Making a Living After the Apocalypse

In a previous blog I described how agricultural products will be the most important commodity in the new world. So much so, whatever currency is used may hold a foundation based on calories, and non-edible products will be traded based on the perceived caloric value.

Your main goal in this new world is to survive. To do this, you need to make sure you can feed your family and fight off those who would steal from you. But, how do you make a living if you don’t have a green thumb?

In this article, I’ll outline what I think will be the easiest ways to make a living after the fall of civilization. I’ll describe what you can make or grow to trade for food or other valuables. Certain products or services can be produced with little effort, some will need a certain level of skill, and others will require skill and specialized equipment.

Don’t Bother with These

Let’s start with what you should avoid. Precious metals and jewelry aren’t going to be worth much. You can’t eat a diamond ring, and they don’t have much utilitarian value. Precious metals can be worn as jewelry and that’s pretty much it. Speaking of which, I personally don’t recommend wearing jewelry. You’re basically inviting people to steal it from your cold, dead fingers. I recommend you hide any jewelry you may possess or discover and maybe use it to trade with later.

I don’t think there will be much of a market for new clothes, since there’s already an overabundance of clothing. Clothes will likely be abandoned and free for any passerby to take. However, once the economy has stabilized and clothes become scarce, there may be a market for new clothing. I just don’t think much profit can be made as a seamstress[1] unless you’re doing it in your free time as entertainment.

Passive Products

There are a few things that can be produced or grown with little to no effort on your part. Some herbs and vegetables can be grown “wild” and thrive without human intervention. Plants like: green onions, mint, potatoes, ginger[2], mushrooms (starter spores required), some peppers, and some established trees.

Most of these foods will grow year-round.

You can raise chickens and produce honey almost wild too. However, both require an investment in shelter and you need the proper skills to harvest the final products.

If that’s not enough, or if you tend to kill plants and animals just by looking at them, you can forage[3] for your food. There’s plenty of food to be found growing in the wild. You can find: wild tree nuts (acorns[4] & pecans are easiest to identify), loquats, dandelion greens, clovers (save any 4-leaf clovers for luck), roses, carnations, honey, and psychedelic shrooms (medicine/trade).

If done properly, you can easily survive on passive foods and trade any excess you produce.

Mid-value Products & Professions

If you can make products from raw materials or provide services no one else can, you may earn enough to be part of the new middle-class. I don’t think people will get rich making these because they’ll have to pay suppliers for the building materials and maybe pay to distribute the products. 

Preserves

If you have the knowledge and have the equipment, almost any food item that can be dehydrated and made into a powder will be valuable. Foods like grains, potatoes, corn, and nuts are the most common and easiest foods to dehydrate and turn into powders.

Pretty much anything that’s made into a powder will last forever, and that longevity will make preserved foods great cash crops. The only requirements to preserve dry foods are… to keep it dry, and don’t allow humidity or pests to infest the food.

Don’t be too reliant on conventional crops. It’s not likely you’ll live near a region that grows food grains like wheat. That means you’ll need to think outside the box [5] and convert what you can produce or harvest into equivalent products. If you have pecan trees growing more or less wild on your property, harvest those nuts as they drop and use them as a flour alternative[6].

Food will quickly lose its value when things settle down and supply stabilizes. But I still think you can gain wealth manufacturing and trading food.

Soap

Hygiene products will be extremely important to prevent diseases and infections. Simple bars of soap only require 3 ingredients and can be transported easily, but require time to make (and you’ll need some practice to perfect your recipe).

Regular customers of soap makers will be medical facilities, Laundromats, and, if they exist, communal baths. Although, I have a lingering fear that many people will forego bathing. We’ve seen this happen with various degrees during the Medieval period, (also known as the “Dark Ages”).

Laundromat

Many people may turn their noses up to this, but another profession could be cleaning clothes… from piss[7]. Urea from, well, urine has been used to clean clothes since ancient times. The process is much the same as it’s done today, and I’ll briefly describe it since it’s such a gross-sounding task:

  1. Add clothes and cleaning agent (urine) into a container and agitate the clothes. Agitation was done by stomping on the clothes in ancient times.
  2. Thoroughly rinse the clothes.
  3. Hang the laundry out to dry. I imagine the sun and breeze airs out any lingering urine smell.

The launderer could charge a premium to wash clothes with scented soaps. Another upcharge could be to offer an expedited service to rapidly wash and dry clothes by using precious electricity to machine-wash and dry them.

Going into Labor

Labor is a mid-value product too. You can lend your hands to help on the farms, work to construct buildings, or labor on an assembly-line (if any factories or workshops exist).  Your earnings will always be capped at what your boss can “pay” for your labor, which may be as simple as food and housing, or other valuable supplies. Remember that food and housing are scarce and valuable now that millions of newly homeless people are roaming the countryside. You may make more money if you already know a trade like plumbers or electricians. But don’t bank on this because the raw materials (power and water) may not exist.

