By Paul Caputo and Jeffrey Carl
The Richmond State was a plucky upstart alternative newspaper (not that kind of “alternative”) that challenged the editorial might of the stodgy Richmond Times-Dispatch beginning in 1994. It folded in 1997 and left so little of a legacy that there is a grand total of one search result for it in all of the Googles, which is a link to the Library of Congress where you can find which libraries have copies on microfiche. At the time, Paul Caputo and I thought this was our ticket to comedy stardom. We were exceptionally stupid.
Hi. We are Jeff and Paul, and we recently graduated from a local college that we won’t name, but rhymes with “Poon-a-nursery glove Bitch-fund.” And, being thrust into a cold, hard world with only a $60,000 slip of paper (“diploma”) as protection, we thought we’d write something to save all of you future graduates out there from making all the same mistakes we did, so that you can go on to make new ones. Thus was born our “Pocket Guide to Post-College Survival in Richmond.”
First thing’s first. Don’t actually put it in your pocket. Folded-up newsprint is disgusting. Especially this stuff they use here at the State. What is this? Grape juice?
(Tip #1: Don’t taste it. It’s not grape juice.)
The second thing is that just because you, when you graduate, will likely not have a plan (“clue”) or job (“job”), is no cause to be upset. It is cause for full-fledged panic. Your immediate reaction should be to drink so much that your only memories of your senior year of college are savage hangovers and some class that was maybe “Introduction to Management Systems” or “Systems of Introductory Management” or “Inter-System Management of Suction” or “13th Century Algerian Literature.” Or something.
At any rate, when you recover from your illness (“hangover”) and are kicked out (“graduate”), your plan is simple: 1) Panic again. 2) Drink more. 3) Hang the tassle from your graduation cap over the rear-view mirror.
After a couple of days, when all of this has grown a little tiresome or life-threatening, you face two options. The first is to keep drinking, go back to your old fraternity parties, drink even more, beg money from your parents for astounding amounts of cheap Scotch, and finally end up as one of those people who lie outside of 7-11s, arguing with “those damn squirrels.” Do not do this. Your other option is to come to terms with your job situation (“none”) and attempt to find one.
You will not be successful immediately, unless you are seeking a career in the growing fields of asking “would you like that Super-Sized?” or drug dealing. There will be days when you feel as if you may never find a job. This is probably a result of the stack of “thank you but ha ha ha ha” letters from companies that have lots of jobs but none for you, which you have under your bed, along with the four-month-old Taco Bell-flavored Doritos you forgot you had left there as a snack for the mice. Finding a job that fits all of your personal requirements (“pays money”) will take a little time, and you need to know how to survive (“not die”) in the meantime.
Incidentally, there are certain vitally important hints for this interim period that have been learned and passed down through generations of ex-grads. We have, due to excess drinking, forgotten them. But, as best as we can reconstruct them, they include:
• Ramen noodles are your friend. At four for a dollar, they are perfect for your budget. And they contain a whopping zero percent of all your daily nutrient requirements. Except “sodium,” of which they contain about a billion percent of your needs for the next decade. But they are easy to make (“have microwave instructions”) and are tasty hangover remedies.
• Low-cost housing is your friend. Just because a neighborhood is “unfashionable” or “constantly life-threatening” is no reason not to move in, if the price is right. “The price is right” in this case indicates that it is the cheapest damn thing you can find. You and your roommates – and you will have roommates – simply need to develop simple security precautions. These can range from being safety-smart (“sleeping with a shotgun under the pillow”) to simple friendliness (“taping a sign that says ‘please do not kill us’ on your door.”)
• Free pizza. Pizza Hut has a “If Your Order Isn’t Right, It’s Free” policy. Order pizzas without anchovies. Needless to say, you can always insist that you wanted anchovies on that. And, if some bizarre slip-up occurs and they did put anchovies on it, say you wanted kelp or hummus or something.
