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February 15, 2013

John asks…

Making meals in a hotel while living there?

My parents-in-law both were recently laid off from their jobs. There is no work out there. They are over qualified or under qualified for the few positions that do exist. Before anyone starts calling them lazy they worked 12 hour days in factories for most of their lives.

They lost their apartment because the rent went up and they couldn’t afford it. She worked for the complex and got a discount. There was no way they could swing $500 more a month. After trying a lot of places, no one would take them because they were unemployed.

Being left with no other options they chose a hotel to homelessness. The found one with a good rate that was less than their apartment before plus all utilities. Plus they can pay weekly instead of monthly.

However there is no kitchen or fridge. They have a cooler and I can make some stuff for them. We live over an hour away and I can’t all the time. We are students and fairly broke and they are broke. What are some good cheap meal ideas that don’t have to be refrigerated or cooked?

So far I have:
Fruit, oatmeal (coffee pot for hot water), pb&j

Any ideas?
We live in a dorm on campus, so we can’t all live together. We get it through financial aid.
We get kicked out if we have visitors after hours even. Family does help each other, but us all having no where to live helps no one.

Administrator answers:

They can use the computers at the library for free if they do not have one they can also post an ad for a 2 burner hot plate mini refrigerator and microwave on Craig’s list for free . If they were both working until recently , how is it they have absolutely nothing ? After all these years ? No coffee pot ? No microwave ? How did they manage without when they were working? Some things here just do not add up .. They should have accumulated many items over the years , They are now both getting unemployment plus each getting an additional 25.00 a week in their unemployment checks which is an extra 50.00 a week thanks to President Obama , so they should be able to buy enough food for the 2 of them on just the extra 50.00 a week if they are careful and still have their full enemployment checks .. IF your in laws are healthy,they should be able to care for themselves ..they can even move to where there are jobs available until times get better and take what is available It sounds like it is just the two of them .Forget about being over qualified or below their dignity after all they are supposedly close to being on the street . Waiters waitresses, lawn care , childcare, motels and hotel cleaning, etc hospital work, nursing homes work at Mac Donald’s Hardee’s Wendy”s even sitting with the elderly or sick… Dog walking, house cleaning & taking out the trash for those that are working these places are always wanting help .. Big turnovers . They can post adds in the local paper maybe put up notices on grocery store billboards or the laundromats If they are truly struggling on unemployment they can sign up for food stamps and even rent assistance tell them to call the social services department in their area they can tell them if they qualify or not it can not hurt and if they do not qualify for one plan they may qualify for another …they may be able hook them up for free appliances from churches and donations You can find many job postings online and on yahoo..there are still jobs but may not be what they want right now until things get better When the going gets tough, the tough gets going It is their choice to sit there and do nothing for themselves or face reality and make plans, then take action They are so lucky to have such a caring daughter in law but you and your young hubby must stay focused,stay in college & get good grades so you can both get a chance at a decent job and take care of yourselves and rememberr what happened to your in-laws … It would be a different matter if they were sick or old and unable to work By the way there are many dented can stores springing up all over the country that sells groceries ,household and other items like canned ravioli , mac& cheese, baked beans dry spaghetti etc at huge discounts they also take food stamps Good luck Hun.

Betty asks…

I want to do something very bold and potentially very stupid in my career and life?

I’m a 27 year old guy. 6 years ago I graduated from college started working as a software engineer and have never enjoyed it for various reasons. This is kind of vague but the 9-5 office life has never fit my personality.

Not that I’m not good at it. In the last 6 years I went from a total compensation of around 40k to over 100k per year and have been moving up fast. I don’t mean this in a cocky or bad way but I’m usually the most/ or one of the most talented developer wherever I’ve worked by far. Which is part of what I hate about my job. I spend my time teaching the lesser developers who don’t want to be taught rather than getting to work on fun interesting projects that I enjoy with other really smart people. I love writing code, but I find that I spend all my time dealing with the same inter-office BS and politics that just drives me crazy.

I’ve tried switching companies, but the same things I hate about job #1 as a software engineer, I find I also hate about job #2 as a software engineer. Where I live it’s mostly govt work and it’s all the same deal.

A little over a year ago my girlfriend and I broke up my best friends all started getting married. I found myself with a little bit of free time on my hands. I decided to get past the grind, by starting my own company.

What I’ve found is that over the past year of trying to balance my actual job, trying to start my company, keep some semblance of a social life and trying to exercise now and again is that
I can’t keep up. It’s too much. I’ve gotten to the point where minus sleeping and unwinding in my place for like an hour at night, all I do is work.