Quick Cash

Tools will be the gold bars of the post-apocalyptic world, but they won’t make you rich. You can make a quick profit by trading any tools you don’t need. Alternatively, if you need them for work, keep them under lock and key. You should be prepared to defend your tools and even kill for them, because people will try to steal them for a quick “buck”.

What are the best ways to get rich in this new world?

The cash-crops, so to say, are going to be commodities required to power technology, luxury products satisfying vices, and medical labor. All of these are going to require knowledge or skill.

Energy

If you don’t have a green thumb or don’t have anything edible growing wild, then maybe you can make and sell luxury items like fuel and alcohol. There won’t be a reliable supply of energy, and your local gas station won’t be getting a resupply. The refineries will almost certainly have burned down and if they haven’t, there won’t be any labor to operate them.

If you happen to be lucky enough to live in an area that still has working pumpjacks that produce oil, it may be possible to refine it. That is, if someone in your community knows how to do it[8]. If you have the knowledge and are able to make a simple refinery powered by fire and horses, you’ll be rich. 

Some generators and cars can operate using ethanol, which is easy to make by fermenting food waste. You just need a container for the food waste, bacteria to allow fermentation to occur, and something to distill the alcohol (ethanol) out of the mash. You may need to redistill the alcohol to achieve a higher ABV.

Liquor & Wine

Of course, you can sell your ethanol as a beverage commonly known as vodka or white-whiskey, or moonshine[9]. You can charge a premium for whiskey aged in wood barrels.

I think wine will be pretty hard to make and sell. If you can’t find or make a still, you may have no other choice but to rely on wine as an alcoholic beverage. First, you have to grow the grapes, or other sugary fruits like apples, pears, or peaches. Then, you have to keep yourself and others from eating the fruit. If you still have fruit, you’ll need to pulverize and ferment it. Once fermented, bottle it.

It sounds easier than distilling, but the hardest part to wine making is getting past the first 2 steps: growing and not eating the raw materials. Distilled liquor, on the other hand, can be made with leftover food waste.

Another use for ethanol is sterilization. You can sell or trade your high ABV liquor to medical professionals for “money”, food, drugs, or services.

Medical

If you happen to be a doctor or nurse, you’ll be a very valuable member of society. Medical professionals will be hard to find, and any community will guard and treat these professionals well to ensure they’re happy. Medical supplies will be scarce or non-existent, so a good doctor will need to know how to treat ailments using herbs. A good doctor in this new world will need to know how to manufacture drugs as well.

When the civilization-ending disaster starts, most medical facilities aren’t going to be concerned about payment. A triage system will quickly be put in place, but I don’t think hospitals and emergency clinics are going to be concerned about payment until resources become scarce.

As medical resources run out, payment will be demanded up front. Food will likely be accepted, but the most valuable forms of payment will be fuel, cleaning supplies, and sterilization materials (alcohol). Facilities or private practices will maintain the triage system as a standard practice, even after things calm down and we get used to the “new normal”. It simply doesn’t make sense to waste time and resources to treat people who are going to die regardless of medical intervention, or even those who cannot contribute to society.

A wise government or medical facility will socialize medicine to ensure medical treatment is available to the community. This is smart because the medical staff can provide a list of drugs and materials that are running low or are depleted to the community. The local government will be in the best position to ensure the medical facility has the fuel necessary to operate, and can scrounge or trade for drugs and other resources. And the government can easily provide security to the facility.

Ironically, socialized medicine may win in the end. The caveat being medical staff will be required to adhere to strict government rules dictating who they can treat and how.

Drugs

Criminals who made and sold drugs prior to the apocalypse, may find their craft newly legalized if they can retool their operations and make useful drugs for doctors. Any excess drugs can be sold to other communities. Don’t forget the inconvenient truth that there will always be a market for recreational drugs, but be careful with the new laws.

The laws of the local community can go one of two ways regarding the sale and use of recreational drugs: legalize or ban. A devoutly religious community will likely outlaw such vices and severely punish (kill) those caught in the manufacture and distribution of drugs. Whereas, a moderate or practical community may allow the manufacture of recreational drugs, if they aren’t sold within the community.

If the community doesn’t have a specific policy, the authorities will likely turn a blind eye, if you make it worth their while. Don’t be naive and think that bribery won’t exist. Bribery has always been the oil that lubricates government since the dawn of human civilization. Some countries legalize and profit from bribery by renaming it to permits. Some politicians accept bribes in the form of campaign contributions, and charitable donations to organizations they may have a stake in.

