What was your scariest experience when you did a night shift?

Updated Aug 25

I was 21 years old.

The job was taxicab driver. A job with a high robbery/assault/homicide rate, taken on by working poor people. I spent a lot of time in rough neighbourhoods, dealing with aggressive people.

The incident occured in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, about 11:30 at night.

A young gentleman, much larger and stronger than me, grabbed me from behind. Holding something just above my left shoulder, or under my left jaw.

“Give me all your money, or I’m gonna run this right through your neck”.

I discovered the exact dollar value of my life. It wasn’t much.

I later heard that he was a repeat offender, at the same location.

Within myself, I think I have since forgiven him (at least to some extent), and wondered what drove him to that moment.

That job wasn’t so much fun after that incident.

To this day, I have wondered whatever happened to him. Dead? In prison? Cleaned up and regretful?

It will never happen, but I would have liked to have a conversation with him now, to better understand. He helped me to become a stronger (albeit more paranoid) person.

What is the weirdest thing an elderly person has told you?

Updated Aug 10

I had some fairly weird encounters years ago, when I worked at a facility that I call DementiaLand Last Stop Rest Home, Bar And Grill. It was kind of like an Alzheimer’s themed amusement park, with a cast of wacky and adorable characters. And additional heavy physical disabilities, plus a bit of terminal cancer included for extra cheerfulness.

One that comes to mind was a woman who was 84, had heavy dementia, and also may have been drugged-up due to a hip fracture. Some other people were loud and obnoxious, but she was the type to be quietly lost in the fog.

I was helping her to eat lunch one day. And she started staring at me longingly, reached out and gently put her hand on the side of my face. And said, “I love you”.

And it wasn’t with the kind of tone that you might say to a child or a sibling or a parent.

This was a very sincere, very romantic sounding, breathy and passionate “I love you”.

I have no idea who she thought I was.

That job was really depressing sometimes.

Is a GED truly equivalent to a diploma?

Answered Jul 1

No, and I’ll explain why.

There are several technical issues, and one perceptual issue (which becomes a major practical issue).

First, some states don’t allow you to take the GED exam until you are 18 years old. The reason is financial. US public school systems receive money from the federal government, partly based on the number of enrolled students. Their district performance is also partly based on the graduation rate.

The best-performing students may view school as a waste of time. They have already learned the skills and material. And now they sit there, bored, with everything being repeated yet again, slowly, for the benefit of their classmates. Students who are mature, well-behaved, and hard-working may also want to get out of the social environment of their so-called “peers”.

These students may want to test-out of the system early (via a GED), and move on with their lives (either work or university).

The school system doesn’t want that, because it would lower the funding, and lower the graduation percentage rate for “legitimate” diplomas. So the law may specify that you stay in school for the full 12 year sentence, without any chance of early parole.

Second (as in second-chance, second-prize, second-rate) the governmental view of GED test takers is that, it is a “something is better than nothing” type of deal. Therefore, standards will be pressured downward.

Third, speaking of standards. Have you ever heard of social promotion? Or NCLB? Or “no-fail” policies?

There are plenty of barely literate, barely numerate, willfully ignorant, instruction-following-impaired, reasoning-impaired, unreliable, behaviourally disordered individuals who somehow graduated with a “legitimate” high school diploma.

A GED officially certifies that you are “equivalent” to them.

Fourth, also on standards. There is a seemingly subtle (but actually major) problem with the difficulty calibration of the GED exam.

The GED Testing Service conducts a thing called the “Standardization and Norming Study”. They give the GED exam to a pool of, “graduating high school seniors”, to see how well they do.

Then, the people who take the exam for real (i.e. the dropouts for whom the exam is intended) are then compared to the above-described control group. The passing cutoff point is that, you need to do at least as well as 85% of the control group. This how the GED is allegedly “equivalent” to graduating high school.

Now here is the subtle bias.

The control group for the “Standardization and Norming Study” is described as, graduating high school seniors”. Meaning that, they have already completed high school, and already have their “legitimate” diploma in hand. They have probably zero personal incentive to do well in the “Standardization and Norming Study”. This biases the scale downward.

