NORTH ADAMS

Sunday marked the beginning of this year's WordxWord Festival. WordxWord is Pittsfield's annual weeklong celebration of the spoken word, filled not only with talented nationally recognized poets who can make you laugh and cry in the span of a single 5-minute poem, but also some local poets, which is handy for me, because I am a poet. The entire festival is free, thanks to generous grants, which is also handy for me, because I am a poet. (Among the world's least-used metaphors is "As wealthy as a poet.")

However, the WordxWord Festival is not just about poetry. Sunday kicked off with a Story Slam, which is basically a 4-minute-story telling competition. (As opposed to a 4-minute storytelling competition, which contains a dozen people telling stories like "One time I went to pour some wine and spilled it all over the rug and that's why I can never go back to France.")

Since you probably missed Sunday's event, I thought I'd briefly share a version of my story here: Half a score and half a seven years ago, I was unemployed, and having trouble finding a job thanks to what economists call "a Philosophy degree," and happened across a flier that promised: "Work Part Time, Earn $20 Per Appointment*, Call For Details."

So I did.

"Hi! I saw your flier that said to call for details, and that is what I am doing!"

"Great.


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Well, I don't really have any details to give you, but we do have an information session available later in the week if you're interested."

I was as interested as any unemployed person, which is to say, desperate, but I thought I'd make an attempt to deal with this sensibly.

"Could you at least give me a basic idea of what the job entails?"

"Sorry, I just answer the phones. You'd have to talk to the manager."

"Can I talk to the manager?"

"He's out of the office. The best thing to do would be to come in for an information session."

The best thing to do would be to have them immediately send me lots of money just for calling. A distant reasonable thing would be to understand what the job is before I show up to interview for it. But, as previously mentioned, I was desperate.

And so it was a few days later that I arrived at their office, a nondescript room with a paper sign taped to the door in the middle of an unlit hallway in an abandoned factory. It inspired almost as much confidence as I'd had coming in. I met the manager, who introduced himself as Mr. Eelrulm, and something struck me about this slippery fellow -- his voice was familiar.

"Were you the person I talked to on the phone?"

"Ah, yes."

"You told me that you had no information about details because only the manager knew them. Are you telling me you are the manager? Why didn't you tell me over the phone?"

"Well, I thought it would be easier to tell you in person."

Confidence inspired.

The session informed me that Vector Marketing sold Cutco Knives, that I would have to purchase my own demonstration kit, and that the * in "Earn $20 Per Appointment*" stood for "in which you sell over $100 worth of knives." At this point I was pretty sure I was no longer interested, and going home and Googling the company brought up numerous scam complaints, so I decided that people I couldn't trust and knives were a bad combination.

The moral of the story is that if you see a sign promising "Earn lots of money*" and proceed with the job anyway, asterisk you take.

Seth Brown is an award-winning humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse", and encourages you to catch the tail end of this year's WordxWord Festival. His website is RisingPun.com.