The Oldest Profession

Prostitution will still exist, and may even thrive now that centralized state or federal laws are no longer enforced. If the local community doesn’t ban it, we may see the rise of brothels. These brothels will cater to all of your sexual needs, both hetero– and homosexual. As always, be prepared to pay more for male prostitutes.

Why will men be paid more in yet another industry? I remember seeing a documentary several years ago about “straight” porn actors who describe their pay as 10 times that of women[10]. The reason is because they are rare, and it’s an exotic taste[11], and men are willing to pay more for discretion to hide the fact they sought the services of a male prostitute.

It’s going to be a rough life for female prostitutes, and it’s going to be even harder for male sex workers. Willing gay men are going to be hard to find because they’ll die at a much higher rate than women of the same profession will. Just like women, they’ll have to endure the usual risks from abusive clients, jealous lovers, and sexual diseases. But on top of that, the religious fanatics won’t have anything to stop them from murdering gays en masse, and don’t forget about opportunistic gay-bashers who will prey on gay sex workers to prove something to themselves or their peers.

We live in a very accepting and inclusive world now[12], but that will change once civilization falls. Religious communities are going to be common and we need to expect a return to the historic religious persecutions of people who don’t fit with the dogma. Prostitutes are shunned by the major religions, and gay prostitutes are going to be double-negatives in the eyes of fanatics.

Straight men won’t have much work, because women have historically patronized brothels or individual prostitutes less often than men. There may not even be a demand for straight male sex workers.

Of course, if you follow this career-path, you’ll have to worry about the local laws. Just like drugs, the community will either allow or ban prostitution. If you happen to be in a religious community, expect the penalty to be death or worse.

***

Producing and trading these products or services will help ensure you can survive and can help generate income or wealth (or the post-apocalyptic equivalent). Some will be fast tickets to wealth, or they’ll make you a target for exploitation by any potential overlord. 

Let’s hope for a not-so-grim outcome.

I’d like to close by saying that while I use a nuclear attack as the cause of the fall of civilization, it’s important to remember that chemical and biological warfare can have the same effect. A chemical attack can render entire cities uninhabitable until the agent has been cleaned, or enough time has passed that weather has disbursed the toxic chemicals. The same may even be true for biological attacks, but biological warfare is much messier and harder to manage (as evidenced by our democracy’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic).


[1] Fun Fact: The male version of a “seamstress” is a “seamster”.

[2] Ginger – Some  caution should be taken with growing ginger, as other wild tubers can easily be confused as part of the plant.

[3] A word of caution regarding foraging: You absolutely must know how to identify plants, or you could kill yourself and your family. The same can be true for gardening. It’s possible to accidentally pick and eat the poisonous parts of edible plants, or unknowingly pick a poisonous weed from your garden and eat it.

[4] Acorns – Acorns need to be processed by boiling out the tannins. You will need to boil them and replace the water several times, until the water is clear or the acorns aren’t bitter. You can remove the tannins from acorns using cold water as well. The process is similar, but will take over a week to achieve the same product.

[5] Thinking outside the box is probably the best survival practice anyone can have.

[6] Pecans fall from the trees with an external shell, protecting the shell we’re familiar with. Remove both, and pulverize them to dehydrate the “meat” using the sun or an oven. This can be ground down into a fine flour.

[7] Laundromat – I’m  pretty sure I learned this from one of my history teachers. I remember someone asked how the ancients kept their clothes clean, and the class was grossed-out to learn they used pee. I had a very subtle reminder about this method of cleaning laundry from a show I binge-watched recently, Plebs.

[8] I think a crude (pun intended) explanation of refining is distillation of oil to make different gases at certain temperatures. I’m not a chemist or an oil expert, by any stretch of the imagination, so I’m sure there are other processes I’m missing. Refining oil is very dangerous, and if not done by an expert can cause severe injury or death.

[9] Moonshine is just vodka or whiskey that hasn’t been taxed. Also, there’s no real difference between spirits distilled as moonshine and vodka.

[10] Male Porn Stars: I want to say it was I’m A Porn Star: Gay 4 Pay, but I’m not sure.

[11] Rare & Exotic: Free online porn and services like “OnlyFans”, made it more readily available and reduced the demand for male sex actors.

[12] Inclusive World: 10% of the population has been the standard calculation of LGBTQ population in the country for nearly 2 decades. But if you consider the fact that many men who like having sex with the same sex, don’t identify as either homo- or bi-sexual; or those who just want “fun”, the percentage is almost certainly twice that… and that’s not counting all those other sexual identities (there were over 100 when I graduated from college in 2018).