A real exam-taker has been told that, their entire future rests upon passing. They are told that, it is the difference between a decent job, social status, and self-esteem, vs being an unemployable bum failure.

Now, regardless of intellect, or any other factors, which group do you think is going to work harder to do well on the exam? Standards are set based on people who don’t care, and then used to measure people who care a great deal.

Fifth, the perceptual issue. No matter how intelligent, skilled, hard-working, etc. you are, a GED is highly stigmatised.

A prospective employer may directly ask, “Why did you drop out of school?” And they may already be thinking of exactly three possibilities. Stupid? Lazy/unreliable? A thug? All three?

Even before asking the question, they may already have decided that, you were too intellectually and behaviourally defective to even handle a low-standards, coddling high school. There is also a more general, “Can’t/won’t follow the rules of respectable society-members” idea.

Even if you legitimately state that, you were bored, unchallenged, head-and-shoulders above your “peers”, it will be interpreted as, you are an anti-social, arrogant snothead with an overactive ego.

Finally, I won’t tell you what to do in your specific personal situation. I’ll just note that, after all the incessant mass-brainwashing about the alleged critical importance of passing exams and getting pieces of paper…

These particular pieces of paper may still have you facing low-level employers, who just need some burgers flipped, and some of whom aren’t very bright themselves. Including low-level employers who “require” the piece of paper, but may “verify” it by merely seeing the words that you wrote in the little boxes on their application form.

The whole thing is sort of an idealised story of a system much more rational and rigorous than it really is.

Is the value of a college degree going up or down?

Updated Jul 2

There are different kinds of inflation and deflation involved.

Schools may engage in grade inflation to increase the number of people receiving high school qualifications.

This, in turn, deflates the value of those high school qualifications.

You could have a very intelligent, hard-working, highly literate high school student. But their classmate can barely read, can’t follow instructions, and has attitude/behavioural problems. And they both receive the same piece of paper, making it impossible to distinguish them.

So employers inflate credential requirements.

To show that you are that first person, you need to go further, and pursue higher education, and get a fancier piece of paper.

This also inflates the dollar cost that you must pay in order to signal even basic competence.

This incentivises going to university, so numbers of university graduates have also inflated over time.

More degrees in the system deflates the value of each individual degree. You have more competitors when applying for jobs.

There can be further inflation, when an employer has a stack of applications from people with bachelor’s degrees. So now they raise the bar and want a master’s.

More inflation ensues, with the education time and dollar cost for you to get that even fancier piece of paper.

Also, degrees aren’t all equal. A job listing may be very specific about the field that the degree needs to be in. Some might list a range of possibilities, and some might just say, “a science degree”.

A few job listings might just require, “a degree” and be open about the field. This is back to the issue of distinguishing yourself from the barely literate, poorly-behaved high school graduates. However, this openness will inflate the number of competing applicants. Thereby deflating the value of an individual degree in a random field.

I would expect that some arts, literature, history, women’s studies, etc degrees have relatively poor economic prospects.

Some fields may be cyclic in terms of supply and demand. Maybe you tell people that there is a shortage of certain degrees and workers (“If you want to be in demand, here is what to study”). Then, a large number of people take that advice, resulting in an oversupply a few years later, deflating the value of those degrees back down.

Lastly, the value isn’t just about average incomes.

One point is binary. If an employer requires a degree, then people lacking one don’t even get into the competition pool. Their CV will be filtered out by a computer. So it isn’t only the size of your paycheque, but maybe whether you are employed at all.

Plus, it includes working conditions, both physical and interpersonal.

A degree can get you into nice, calm, air-conditioned office, with other people who had the basic competence and self-control to get through the university filter.

Lacking a degree can religate you to much worse physical environments, surrounded by almost feral people (coworkers, the general public, etc).

What’s the farthest you’ve ever had to commute for a job?

Answered Jun 29

About 50 kilometres (31 miles). I actually had four different situations like this, at different time periods.

The first involved crossing a river, so there was a always a major bottleneck at the bridge. This got worse during the course of each weekday morning. If I left at just before 7 AM, I could arrive at just before my starting time of 8 AM. This was a minimum wage job, and I was 18 and sleeping on my father’s floor at the time.