This is where we get to the crazy part. Clearly I need to give something up. Most people in this situation would give up the wanting to start your own company. When I think about how much I’ve enjoyed working with just me and my partners vs how much I’ve hated going to work in almost every situation the last 6 years then add in how much effort I’ve already invested in making this happen, I can’t give up the dream. I also can’t give up having a social life, and taking the time to exercise like I have the past year. its made me miserable and is going to land me in an early grave.

So the only thing left to do is to quit my job. Which got me to thinking if that was possible. I’ve been working 16 (work+my project) hour days then only using my apartment to sleep. Which got me to thinking all I need is a place to sleep and then what do I need a job for? I can spend 16 hours a day working out of public libraries virtually for free. The only thing different would be I’d have some free time and not have to go to work. I own all the equipment I need to do this. I don’t have much savings as I’ve been been using it to pay down my college debt. But I don’t have much debt either. A small amount of money, would potentially go a very long ways if I’m smart about it.

Here’s what I want to do. Buy a very cheap conversion van and spend time this summer decking it out as a place that can heated/cooled/slept in/ used to cook things etc. Put all my stuff I don’t want to sell into cheap storage. Unsign my lease. Live out of the van then quit my job. Then continue jobless working out of public places/my friends houses until I’ve made it on my own.

It’s bold, it’s crazy, it’s in some ways incredibly stupid. But I’m greatly considering it. I’d like to know how insane people think I am for actually considering something like this?

Administrator answers:

I actually intend on living in a van next year myself, and am going to spend some of this year just working on the van and evaluating all the potential nuances of van life. As for whether you should actually go through with this, I can’t tell you and I don’t think anyone can tell you – you know yourself and your situation better than anyone else so the best decision made for you will be made by you.

Although it’s not very common, there still are people that do it for various reasons. The two reasons I intend to live in a van is because I could potentially make a lot of money (by not spending any money on rent, etc.) and because I love challenges/adventures/experiences. While many facets of our ordinary lives seem to be unreconcilable when living in a van, it does not necessarily need to be the case if you are creative, persistent and audacious.

Some things you may want to consider for living in a van are:-
- Gym membership for shower, etc. (This would actually be a great motivation for working out too.)
- Library for internet
- Solar panel(s) for electricity, or any other means of power
- To conserve on space and maybe have room for other things, consider not sleeping on a mattress, but maybe have some setup like what George Costanza did in Seinfeld where he slept under his desk
- Consider only having one plate, one fork, one spoon, etc.
- Be aware of the laws of where you live, and evaluate where it is you could park. Where I plan to live is a small city that is predominately park/nature and extremely suitable for van living.
- If you do intend on quitting your job, I imagine you would also be living very frugally, so figure out what kind of diet you wish to have and accomodate your van to be capable of preparing the meals. I plan on saving money by buying in bulk so I’ll need room for storing the food.
- Consider limiting the amount of driving you do in the van to save on fuel. Maybe park somewhere appropriate for a while and then walk/bike/skateboard/whatever to the various places you may go.
- Since you won’t have an address, get a post office locker thing for receiving mail
- Before you go through with it, calculate how much water you drink and procure containers that will hold enough water for a long enough period of time till you can be bothered filling them up (like from drink taps)
- Use public toilets where you can, or you can just go in nature if it’s secluded, and keep a portable toilet
- I don’t know what you like to do for fun, but try to be creative at getting things to fit in your van. Consider buying hard drives and stockpiling as much movies/music/books/games/whatever as you can so you can have plenty to do.
- Calculate how much electricity you reasonably expect to use and develop a power system that can deal with that, or alternatively mitigate as much electricity use as you can
- Depending on the van and your desire, you may actually be able to get a shower in, by having the water drain outside the van (maybe only if your parked in a suitable location)

And that’s all I can think of at the moment.

Thomas asks…

Is this short story good enough for me to win the top prize $2500 in the “best short story” competition?


My friends Alan, Bob; and I were loaded with booze and K. We had just had the bash of the year at Alan’s apartment in Chicago, and wanted to prolong the euphoria over the night. Bob had flown all the way from Nor Cal, and was flying back tomorrow.

We had just turned 21, and wanted to enjoy our first shot at manhood: we decided to go to a strip club.

It was 11 at night. We picked up Cartman, another friend of ours from his house in Naperville, IL. He was the only one sober among us, and it seemed like he was feeling out of place with us.

We reached the Diamond club aka The Gentleman’s Club at 12am. We sat at the nearest table to the stage, where luscious women were displaying their ‘goods’. Before we knew it, four strippers Amanda, Becca, Cecilia and Elaine were ‘heating us’ up.

