This is America where originality, audacity and opportunism are not to be….um, frowned on.
We all have that one person in our lives – you love them to death, but you can’t for the LIFE of you understand what is going on in their tiny little minds. Every time you try to have a real conversation about real realities, and you think they’re taking you seriously, a week later they proudly announce they’ve just done the one thing you told them was a Bad Idea.
For me, that person is Jamie Berndthart.
I’ve known Jamie for longer than I care to remember (because I’m getting old), and for about that long she’s allowed things to come out of her mouth that have often made me wonder about my own sanity in choosing to hang out with her. (It boils down to Jamie being generally a good person, and funny, and that we have a lot of the same interests so she’s up for doing the silly things I want to do. That’s hard to find in a new person once you’re old—there are even studies about it—so hang on to what you have, kids.)
Jamie is probably the opposite of me in just about everything regarding plans for the future, and always has been. I stuck around school for a masters (and I’m thinking of going back for more); Jamie dropped out of college halfway through sophomore year (at the time you could still do that and get a job). I have little interest in dating because I just don’t; Jamie found a boyfriend on her first day of high school and never dated anyone else. I would jump into a burning building to save a child, but I would also jump off a cliff before I had any of my own; Jamie could hardly wait to be married and get herself knocked up.
Even though she was between jobs at the time and trying to make a career of part-time retail and part-time acting.
I told you I can’t for the life of me understand what is going on in her tiny little mind.
Jamie married her high school boyfriend about five years ago in spite of having very little money to do so (but still found and spent $800 on her wedding dress). They then bought a house with even less money, because somehow that made more financial sense than living in their old apartment with a superintendant to take care of repairs and fixes built into the rent. No, they couldn’t put up with an apartment any longer—what they really needed was a one-story house in New Jersey with superbly ugly laminate flooring, a series of kitchen appliances that hadn’t been changed since the 70s, a brand new mortgage and the ‘extra space’ (which was either the second bedroom of approximately 20 feet squared or the 5 feet of ‘yard’ in the front, I’m still not clear on that).
While they were buying their house, Jamie left her steady, full-time job because she didn’t like it, in the middle of the worst part of the economic recession. Her husband was still in school. She took up acting, bringing in checks of up to $40 a week when she could actually get a gig as an extra. She did this for a year before finally capitulated to the need for a real job and took her part-time job at retail making minimum wage and hating everyone.
And then, two years later, she got herself pregnant.
I am allergic to children, especially when people have no money to use to raise them, and I thought her timing was ridiculous. But she was so damn happy that I couldn’t bring myself to beat her head against a wall and applied myself to the studious knitting of baby blankets. It beat worrying myself over her crap financial situation by a lot.
Apparently I needn’t have worried at all.
Jamie, bless her little pea-sized brain, had actually gone through the books and looked at the checks she and her husband were writing every month to stay with a roof over their heads and realized that their income versus outcome was just barely enough. A screaming, wailing sack of baby that couldn’t support itself would probably send them into the red, and Jamie realized that, but she wasn’t willing to go looking for a real job while pregnant.
Now, honestly, I can’t blame her for that one because the job market is horrible to women who aren’t pregnant, let alone those who are—but it seemed silly that she wasn’t even going to send out resumes, and I told her as such over an instant message chat.
“Nah, don’t worry, it’s fine. I’m just selling positive pregnancy tests,” she wrote back.
I put my coffee cup down and stared at my laptop screen for a bit. Surely I was reading it wrong. I blinked, then closed my eyes, then opened them again and read once more: “I’m just selling positive pregnancy tests.”
“You are not!”
“I am. Put the ad up two nights ago and got three responses by this morning.”
“For your pee on a stick?”
“Yeah, I guess. If that’s how you want to look at it.”
“Wait, what, show me!”
Jamie sent a link and I, with some trepidation, clicked. And there it was: A Craigslist ad for the tri-state area, for anybody seeking a second-hand, positive pregnancy test. (Blessedly without any supporting-evidence pictures.)
I’m pregnant and selling my positive pregnancy tests! I don’t care what you’re planning on using them for – you don’t tell me and I won’t ask. Reply with your name and address and I’ll send you my paypal information. Once the money’s there, I’ll ship out the test.
My instant message pinged at me with, “Anne?”
“Reading,” I typed back distractedly. I read the ad again and let it sink in. Then, “Who the hell is even seeing this? Who would buy one and why?”
“…I don’t know?” she replied. “I mean, it’s Craigslist—I just put it up and priced at $25 plus shipping. Then I got three answers. I know their names ‘cause of shipping but I don’t care what they’re going to do with them. I’m just waiting for the money to show up in my paypal before I send them. But I got ‘em ready this morning.”
The image of my friend peeing on sticks and packing them up with the intent to put them in the mail was not one I ever wanted to think about in my life. (You’re welcome.) But there it was, and apparently it was netting her a semi-decent $75 on the first day. Now, provided she had to pee on three sticks a day, every day, for nine months, she might have some breathing room in her budget after the important bills were paid.
“Oh my god you have to show me the emails. Pictures or it didn’t happen!” I demanded.
My phone chimed with email notifications a few minutes later; still on my laptop I rushed to my inbox to check. Three forwarded emails from three different email addresses, all looking for a positive pregnancy test and willing to pay $25 plus shipping to get one. (I guess knowing someone who’s pregnant isn’t all that common even though I see pregnant women in the street all the time.)
You may not understand what’s going on in your friend’s tiny brain—but sometimes you may not have to. Just know that it’s still (mostly) working.