The second involved very long hours, to the point of practically living at work. My apartment was in a semi-OK neighbourhood (by my low standards), but I hardly ever saw it during that period. The good thing about working nights is that, you are driving to and from work in the opposite direction of the traffic jam on the motorway. So you are going full-speed, instead of start-and-stop.

The third involved public transport, and was even more miserable. This included 12-hour work shifts, and falling asleep on the train going home. I moved back to a bad neighbourhood much closer to work because of this.

The fourth was another low-paid 8 AM arrival in a city with notoriously bad traffic. My advantage was having a good geographic grasp of that city, getting off the motorway, and taking surface streets most of the way.

If I could replay my early-20s again, a big issue would be to NOT move so far away from work (which was inspired by bad advice from a dysfunctional person). Plenty of people do commutes more brutal than my aforementioned, but it gets real old after six months, and a year will grind you down. An aggravating factor is if you drive during the course of your workday.

Is home schooling an advantage?

Updated Jul 1

Do you mean in the market for basic jobs?

No, it isn’t.

When they see something like, “High School Equivalency Certificate”, the first assumption is that you were in school but dropped out. They will automatically conjure up a stereotype of someone whose intellectual or behavioural deficiencies meant that s/he couldn’t handle formal, “legitimate” school.

That will extend to viewing you as a bad, unreliable potential employee.

They may ask, “Why did you drop out of school?” And then get an even more negative attitude when you tell them that you were never in school at all.

For a teenager, it can be worse, if you are in an area where there is a minimum age for taking an equivalency exam, and you are under that age. No formal schooling and no second-prize certificate will result in being insulted, dismissed, and shown the door by potential employers.

Your actual knowledge, skill level, reliability, and attitude are irrelevant, in terms of these responses.

If you are applying for a job in some low-level position, like fast food, I suggest simply lying, and pretending to have graduated from the nearest high school. When I was much younger, employers might have “required” a high school diploma or equivalent, but they never asked to see any documentation.

Personally, my CV (resume) “education” section only mentions true, verifiable information about university, and says nothing about levels below that.

Another side of this is that, if you have significantly more formal education than expected for the job, you may be dismissed as “overqualified”. Then, your interest would be served by deleting any mention of that degree, and, again, just claiming to be a high school graduate. Although that is kind of a different subject.

Socially, having been home-schooled will attract open contempt from acquaintances. Many people think that, the only context for learning anything is in a formal school classroom. I have been directly accused of being illiterate. Or alternately, accused of lying (i.e. ability to read, plus knowledge of history, science, etc, is viewed as prima facie evidence of having attended formal, “legitimate” school as a child).

Another social point is the “socialisation” argument, that claims such children/teenagers will grow up to be awkward outsiders. From my point of view, the “socialisation” of formal schooling is a mechanism to teach conformity and obedience to social pressure. Schooling for “the masses” (i.e. everybody except the elite wealthy) tries to squash everybody into a lowest-common-denominator position of worker and consumerist society-member. Barely literate, but highly conformist. Dumbed down. “No child left behind” also means “No child allowed ahead”. And that’s how society likes it.

How do you instill confidence in girls as they grow up?

Updated Jun 30

Some of this applies to both girls and boys, but a lot is female-oriented.