My Commute to Work

I wake up to the sound of my phone’s alarm clock and throw the covers off my body. I swing my legs over the side of my bed and try to use the momentum to carry the rest of my body into a sitting position. It didn’t work this time and I’m forced to push and pull myself up the rest of the way. The alarm is still chiming, so I reach for my phone on the side-table to tap the “Dismiss” button. My hand moves to the remote control for the ceiling fan right next to it, and I push the button to turn on the light. Before reaching my arm back, I grab my phone and learn how to walk again as I hobble to the kitchen for a glass of water.

I’m still carrying the phone when I walk to the bathroom. I set it down next to my smart speaker and bark my usual order at the speaker, “Alexa, play my news brief.”

Reuters begins playing an annoying commercial which is obscenely too loud compared to the rest of the newscast. Why can’t we regulate the volume of ads on our podcasts or smart devices, similar to TV[1]. I listen to my news brief from my 5 preprogramed sources and do my normal 3-S’s grooming routine: shit, shower, and maybe shave.

My news brief is on the 4th news source when I turn the volume up to counteract the usual mumbling from the British[2] as I check to see if I need to shave today. I don’t think a shave is necessary today, maybe tomorrow. I grab my phone and leave the room, leaving Mr. Mumbles behind. I think about how nice it is to have a slow-growing (yet full and not patchy) beard. I set the phone on the dining table next to my gym bag and other daily items, thankful that I only need to shave twice a week.

I walk into my closet and pick out which shirt and slacks I want to wear today. I only have a few pairs of pants that fit now that I’m obese from being Covid-ly sedentary for pretty much a year. Working out these past few months has improved my waste, but isn’t making the dang pant legs fit better. I’ve always had muscular legs, and pant or slack manufacturers seem to think that everyone must be the ideal skinny white guy with chicken legs. I decide on a purple shirt and grey slacks, and grab them as I walk to the bedroom to get dressed.

I half-hear my last source of news declare: “This is a Bloomberg Money Minute.”

I throw on a white undershirt to absorb the inevitable sweat I’ll exude several times throughout the day. I slip on the purple shirt and button it as I lament the high cost of having my clothes dry-cleaned just to satisfy an outdated social imperative that requires office workers to play dress up. I look at myself in the bedroom mirror and jokingly think to myself: Okay boomers, we’ll play it your way for now. You won’t be working much longer anyways.

I walk back to the closet and frown at my uncomfortable shoes I wasted $500 on, but haven’t worn in years because they’re too uncomfortable. Hardly anyone makes dress or work shoes for people with wide feet. I still remember the sales person said I simply need to break them in and they’ll feel better than going barefoot. My hand glides past the shoes and I think of how I wore those damn shoes for nearly a year and they never got any more comfortable. Instead, my hand grabs the much more comfortable, $30 pair of grey “leather” shoes I bought on Amazon.

I grab the shoe horn from the front door and take the shoes to the couch. As I slip my oversized feet into the shoes, I think about how someone told me that people pay attention to the shoes you wear. What kind of weirdo with a foot fetish pays that much attention to people’s shoes? The only time I purposefully look at someone’s shoes is to check if there’s anyone in the stall at the work restroom. I’m not like that one attorney who bursts into the room, like the T-rex from the original Jurassic Park movie, and scares the occupant shitless by yanking at the stall door without checking.

I get up from the couch and walk to the refrigerator. I grab the leftover shrimp fried rice I put in the water-tight container last night, and rush over to the dining table to shove it in my gym bag. I throw the gym bag over my shoulders and drape my Bluetooth headset over my neck and balance the earbuds over my upper chest. Before heading to the door, I quickly stuff my phone, keys, and wallet into their respective pockets.

I hang the shoehorn back at the door before opening it.

I feel a refreshing wave of cool air as I step into my floor’s main corridor and lock the door to my home. I enjoy the crisp and cool air as I walk to the elevator and press the button to call it. I turn on my headset while squeezing the earbuds into my ears. Only when I’m satisfied the earbuds have a perfect seal, do I push a button to continue my Audiobook. I’m rereading Dune: House Atreides for the 4th time as my ritual preparation for the new Dune movie that’s coming out in October[3]. I have just enough time to tap House Harkonnen in my library, starting the download process, before the elevator doors open.

I hide my displeasure at seeing “Nagatha” in the elevator, and quickly pause the book just in case she said something during the ride down to the first floor. I left the elevator as soon as the doors opened again to escape the awkwardly silent ride. I walked to the table in the lobby and collected my daily newspaper.

I set Nagatha’s paper aside along with one belonging to the nice lady on the 11th floor. I turn when I hear the garage door slam shut and wonder if she’s in a hurry. Since I’m safe from socialization, I push the button to continue my audiobook.

Paper in hand, I open the front door and step out to Houston’s sweltering heat and near 100% humidity. I barely walk a block before noticing the first trickles of sweat form on my face. There’s only a block and a half more to go before I reach the nearest tunnel entrance. Can I hold it together until then?

