial "finder's fee" for every "connection" you make. And don't forget: Put your own photo in there, just in case.

There are (at least) two fund-raising plans that MUST BE AVOIDED!

1. Drug dealing: Profits can be lucrative, but the lifestyle is cheesy
and dangerous. My senior-year roommates got robbed at gunpoint; they lost
two kilos and almost their lives. Another friend got expelled for concocting mescaline in his chemistry class.

2. Embezzling from your parents: My pal Randy dropped out of college, but he
kept cashing tuition checks he received from his folks. His
rationale? He claims he was getting a better education not going to
class. Mom and Pop didn't agree. When he finally confessed, they exiled
him to Fairbanks, Alaska. He's still "straightening out," doing
construction work for a polar uncle.

OK, you've got your dreams, I gave you schemes. You got nothing to lose but those holes in your clothes and that ache in your belly. I want to see you tacking up notices tomorrow -- tell us about your latest cottage industry, your recently discovered area of expertise. Remember: There's no sense in being a MENSA member if you got no cents at all.

Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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