26 January, 2009

The things I will do for money

I wanted to start this post by saying "While I was perusing craigslist for jobs last week..." only I recently learned that I have been using the word "peruse" incorrectly. I was under the impression that to peruse something was to glance through or skim over something. According to dictionary.com, to peruse is "to read through with thoroughness or care," or "to survey or examine in detail." I felt really stupid once I was told this. There is a usage note under the definition that brings attention to this very common but incorrect meaning. I hope I'm not the only one who had been using this word incorrectly.

Starting over. While I was browsing Craigslist for jobs last week I came across a research study that claimed to offer $50 for 5 hours of watching tv. This sounded too good to be true, but hey, I don't have any money so why not find out. It didn't offer many details but there was a short quiz that you had to fill out to see if you qualified. I took the quiz, submitted my email address and thought nothing else of it. Late Thursday afternoon I got an email saying I had been selected to participate the in the study the next day from 10:30-3:30. Details were scarce but it said I would have to wear a special shirt with monitors and not to wear a dress. Done and done.

I should mention at this point that I tried to do a research study at Harvard in the fall that I had found on Craigslist. It was a psych study on decision making and I was supposed to have received $25 for two hours of my time. It was pouring rain on the day I was scheduled to go but I walked over to the bus stop on Mass Ave to take the number 1 to Cambridge. I stepped in a huge puddle which soaked my Converse on the way and then had to wait in the rain for almost 25 minutes for a bus. By the time I got to Harvard I was completely drenched and 10 minutes late. If you've heard this story before, I probably told you that nobody else had shown up because of the weather and since they needed at least 3 people they paid me and I got to go home. This is essentially the truth. What really happened was that they only gave me $5 since nobody else was there and I was late. Keeping in mind that the bus cost $1.25 each way I made a grand total of $2.50 for an hour and a half of my time. I arrived home shivering and looking like a drowned dog and was too embarrassed to admit what a failure the day had turned into, especially because I had tried to convince several friends to come with me for an "easy $25, man! and what else are you doing today anyway?"

Back to last Friday. I made sure to not be late so as not to avoid any reduction in the glorious prize of $50 I was to be awarded. The study was at the Westin Copley which is walking distance from my apartment. I didn't take into account the size of the hotel though; the lobby isn't even on the first floor so by the time I found the room on the 7th floor I was 2 minutes late. Luckily other people were still walking in and it wasn't a big deal. The company running the study was called Innerscope and the representatives explained that we would have to wear an EKG monitor, a specially designed vest which monitors our breathing and movement and an electrodermal activity monitor. The first hour was spent putting on these monitors. I was one of the first to get all the equipment so I sat in the room on my iPhone posting on Twitter and wishing I had brought a book. Once everyone was situated they explained that today's "study" was really just an attempt to calibrate the software and hardware since they had recently made some changes. A few people asked questions about how it works but they refused to answer most of them because of trade secrets. We were assured that no electricity would be flowing through our body and that we couldn't possibly get shocked. Since they weren't really studying us or our responses it didn't matter what we did during the time. One of the employees had brought The Dark Knight for us to watch so I sat there for an hour watching it before they brought us pizza from the hotel restaurant.

The movie was paused several times and we were told to restart the computers connected to all of our monitors so that they could change the settings. Other than the few brief interruptions it was nice to sit there and watch the movie. The film ended just after 3 and we were asked if anyone would be willing to stay an extra hour for an extra $15. I volunteered, along with about half of the people there, because it's not like I had anything else to do. Unfortunately they put on the movie Hellboy 2 at this point. I didn't know there was an original Hellboy but the second one was complete crap. Terrible acting, horrendous animated monsters and an even worse story line. The actor who plays George Bluth from Arrested Development was in it and even he didn't manage to redeem the film at all. We only had to watch 40 minutes of it thankfully and I left with $65 cash (a good portion of which was spent that evening on dinner and drinks with some friends).


  1. If you ever run out of rent money you could always do a sleep study for a month.

  2. I've been using peruse wrong as well.