I dodge a zombie-like homeless person before reaching the next intersection, having already decided not to wait on the light to change before crossing. I remind myself that I’m not brainless, and should at least check to make sure there’s no oncoming cars. Thankfully, there aren’t any, and I keep walking. The sweat is getting worse now, so I grab a rag I stashed in my bag for situations like this.

Just 50 more feet!

Yes! I’m in. It’s not cool in here, but at least the air’s dry.

I walk to the elevator and push the call button. I need to recover from the short trek through the steam room most people confuse as a city, and start fanning my face with the newspaper. The elevator arrives and I’m thankful to have this elevator to myself. I continue the fanning while riding down to the tunnels.

The elevator doors open and I immediately walk to the air conditioner unit in the wall next to a parking validation machine with an out of order sign taped to it. I set my newspaper on top of the machine and take a moment to soak in the gentle cool breeze coming from the A/C unit. I know more people are going to come out of the elevators soon, so I fumble for my facemask as I steal more time under this bastion of cool air. As predicted, three people spill out of the elevator and each one of them looks at me. One man isn’t wearing a mask, and he averts his gaze as he walks by. The other two people look at me with approval because I’m doing the responsible thing by stopping to put on my facemask before continuing into the tunnels.

I smile and silently chuckle to myself content with the knowledge that my act fooled all of them. Right now, I care more about this air conditioning than Covid-19 safety precautions.

With my facemask on, and with paper in hand (again), I start my trek through the vast network of underground tunnels. I fear working up a sweat again despite the tunnels being air-conditioned, so I slowly plod past the floodgate which kind of looks like a blast door from the Cold War era. As I walk up the stairs immediately beyond the door, I recall seeing the real blast doors in the tunnels linking the courthouses a quarter mile away. And when I reach the top of the stairs, I think of how a lot of sections in the Downtown Tunnel system aren’t very accessible to handicapped people. I walk down the narrow tunnel and try to remember all those places where I have to climb stairs and think about how embarrassing it may be for someone in a wheelchair to have to take an alternate route when having lunch with coworkers and friends.

I’m halfway through the first tunnel before becoming aware that another wave of people entered the tunnels behind me. I glance back and make a quick navigational calculation. I figure they’re far enough behind that I don’t need to increase my pace. They can’t overtake me before I reach the next building, unless they start running.

I continue at my slow pace as I enter the JP Morgan Chase Tower wondering what might make the people behind me start running.

Rabid dogs? No, how’d they get down here.

Free coffee at Starbucks! Yes. That’ll definitely do it.

I see my reflection in the polished chrome elevator doors, but don’t really look at it because my attention is drawn to a trio of sexy businessmen who walk past the building’s ground-to-tunnel escalator. I try picking up my pace toward them and am forced to look at my gross midsection while walking past the mirror-like panels covering the escalator.

I notice the gaggle of sexy men had queued into line at the Starbucks as I walk on by.

I leave the building’s tunnel and enter the next building. Upon entering, I walk past a dry cleaning drop off unit and wonder if that company is cheaper than my current one. The container says they deliver to your office, and one of the benefits to living in Downtown is that our lofts are close enough to the rest of the offices to be included with that delivery promise. I commit to check them out when I get to work.

That commitment is immediately forgotten when I see another gaggle of hot men standing in line at another café. I notice how they playfully banter with each other like they’re from the same fraternity. These face masks really are great because nobody can see my smirk as I think of frats and hazing…

I reach the end of this food hall, and restrain myself from touching the chain-rope curtains and satisfying a lingering curiosity of how cold those chains must be.

I know I’m about halfway through my journey when I reach the Esperson building. The building blasts 50s and 60s music through their part of the tunnel system. The music is so loud I can hear it over my audiobook, despite the noise-cancelling function. I like this era’s music, but I push the volume up two levels to compensate anyways. I still hear “incense and peppermints” in the background a couple times[4] as I walk through this section of the network.

I’m passing the threshold between the Esperson and the 919 Milam building, when I notice a piece of lint on the ground. From my perspective, it looks remarkably like the “Playboy Rabbit Mascot”[5]. I don’t slow down to ponder this coincidental find any further.

I fully enter the most boring section of the Downtown Tunnels and pass several vacant retail units. Some of these units were vacant for at least a year prior to Covid-19. I can’t imagine how horrible business must be for landlords and property managers in Downtown nowadays.

I pass what used to be a Subway restaurant and began to reminisce about how I used to get $5 footlong “Veggie Delights”, but dreaded smelling like the store afterward. That stench permeated my clothes after a mere 5 minutes of being inside the store. I remember being hard-pressed to wait through the line, order, and then pay as quickly as possible to save myself from smelling foul. I make a sharp right turn around a corner where the former Subway restaurant was and half-smell that iconic aroma, but know it was just my memory playing tricks on my senses.