Amanda was a beautiful British girl, with an amazing body and a killer smile. She sat next to Alan, and started biting on his ear gently. Elaine was a beautiful Latino girl: she sat on my lap and started touching my face. Cecilia was a pretty white blonde, but she wasn’t getting too much attention from us. Becca was a beautiful lanky girl, and she was engaged with Bob. Cartman was sober as hell, and like Cecilia, wasn’t getting too much attention from us.

A lap dance in the VIP lounge cost $30, and out in the open cost $20. Each lap dance lasted about 10 minutes. Alan and Bob were raring to go; so it seemed like Cartman and I were the only ones getting no action. But I was having a great time talking with Elaine, while Cartman wasn’t making any inroads with Cecilia.

I asked Elaine her name. She told me, and then she asked for mine. She seemed like a very pleasant person, and I felt like talking to her a lot more.

“So what else do you do besides your job?” I inquired;

“Well, I’m a fashion designer; and I’m also studying in college, and then I have this job,” she told me.

“Wow. That’s so cool. You’re so talented,” I told her.

“Thanks. You have a really nice smile,” she told me.

“Thanks. You’re really pretty,” I said.

“Awww thanksss. Are you trying to hit on me?” she chuckled.

“No, not really,” I laughed.

“I’ve never met anyone like you before. How old are you?” she asked.

“21. You?”

“Wow. I’m 21 too,” she said.

We were looking into each other’s eyes intently.

“So like, how do you like working here and stuff. How do you like the girls you work with, and the guys that come here?” I asked her.

“Ummm it’s ok I guess, not really thrilled with it. The girls here are really really nice, and this club’s really great because they don’t treat us like crap. The guys, well they’re cheap.”

“Hold on, I’ll be back,” she told me. She went onto the stage and did her ‘routine’, and I felt guilty for occupying her. I didn’t feel like getting a dance from her, and I was wasting her precious time when she could be making a lot of money.

From the VIP lounge, Alan was getting his third lap dance from Amanda. Bob was finished with Becca. I could hear Bob saying “blow on them harder” and then a lot of laughter. I was feeling a bit guilty. So it was just Cartman and I, looking like idiots sitting near the stage.

I decided to check on Alan and Bob in the VIP lounge. As soon as I reached halfway, Amanda was done with her routine with Alan and she caught up with me. She gave me a wide smile, and started grinding her body against mine.

“Dahling. You look like you can do with a dance,” she said, pressing her hands against my butt.

I was slightly taken aback by her forwardness. I muttered a few things, without looking into her eyes.

“What’s the matter dahling? Are you shy? I like shy guys,” she said, sliding even closer.

“Ummm no actually. I just got out of a serious relationship, and I was ——“she cut me off.

“Dahling. You just got over a relationship. If you were in a relationship, I’d say you wouldn’t need the dance. But let me blow some of that steam off you, you’ll like it.”

“No, I’m good I think. Thanks,” I told her.

“Ok. But you know where to find me,” she said with her bright smile, pointing towards the VIP lounge.

“Yeah,” I told her.

She twisted my nipples gently and left, searching for her new prey.

It was 1:30am now: the club was starting to pack up. I searched my pocket, and found a $20 bill. I looked at our table, but Cartman was not there. Where could he be? I wondered.

Then I saw Amanda treating Cartman with some hot action, in the $20 area. Cecilia was sitting by herself on this other table. I went up to her, and started talking to her like I did with the other strippers. We talked for about 10 minutes. I was really getting to know this girl: she was an extremely warm person, and she taught children Math in her day job. She was a college student, and she looked like a 19 year old. But she told me she was 23.

Then she suddenly asked me: “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Do you want a dance?” I was taken aback by her straightforwardness.

“No,” I told her.

“Ok.” She muttered.

She was about to leave, when I stopped her.

“Sure. I want a dance.” I told her. She seemed a lot happier now.

“Ok. Let’s go there then,” she smiled, motioning towards the $20 area.

We went towards those chairs. I sat on one of the chairs, and then she sat on my lap.

“I need you to take your jacket off,” she said sweetly.

“Oh of course. How stupid of me,” I chuckled. She was getting ready to undress.

I stopped her when she was getting ready for the dance.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

She burst out laughing. “Did you stop me for that?” she inquired. “An hour and a half from here.”

“So what are you going to do in the morning, after this shift is over,” I queried.

Administrator answers:

Well yeh its a good story so far but i dont really get then ending of it – i think you need like an event and conclusion at the end i think but thats just my opinaion anyway

but other than that yeh its well written and a good story – congrats!!! Hope you win!!!! :)

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