  1. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, a huge issue for girls and women is financial responsibility. There is a very common message (even in the 21st century) that, being female means that working and supporting one’s self is optional. When that girl becomes a young adult, she may be totally unprepared to do that. She may get into, and stay in, a bad relationship, just for the financial support. Or she may have “failure to launch” and remain dependent on her parents. Or she may become confused, frightened, and angry in a situation where she only has the money/resources that she can personally generate by working. One reason why men seem more confident about this is not because they are told they “can” do it, but rather that they must. Working and fully supporting themselves is presented as a normal, basic part of adulthood. Girls would benefit from being taught this, as well.
  2. There is mass insecurity over physical appearance and attractiveness. This also relates to mass competition, incessant, immediate comparisons to other females, etc. It can manifest as feeling depressed, but I have also seen it come out as criticism and even hostility towards other females. There is an effort to distract from insecurities by lashing out. Girls would benefit from direct conversations about the social focus on appearance, and the dysfunctional behaviours that result.
  3. Western media and popular culture are hypersexualised. There has been an explosion of pornography, being viewed by both boys and girls, from a young age. And it is mostly females being degraded for male consumption. Girls would benefit from being reassured that they don’t have any obligation to buy into all of this. And they don’t have to tolerate bad behaviour and attitudes from porn-programmed young men, although it is important to know that they will be facing those behaviours and attitudes.
  4. Teach them not to worry about being viewed as a prude if they are modest, or as a loser if they are single.
  5. Teach them about alcohol, and its dangers.
  6. At the youngest age possible, teach girls (and boys) basic daily household activities. Put out the rubbish and recycling. Do the laundry. Clean the bathroom. Prepare a simple meal. I have encountered university students who had difficulty with these things.
  7. Teach them how to navigate themselves with a street map, to get to someplace that they have never previously been. I have encountered allegedly adult women who didn’t grasp that this skill (and psychological aptitude) even existed.
  8. Teach them to use the telephone in an adult manner. Start with simple things like calling a business to ask their opening hours.
  9. Teach them to use public transportation (e.g. finding the needed routes).
  10. Teach them about cars. Basic things like checking the oil and coolant, changing a tyre, etc. Also warn them some dishonest mechanics may assume that women know nothing about cars, and so are targets for fraudulent repair diagnoses.
  11. Teach them about finding information. Locations of things, suppliers and prices, laws/regulations, etc. Make sure they have a library card, and understand that the internet isn’t just for playing with FaceBook.
  12. Teach them about money. It doesn’t just magically appear, and the supply is limited. Distinguish need-spending and want-spending. Prepare them for the real possibility of having a standard of living downgrade when they get their first apartment. Open a bank account, and practice the habit of putting a few dollars into savings every week, and leaving it there. Cultivate self-control with money.
  13. Teach them that they don’t have to be limited to pink collar jobs.
  14. Warn them that, as a working adult, they will likely experience some level of sexual harassment. They may need to be careful in handling it, but don’t necessarily have to feel overly intimidated.
  15. Teach them about the realities of crime. Also emphasise the fact that, a lot of violent crime is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, so they can reduce their risk by being careful about who they let into their lives.
  16. Teach them that marriage and children are optional, not required. Warn them that, many adult women fail to understand or respect this.
  17. Teach them that, other people won’t always want to be friends with them, and that is OK. Also teach them that, other people won’t always want to be romantic partners with them, and that is OK. Rejection is a normal part of life.
  18. Teach them to have a good attention span. Not just in the short term (put the phone away and listen to the school lecture), but also in the longer term (worthwhile life goals cannot be accomplished if the longest time frame you can imagine is two weeks).
  19. Teach them that there will always be some other girl or woman who seems to have a better situation (appearance, money, whatever). It may feel bad, but it is a normal part of life.
  20. Teach them to avoid whining, and to focus on problem-solving.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve endured being poor?

Updated Jun 27

It’s a combination of things.

Constant, unrelenting stress and worry. A sense being incredibly alone and sad.

Inability to take care of your health properly. This can include vital things, like replacing eyeglasses, or going to a dentist, or getting a prescription filled. No matter how sick you are, you can’t afford to take a day off work. Living in unhealthy housing, and being unable to run the heater in the winter. Poor diet, down to going hungry. Proximity to people who have communicable diseases, like tuberculosis. Living in fear of even a minor accident, or a toothache that won’t stop.

Brutal working conditions. You will accept any job, for any payment (including piecework or commission). You will tolerate dangerous conditions. You will take daily abuse from the people around you. You may face casual “zero-hours” scheduling, or unstable rostering. You will work 80 hours per week.

Barriers to accessing credit, which could provide a temporary safety net (e.g. if you are out of work for a few weeks).

Barriers to accessing education or training which could lift you up. You can’t be in a classroom, because you have to be at work.

A terrible cycle involves cars. You can only afford to buy one that is in bad mechanical condition. And you cannot afford proper maintenance. The car’s condition may be physically dangerous, as well as increasing the risk of a financially devastating accident (for which you cannot afford insurance). If you need that car to go to work, and/or use the car on the job, needing a repair or replacement means that your income also stops.