I veer off to the left and head toward the tunnel leading to the Commerce Towers. As I enter the tunnel, I’m reminded as to why I don’t wear my facemask outside. This section isn’t air conditioned very well and my breath begins to make my face feel warmer than it should. I pick up my pace because I only need to get past the convenience store and turn the corner to enter the McKinney building, and cooler air.

A man half-limped into sight from the corner I need to turn at. I instantly know he doesn’t belong. He has a look of amazed wonder, like he discovered a magical cave. Another office worker notices the outsider and looks at him with disgust before passing around him. I’m almost at the corner and start hoping and wishing this guy doesn’t ask me for money, or worse, directions.

The outsider looks at me and, thankfully, doesn’t say a word. He seems too amazed at his new discovery. I imagine he’s mentally rubbing his hands with delight as Aladdin must have when he entered the Cave of Riches. So many business people to solicit money from! Mwah hahaha!

I scold myself for thinking such an ugly thought when I make my turn.

I pass a raggedy accordion-style gate and notice a hall where restrooms are supposed to be located, but always seem to be locked. There’s some sort of berry-colored fluid trailing from that hall and appears to be leading me past a hair solon. There’s a smoothie store just beyond the salon and I guess that someone’s smoothie must have leaked and the owner must have ran to the restroom to rinse the cup off.

I wonder how the person got into the restroom?

I follow the trail to the smoothie store and smile at the lady working there. As I walk past, I realize she can’t see my mouth smile, but comfort myself with the possibility that my eyes probably did the smiling for me.

Now, I have something new to smile about. I finally made it to the garage elevator where my car is parked. I reach to call the elevator, but one of the doors are already opening. An unmasked lady smiles at me while she exits. I enter and see someone turning the corner heading to the elevators, but the doors close so fast I can’t reach the “Door Open” button in time.

The elevator is hot and I fan myself with the newspaper as I ride the sauna up to the level where I parked my car. I rush out of the elevator and walk half a block to my car. I can already feel sweat forming on my face and am already unlocking the doors as I approach my car. I open the back door to throw my bag inside and close the door so fast, I can’t believe I didn’t slam the door on my hand. I open the driver’s door and throw my body into the seat and turn on the car. I toss the paper into the front passenger seat and notice the air conditioner is pushing air out too slowly and impatiently increase the fan speed.

I’m in no hurry. I have about an hour before I need to be at the office, so I just sit there for a couple minutes, basking in the refreshing coolness of blessed air conditioning. I notice that in my haste I forgot to pull my phone out of my pocket. While listening to Pardot Kynes rant about terraforming Arrakis, and telling his would-be assassin to “Remove yourself,” I lean back in the tight quarters and pulled my phone out of my front pocket. The assassin fell upon his knife by the time I was able to fish it out and place the phone in the holder clamped to the A/C vent closest to me[6].

I decide I’m cool enough to travel and drive the car out of my usual spot. I must be the only person who leaves the garage in the mornings, because the attendant always steps away from her desk to help me. I quickly scan my keycard and “roll” the window back up when I see the gate arm rise. She stops halfway between her desk and the office’s door when she sees the same arm lift. I’ve been using this garage for a month now and the attendants may not be used to me leaving, while everyone else is entering.

I follow the winding driveway down the ramp to exit the garage. There’s an angry-looking old man with an orange flag who waves me by. Despite his implied clearance, I don’t take his word for the path being clear of pedestrians and slowly roll out of the garage.

I continue listening to my audiobook through the rest of my work commute from Downtown to Houston’s Upper Kirby District. Once I park the car at my job’s parking lot, I pause the audiobook so I can focus on reading the newspaper I carried all this way. I have to read it now, because I have to be ready to handle anything and everything the instant I walk through the door of my office building.


[1] The CALM Act is a law regulating commercial volume and requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. It became effective December 13, 2012.

Federal Communications Commission. (2015, December 11). Loud Commercials. Retrieved from Federal Communications Commission: https://www.fcc.gov/media/policy/loud-commercials

[2] BBC really needs to increase the gain on their microphones.

[3] Dune’s release date is: October 22, 2021.

[4] Incense and Peppermints, by Strawberry Alarm Clock. (1967).

[5] The Playboy Rabbit Mascot should not be confused with Playboy Bunnies, who are cocktail servers and hostesses.

[6] If you are familiar with the book, please note that I listen to audiobooks at 3.15 times the normal playback speed, which means that it didn’t take me very long to fish out my phone.

Why are we giving “unskilled” laborers as much pay as “skilled” workers who earned their wage?

UPDATE 08/25/2021: OnlyFans backpedaled on their decision to ban porn 1 day after I published this article.