• Join the planetary family. If you find that you need an automobile and you don’t have one, think Saturn. They have a wonderful “30-days, no questions asked” return policy on their automobiles. Simply pretend you have a wonderful credit history (“lie”) and purchase one. Twenty-nine days later, return it, claiming you hated the headrests or that the stereo wouldn’t stop playing Queen. Get another Saturn. Repeat. Rinse.
Special Note: Do not do this indefinitely. You may have heard of the Saturn “Family.” This is not to be underestimated: sooner or later, they will get wise. And you don’t want Vito and Luigi Saturn from the “family” paying youse a visit.
• Be a cool cat. If you are living in an affordable (“cheap”) apartment, it may not have air-conditioning. Richmond summers can be a little warm (“a sweltering hell-box”), and air-conditioned living is a real must. If you don’t have friends with air-conditioning to mooch off of, there are several other free sources of coolness to investigate. Try the local library: those are always air-conditioned. And, since nobody reads anymore, you can camp out there for days at a time, undisturbed. If you are somehow surprised by a rogue librarian who notices your tent and campfire in the reference section, do not panic. Simply explain that you are trying to finish Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” and that you’re up to page seven. They will understand.
• Learn and experience the merits of afternoon television. One of the most detrimental things an unemployed post-grad can do is feel listless and worthless. Afternoon television gives us something to look forward to. And hey, can we help it if the world doesn’t recognize the positive qualities we would bring to any organization that would pay us to join their professional team (“anywhere that would pay us?”) No. Without “Quantum Leap” or “Knight Rider” reruns, or everything on ”Comedy Central” there to offer moral support at three in the afternoon, when the rest of the world is out working and getting pay checks every week, life would seem, well, worthless. And, dammit, in that darkest hour, Montel is there for you.
•Get a pet. You need someone to talk to, don’t you? And, compared to your roomates, they will seem neat.
•Go back to campus. Watch people go to class, studying for tests, handing in papers. Laugh heartily and yell things like, “Chaucer sucks!” and all those things you could never say during college. Hey, we might be unmployed. But at least we’re not still learning anything.
• Or whatever.
You may have spent some or all of your college years working as an intern (“slave.”) This process involves you telling some company that you would like to work there – and this is the part companies love – without them paying you any money.
“Hold on,” you say. “What would make me want to do that, unless I had gone completely raving berserk? Or just really rock-stupid?”
But wait! Surprisingly enough, there are many benefits to the concept of internship (“indentured servitude”). First is that an internship gives you valuable experience. Experience is important because it can be redeemed at the end of the show for valuable prizes and luggage. Second, many companies end up hiring their interns. Unfortunately, these people never go very far on the corporate ladder because their superiors realize that these people were what the French call “dumb as a bag of hammers” (or, literally translated, “duh”). That is, they had few enough functioning synapses that they worked for no money at all, so they’d probably bankrupt the company in a week if they were ever in charge. Third, you can steal pens, stationery and toilet paper, in addition to making long-distance phone calls from your internship.
Or try working for a temp agency (“hating your life.”) Jeff had a friend who – no kidding – had a temp assingment shoveling coal into a furnace. If necessary, remind yourself frequently “I may be shoveling coal, but I’m extremely qualified to do it.”
If this does not work, and you don’t mind slumming a little, try looking into the growing fields of selling crack or transvestite prostitution. Or bother people for change outside of stores on Franklin Street. At least that way you won’t have your alma mater bugging you for donations. And if you finally decide that you have absolutely no scruples whatsoever, and are willing to walk on the seedy side of life, try getting a part-time job in TV news or with the Richmond Times-Dispatch (“Times-Disgrace.”) That’s what we did.
To sum up, everything will eventually be okay. Someday you will have a real job and spend your afternoons relieving stress by beating young interns with electric cattle prods. You will work your way up the corporate ladder (“the highway to hell”) and find the well-paying job of your choice (“have too many mortgages to enjoy it.”) It’s a simple fact of biology – everybody who currently has a well-paying job is probably going to die before you do. So there willbe openings. The secret is just to hang in there, stay tough, keep your options open, and keep eating Ramen noodles.