One of my regular freelance jobs is to write up the crime blotters for two cities in my county. Even though I live in a pretty safe area, I’ve read about some awful things done by some very bad people. I’ve also seen stuff done by people who really aren’t that bad, but suffered momentary stupidity and got caught, handcuffed and booked. Occasionally, I see the names of folks I know. We don’t print names in the paper, even though it’s public record and pretty much anyone can find out who was arrested this week for PC273.5 or HS11550 or my favorite, PC369i.
So, here’s the thing. If the weekly crime log isn’t processed by the records’ employee(s), I have nothing to write about, so I don’t get paid.
This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. There’s only one guy who does it at one of the police stations I visit once a week, and he’d taken a vacation. He didn’t tell me he wouldn’t be there that week, so I drove about ten miles (one way) in morning traffic, got to the station, found out there were no crime reports for the past week, then had to go home. And, oh yeah, my regular freeway onramp was closed for repairs, so I had to go out of my way to find another one.
So not only did I not get paid for doing that city’s blotter that week, I don’t get paid for gas, which, in California, is something like a billion dollars a gallon. And I drive a Hummer. HAH! Just kidding. I drive a Honda. Still, I have to buy my own gas. I am not schmancy. I do not get reimbursed for expenses.
This also meant that, the following week, when I did the blotters, I had twice the work and only got paid for the one submission.
Got it? Yeah. Of course you get it. We’re talking grocery money here.
Last week, I got an assignment. Just a quickie. Which is good, because My Daughter the English Major is home from college for a few weeks, and I want to spend time with her before she goes to study abroad for two months in England, the Holy Land for English Majors.
This assignment should have been easy. I called the person I was supposed to interview and said that I would send an email explaining in detail what I needed for the advertorial, along with a copy of a previous advertorial with similar content. Efficient, right? My due date for the very brief telephone interview was last Friday at 3:00 p.m.
I called the woman Thursday. I called her Friday. I was told both times by her secretary that she’d call me back. She didn’t. I called yesterday after I did my two blotters, and the secretary asked me to hold a couple of times, then came back on the line and told me the woman would call me back.
I was skeptical. But she did. She actually called me back. She told me she couldn’t do the story this week.
OK, let’s do some moneymaking math, shall we?
Four phone calls + one email = no groceries.
I realize that most people don’t know I am not a staff employee of the newspaper and I don’t get paid unless I turn in work. However, I suspect that even if they did, it wouldn’t matter.
You know what makes me feel better about all this?
I'm done with my assignments this week, so The English Major and I are going out to breakfast.