We’ve seen the news talk about a labor shortage for months, and some of us have joked on socialist[1] media that: “there isn’t a labor shortage, people just don’t want to work for you.”

In response to this labor shortage, many major employers are offering absurdly high hourly wages to attract more employees. Most of the people who benefit from these absurdly high hourly wages didn’t earn a degree in college. Most didn’t spend 4-6 years to acquire a bachelor’s degree to land a high paying job. (Nor are they in debt to pay for that education.) Most of these people didn’t spend years of networking and ladder-climbing to build up a career either.

How did this happen, and what will come?

This is happening because of a new lower-class movement focused on improving their livelihoods. This is nice and all, but we’re just handing these laborers wages they really don’t truly deserve. And it’s the participation trophy generation (my generation), who are fanning the flames to push this absurdity into reality. We are so focused on making everything equal, that we are forgetting that most people make the salary they deserve because of their hard work.

So why are laborers getting paid equally or more, than people who put in the time, energy, and effort to get where they are in their careers? Why are they getting a free pass to higher wages when the rest of us had to work for it?

But, at what expense to we hand these unskilled laborers a virtually free lunch? Do we alienate and impoverish those who served their time in the college system just so they can get good jobs? 

I’m okay with increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. I may even approve of it getting bumped to $15 if I get at least a 20% increase to my own pay. But $22 or almost $50 for unskilled labor?

Hell no! 

To misuse a Star Wars: Mandalorian quote: “This is not the way!”

Paying undereducated and unskilled laborers wages they haven’t earned is going to cause several things to happen in our country.

  1. Skilled professionals are going to quit because they’ll start asking: “What’s the point of doing this job when I’m getting paid less than that laborer who’s mindlessly moving products? If I can get the job, I’ll get paid more and get more exercise as a bonus.”
  2. Housing is going to spiral out of control when landlords figure out tenants can afford to pay more rent. Which will eat into that newly acquired salary.
  3. Employers are going to be forced to move jobs overseas, compounding unemployment. This has been going on for nearly a century for raw materials and consumer goods, but the practice will increase very shortly.
  4. Employers are going to be forced to spend capital on automation, further compounding unemployment. We already see this in many fast-food restaurants. You can walk into most Taco Bells, and nobody will be at the counter to take your order. You have to use a kiosk to place an order[2]. This was tried at Jack in the Box about 10 years ago successfully, but they dropped the concept. I’m pretty sure they’re reconsidering kiosks right about now and we’ll see them in stores very soon.
  5. It’s going to drive prices for basic products through the roof, because the labor costs more to make the goods.

Rinse and repeat the above, and you’ll see it’s an endless spiral.

Even if we give the unskilled laborers everything they want, they still won’t be happy. There will always be a very loud minority of unemployed and unemployable[3] who are going to rattle the cage and rile minimum wage workers in perpetuity. They can and will do this because they have the free time on their hands to lament how unfair their condition is instead of working to improve themselves. 

Please notice that I said, “a very loud minority”. Most unskilled laborers are hard workers, but many cannot (or will not) spend the extra time, energy, and money to improve themselves. I understand it’s hard to raise a family on minimum wage, but the reason most people get where they are is a consequence of their own actions.

Yes. You can argue the various unique circumstances (rape, poor upbringing, family obligations, moral obligations, etc.) until the sun goes nova. But the bottom line is, that everyone makes the wage they deserve based on their own actions and life choices. Unless the person has a genetic disease, suffered an accident or assault, or had any other physical hardship forced upon them.

I myself am a product of my past actions:

  • I don’t have a job at any of the major oil or energy companies because I refuse to play the patronage beauty contest. Meaning, I can’t make nearly as much money doing the same work as my peers in my profession.
  • I chose not to adopt any children and probably won’t in the future because I enjoy having my fun lifestyle and a healthy savings account. And now I live with the small lingering fact that I won’t have anyone to depend on when I become elderly.
  • I chose not to invest that extra cash, which means my extra savings will not grow as quickly as it could in the market.
  • I choose to run up credit card debt, even though I have the money to pay for my needs. Now, I have to spend several hundred dollars a month to pay interest and pay off debt.
  • I chose to stare at a practically naked runner while riding my bicycle instead of watching the road. I got a busted lip and a broken tooth, which were expensive to fix (even with good health and dental insurance).

Most of the minimum wage laborers are in the positions they are because of their own life choices, and we shouldn’t cheapen the accomplishments of those who earned their positions and rates of pay by giving higher wages to those who didn’t earn it. I applaud the single mothers and fathers who work all day and commit to night schooling. I applaud those young adults who spent several years earning a bachelor’s degree with no support from their families (it took me a decade to get a “4-year” degree). These are examples of people who decided to work to improve their lives and earn a better paying job. These aren’t people who were given more pay in response to an emergency. These aren’t people who’re taking advantage of a hopefully temporary pay hike in a temporary labor shortage.