Even if you don’t have an accident, you may be caught driving without legally mandated insurance, and punished with a large court fine. Or you may get a “fix-it ticket”, and pay a fine because you can’t afford the repair.

Cars are also crime targets. Even a totally ratty-looking, beat-up car may be subject to theft, vandalism, etc, which can affect you severely when you are poor.

Social judgement from people who aren’t poor:

“You must be a bad person if you would live in that neighbourhood”.

“You must be a bad person if you can’t call the Bank Of Mommy And Daddy to make a withdrawal, or just go back and live with them for free”. Or alternately, they assume that you really can do so.

There is a lot of stereotyping, and some people get very confused at encountering a combination of low-income/blue-collar plus being able to fire up more than a couple of neurons.

A strongly female-biased point is being treated like you are doing something morally offensive by working more than 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, and/or enduring rough working conditions. This is partly due to middle-class and affluent girls growing up with the idea that being female is an exemption from having to shoulder full financial responsibility. It’s also a competition issue, where some women are offended at the implication that you might earn even one dollar per week more than them. Or even just that you are raising the bar, in terms of facing difficulty. Women with a comfortable situation provided by parents and/or a husband will treat you like your existence is offensive.

Some of these women will directly tell you to kill yourself.

This isn’t just a matter of people being mean-spirited. It shrinks your pool of potential friends and social support networks. That reduces the information about job openings, or other resources, and reduces your ability to list personal references on job applications. It reduces the number of couches that you might sleep on to avoid being on the street.

You may have people assume that you come from a comfortable, middle class background, assume that you are still in that situation, and they will interpret your poverty-inflicted world-view as being just a spoiled bad attitude.

The other side of this is the pool of people that will be around you. When you are working poor, your most immediate threat is the non-working poor.

A low-rent neighbourhood is a high-crime neighbourhood. You will be surrounded by people who are violent, addicted, desperate, pathologically dishonest, deluded, low-functioning, etc. You may be surrounded by drugs.

The working vs. non-working issue makes you a target. Non-workers will be very excited to start up a new “friendship” with you. With the delusion that your paycheque is for an effectively infinite amount. And that you can easily just hand over cash as fast as they can spend it. Addicts are especially bad about this, but non-addicts, and even little old ladies on old-age benefits will do it. Some people will engage in sexual come-ons (even if it doesn’t match their orientation), to get your attention. They will engage in guilt-tripping, lying, manipulation, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and, in some cases, escalate to violence.

Your social pool will also include high numbers of untreated mentally ill people, who cannot be relied upon, and may be varying levels of delusional.

You may be tempted to do something dishonest or illegal to help pay the rent.

You may feel like all of this will continue, without relief, for the rest of your life.

Do women abuse child support?

Updated Jul 2

Yes. I was one of the children in such a situation.

It isn’t “politically correct” to tell the truth about this. But that is also the case with numerous other issues.


My deadbeat mother decided that she was entitled to use her children as a permanent meal-ticket.

She exercised her legitimate right to leave my father. “Leave” meaning about a thousand kilometres, for years.

Then, she used the threat of court action to extort my father for most of his income. He had a lower standard of living than she did. Despite the fact that he worked, and she didn’t.

ETA: Perhaps the above phrase, “used the threat of court action to extort my father” wasn’t clear. There was NOT any court order for child support, or any other court involvement. It was simply the threat of that. Neither parent wanted to go to court, due to Mommy’s history of violent, criminal child abuse, Daddy’s neglect by ignoring it, Mommy’s stated suggestion that she might make false accusations against Daddy, and also the fact that none of the “children” (teenagers) were enrolled in school (which had been an issue in a previous investigation by authorities).

ETA (cont’d): The fact that Mommy didn’t actually have legal grounds to expect permanent support wasn’t particularly meaningful at that point. She may have had some idea of using the below-described Malingering By Proxy to create a legal threat. At one point, she threatened to go to court, and to subject me to legal incompetency proceedings (based on the below-described retardation claim), to effectively cancel my legal-adult status, and force me to live with her past age 18. The fact that she didn’t actually have legal or practical ability to do this wasn’t particularly meaningful to her, and she thought that the mere threat was enough to bully me into staying.

