In this economy, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
That’ll be $3, please.
You’re probably wondering why I’m suddenly so wealthy, despite reports that consumer confidence is stagnant and employment anemic at best. Well, it’s no secret. I simply decided to get aggressive.
I decided to throw myself into door-to-door tutoring.
At first, it was a bit discouraging. No one expects the knock at the door at 8:30 in the morning to come from a licensed teacher ready to impart knowledge whether the pupil is ready or not.
Some sessions go like this:
“Good morning! I’m Murray Spadinsky and I’m offering my tutoring services. There’s a special today on Geography, but I can tell by your harried expression that you might be more interested in Time Management. My rates are reasonable and we can start right now…”
That’s when the door usually shuts. Or slams, depending on the hour and neighborhood. More likely, however, the encounter is like this:
“Murray Spadinsky, ma’am. I received a referral that you might need some tutoring in vocabulary. Yes, your sister recommended that I teach you four new words today, and we can have the session right here on your porch. Please take these pre-printed index cards…”
The trick, obviously, is to not let them get a word in. I got lucky that she had a sister because there was no referral, of course. After three or four minutes of quizzing and using the words in sentences, Mary Customer is able to use “cacophonous,” “disambiguation,” “polymorphism,” and “bric-a-brac” like a pro.
I started out with a pay-as-you-wish policy, but eventually created a list of services with prices. For a vocabulary session like this one, I’d charge $9 ($1 a word, plus labor). Comparative religion lectures are $10 per religion, with a discount on atheism.
Why more people haven’t capitalized on this career option is beyond me. Unlike at a college, where you have to deal with red tape like getting a photo ID or background checks or applying for credentials, direct-to-customer education is streamlined and requires very little overhead. I’m as flexible as can be, especially since I bought the big van. I’m prepared to teach English, math, history, Spanish (um poco), health, music (choral and strings), and hip-hop salsa.
Student buy-in is usually very simple. I’ve learned to tailor my offerings to my customers based on market research I do behind trees with my binoculars. Stay-at-home moms with infants are often interested in learning self-defense, or at least that’s what I’ve inferred based on their amateur ability to throw boiling water from a distance of five meters. Men over 75 are keen on oral history instruction. These sessions can last up to seven hours, and usually end when the pupil is asleep. That makes payment easier, to be frank, because tuition is most likely found behind a loose board inside the bedroom closet.
Another advantage to my style of tutoring, as compared to the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar model? Site-specific learning. Does the pupil have a garage? Woodworking 101. Grandma’s got a kitchen? Advanced Culinary. That condo complex’s clump of trees over there? It’s now a classroom for budding arborists.
My references are piling up…
“Murray Spadinsky was so helpful! I always wondered what those little pieces of plastic at the end of our shoelaces were called. Best 49 cents I ever spent!”
“Murray’s ability to make the work of Carneiscus relevant to me turned my whole view of Epicurean philosophy on its head. And all while I was watering my garden!”
“When I saw a crumple-suited man come out of a van in my driveway carrying a calculator, Bunsen burner, and Oxford English Dictionary, I almost called the police. But when I learned what he was doing, I felt much better about calling the hospital instead.”
So, don’t get frustrated that you’re underemployed or over-educated for your current circumstances. Channel that inner-salesmen and take that knowledge to the people! Just don’t hover near my territory anywhere from North Maple Avenue to Grove Street. There are a few multi-family homes that I think could use a course in etiquette.