To wrap up on a humorous note, I’m glad OnlyFans is banning porn. Because, hopefully, when the (sexy) laborers lose that source of income they’ll return to conventional jobs. This will cause the labor shortage to subside and drive wages back to reasonable rates. Then we’ll start seeing the higher paid laborers who benefitted from what will then be called an emergency rate, get laid off because they cost too much when compared to the rest of the market.

I bet you didn’t think of that long-term possibility. Did you?


[1] Yes, you read that right. I called it socialist media.

[2] I personally prefer ordering using a kiosk, solely because I dislike having to yell at someone so they can hear me to place an order. 

[3] Unemployable is defined as unskilled, potential, workers who cannot get past the interview process because of: no address, no SSN, no valid ID, no cleanliness, and no positive demeanor. 

The Myth about Office Cleanliness

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I remember seeing a morning news report about how dirty our offices are during the mid- to late-1990s[1]. I was a pre-teen at the time, so I can’t remember the specific details of the report. But I recall the news segment showed a close-up of a cleaning lady scrubbing a desk and washing a phone receiver, while the reporter described the reality of office housekeeping. I think the report told viewers that office housekeepers are only responsible for cleaning the floors, restrooms, and café areas of an office building.

That revelation goes against our fantasy image of the housekeeping staff diligently cleaning every nook and cranny in the office. If you still have that expectation, I’m here to burst your bubble and confirm the cleaning services at our offices don’t clean much. The staff typically does not clean the surface of your desk or dust things like your computer monitors, and the floor is likely the dirtiest surface in your office.

Vacuuming the floors, emptying wastebaskets, and cleaning restrooms are obvious tasks housekeeping staff will perform in any office building. If the building is owned by a single company, you can count on the staff cleaning any cafés or dining areas, and probably the communal refrigerators once a week too. If you work in an office building with many different businesses, they may only clean the restrooms on each floor.

They will not clean your desk!

They don’t clean your desk because it’s too much of a liability. The staff could accidentally vacuum something up, or move a stack of papers, or accidentally do something which disrupts business the next day. So, cleaning the desks are too risky when it comes to reportable complaints and lost items. As a defense against such claims, the housekeeping staff or contracting company, can simply say they don’t clean the desks unless there is a visible spill. If the housekeeper does clean your desk regularly, then you’re the rare exception.

We should remember that many of the housekeepers are contractors, and they need to move quickly from room to room, and floor to floor to make money. It can take an entire night for a team of housekeepers to do a standard cleaning in a skyscraper with over 40 floors. Many family-owned, small business contractors have several smaller buildings they need to clean each night, so it makes sense for the cleaning staff to avoid our desks. It’d take forever for them to do their jobs, and they can’t make as much money in the process.

This means your keyboard and mouse are still teaming with germs since the last time you cleaned them. Your phone may still have the same germs or makeup residue from the last person who used it too. This is normal, and it’s your responsibility to keep your work area clean.

Unfortunately, I’ve worked at a few locations where the cleaning staff has consistently missed the floors at the office, which is their primary responsibility. And Covid-19 has made this worse by forcing the staff to focus on cleaning high-contact surfaces and forget the floors altogether.

At one job, I occasionally noticed the same toasted marshmallow flavored jellybean on the floor, next to my desk, for almost a year. At that same job, I misplaced a Bluetooth adaptor and probably dropped it on the floor. I tore my office apart looking for that adaptor but couldn’t find it. As I threw away the jellybean, I jokingly concluded that, of all things, the adaptor got sucked up by the vacuum.

At another office, I had to sit on the floor to search for a document the mail department threw into the shred bin. I could visibly see hair on the floor and sometimes felt small debris of what could have been dirt or food particles. When I finally found the accursed document, I noticed my black slacks managed to pick up every single hair and dust particle in the area. I had to use a few sheets from a lint roller to make myself presentable again.

It may not be the individual housekeeper’s fault.

I used to work late at my current office before the pandemic forced us to work from home and I remember seeing the housekeeping staff vacuum each room during those late nights. This leads me to believe that it may not be the individual cleaner’s fault the floors are so dirty. I think it’s likely the vacuums are broken, or the vacuum-bags are full. The staff may be so focused on running the vacuum as quickly as possible, they may not notice the things they’re leaving behind.

So now you know your office may not be as clean as you think it is. Your desk hasn’t been cleaned since the last time you personally cleaned it, and the floor is likely even dirtier.

You should forget the “5-second rule” the next time you drop a chip, or other scrap of food at work.


[1] There were only a couple channels we could receive on the antenna TV, so I had to have seen the report on either Channel 11 or 13 (respectively: CBS and ABC).