ETA (cont’d): In any event, she had a massive sense of entitlement to continue the free ride. Including the view that she was simply “owed” money and other resources, as compensation for being miserable with her life.

Daddy had to get up and work all day, every day, at a demanding job.

Mommy sat on the couch all day, every day, watching television.

She bled him dry, every month.

The “children” (teenagers) were past the age of legal and practical ability to be left alone. These weren’t some kind of toddlers in need of supervision.

Mommy developed the delusion that she could force her “children” to continue living with her, after the age of 18.

Mommy believed that she could force her “children” to remain financially dependent. She believed that none of us would ever get jobs or our own apartments.

Mommy believed that her “children” would remain “children” and that Daddy would just keep paying and paying and paying. So that she could continue using her “children” as a meal-ticket, and avoid employment.

Mommy believed that the child support free ride would just continue for the rest of her life.

Mommy anticipated that, when her “children” were 30 or 40 years old, we would still live with her, totally dependent, and she would continue extorting child support from Daddy.

Mommy also engaged in Malingering By Proxy, and hoped to collect disability welfare for her three little retards (me and my siblings). Her 18th birthday present to my sister was a welfare application.

I was designated as “The Bad Kid” for daring to get a job, and my own apartment. Because it meant that Deadbeat Mommy couldn’t demand “child” support payments, or welfare payments, based on me.

ETA: Mommy sat on her arse for years, doing absolutely nothing to seek employment or education/training. Because she refused to face the eventual need for those things. Moved to a craptastic rural small town (pop. 3,500) with high unemployment/underemployment, high poverty, high welfare dependence, zero educational institutions, just for a free piece of land (courtesy of her own parents) to put a trailer on. Massive denial.

ETA (cont’d): That was a large issue of “abusing” the child support. Instead of using it as a temporary time-cushion in which to prepare (school, part-time job, etc) for independence/responsibility, she wasted it by sitting around, doing nothing. And used the free ride to move to an area which she knew had very poor employment prospects for herself, and for her “children” (teenagers).

ETA (cont’d): Well into adulthood, I have received repeated social abuse (always from females) for having somehow done something wrong, by refusing to stay in that craptastic little town with Mommy.

Then, one day, the youngest “child” turned 18 years old.

Mommy got a little surprise.

Daddy slammed the brakes on the gravy train, and brought the free ride to a screeching halt. He was probably running down to divorce court, joyfully yelling, “Free at last! Thank God almighty, I’m free at last!” Because he could finally check that most important box on a divorce application form: “Are there any children under 18?” with a resounding NO.

Deadbeat Parasite Mommy got introduced to reality.

ETA: People keep posting comments asking what happened next.

What happened was that, she had to finally get a job, and face the world as an adult. She was apparently a toxic workplace bully. At one point, was working in a rest home, and physically/criminally abused a resident, but managed to get away with it, due to lack of evidence (e.g. dementia issues). The habitual child abuser will become an elder abuser.

Like many women, she was completely offended to learn that, being female is not an automatic exemption from working to fully support one’s self. The idea of that exemption is one of the worst social messages sent to girls and young women. And factors into the abuse of child support.

Also, in order to obtain employment, she had to leave the aforementioned craptastic small town, and move to a place with better job prospects. Exactly the actions that I have been persistently told were “wrong” for me to have done (due to projection of the pervasive female fear of geographic relocation).

ETA (yet again): Some people have challenged the accuracy of this post. What they don’t comprehend is that I am talking about an individual with an extreme sense of entitlement. And an extreme fear of the grownup world of employment. And an extreme fantasy-orientation of having authority over other people.

ETA (yet again, cont’d): The word is, “sociopath”. The type who not only lacks emotional empathy, but also lacks cognitive empathy, and gets surprised when others refuse to cooperate with her demands.

ETA (yet again, cont’d): A massive personality disorder, which I had the misfortune to encounter again in a few other women in the following several years. Including the expectation of a total, limitless financial free ride (and general enabling of bad behaviour) without any marriage/sex/children involved. It’s known to them as, platonic “friendship”.