I am a man of many gigs. From Uber driver to grant writer to USPS director of dropping stuff off, I will do just about anything to refill my meager coffers when between big money jobs.
I spent the last three weeks working as a standardized test scorer at Pearson. Getting the job was easy. The only requirements were a college degree and a bit of common sense. There’s no interview. If Pearson likes your resume they email you and ask you to accept the job offer online. Hell, that’s right up my alley. Efficient. And no need to get all dressed up and wear my patent leather wedding shoes to an interview.
Keeping the Pearson gig is more difficult. You have to pass a test during the paid training. In short, the scores you give the standardized practice test have to match the scores given by the experts at Pearson. If you fail twice…peace out. I’d say about five of the 40 or so people in my group did not make the cut.
It had been awhile since I worked in such a structured environment. Hours were from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We were allowed two 15 minute breaks and 30 minutes for lunch. Cell phones were a no-no, though that did little to stop my addiction. The only perk was free candy. But even that was no longer free once they put a donation tray next to the candy jar.
The pay was not good. I made $12.10 an hour with the potential for a $30 bonus if I graded more than 420 elementary school essays in a day. That’s a lot of essays to skim. I was the only one on my team to make the bonus our first full day. It was my biggest accomplishment since winning my kindergarten Monopoly tournament.
But chasing the bonus wore me out. Most of the essays were terrible. I felt bad for and angry at the kids. If they didn’t improve their writing they’d never land a temporary test scorer job with Pearson.
I missed two days of work because I had to fly to Los Angeles for an interview. My supervisor thought I was an unexcused no-show. I had reminded her the previous week of my upcoming absence, but rules were rules and if I missed another day that would be the end of my gig. But at least she said it with a smile and a “honey.” Older black women always show me love.
I got the contract with the company in L.A. It paid double what I made at Pearson and I could work from home. I thought about quitting, but I didn’t have much else going on in Columbus besides some day trading and this here blog. I also needed to get out the house. Even my wife has been like, “You should go out.” Back to grading 420 essays a day, I was.
I started talking to the guy seated next to me. He was disabled, seemed to be recovering from a stroke. We had sat in silence most of the first week. It was my fault. I assumed he didn’t want to or was unable to talk. His speech was slow, but it helped his comedic timing when he joked about the subjectivity of the grading system. I came to admire him. He caught the bus to work and wore a suit.
It stormed one morning and my well-dressed work partner would miss that day and all days thereafter. He was not the only one. I’d say about a third of the original team had stopped showing up.
Monotony had set in and people started to crack. There was a balding, pony-tailed white man in the break room nearly in tears asking for migraine meds. I wished I had drugs for the both of us. And there was an older East African woman, about 60, who flipped out and yelled at the guy sitting in front of her. According to her, he distracted her by moving in his seat too much. She may have also needed meds.
I felt the stress, too. My eyes hurt and restless leg syndrome set in, which Big Pharma says is a real thing. But I found peace in a gender-neutral bathroom. It had one toilet and was usually empty. I’d grade 100 essays at a time and then go hang out in the bathroom to play on my phone. This, along with my real breaks, brought my actual work time to about six hours. And I got more done because I was so focused on earning that bathroom break.
I had another interview late Monday morning and called to let Pearson know I’d try to make it in late. I never showed. In the past seven work days I had graded 2,578 essays on the same topic and like the LeBron vs Jordan argument it was overkill.
Human resources called that afternoon to say the project was ending a week earlier than expected, and not just for me. We bonus chasers had graded too fast and there was no more work. I believe Jay Z would refer to this as “hustlin’ backwards.”
I felt relieved, though thankful to earn a little extra money. Please make sure your kids know how to write a coherent essay.
Note: Pearson also offers work-from-home gigs, which sounds like much better experience than my job with Pearson, if only because you would not need to hide in the gender-neutral bathroom.