Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You're hired! At a salary of $8/day.

We hired an intern this past Saturday night.

Actually, we hired an Internship. For "only" $8.

I'll explain.

You know how they use funny words for things in Australia? One of the funniest -- the one I can't keep from making a joke about every time I hear it -- is "hire."

There are a lot of people getting hired in Australia, because they didn't have as much of a recession as the rest of the world during the economic crisis (almost any at all, really). But there are also a lot of things getting hired in Australia, bringing the overall rate of hiring to double, treble, or dodecatuple that of other countries.

See, to "hire" something means to rent something. I first heard the term in reference to renting a car, back when I lived in my own country. My wife discussed "hiring" a car for a vacation, and I laughed. I imagine this car going in for an interview with us, and after asking it lots of questions and ticking lots of boxes ("Do you have power windows? Do you have rear-wheel suspension?"), we would decide if we wanted to hire it or not. "You're hired!" I would say in enthusiastic terms whenever the subject of hiring a car came up. I sensed my wife thought it was sort of funny, too, because she usually rolls her eyes when I repeat jokes ad nauseam. With this one, she'd laugh every time.

The funny thing is, not every way we use the word rent can be replaced with the Australian term "hire." For example, you don't "hire" an apartment. You "let" an apartment. You'll see signs in windows that say "To Let."

I would have guessed that you would at least "rent" a video here in Australia, or perhaps some other term (though probably not "let"). So you can imagine my surprise when we were staying overnight in Daylesford, about 90 miles from Melbourne, this past Saturday night for my 40th birthday, and were looking for a video store. The little guidebook at the place were staying told us where we could go if we want to "hire" a video.

(Yes, I just skated over turning 40. Maybe I'll have a real post about it at some point. Maybe I won't. Haven't decided yet.)

Of course this brought my whole routine up again. I imagined going to this video store, conducting an interview with a DVD that seemed promising ("Are you under two hours long? How many laughs do you have?") and then "hiring" the best candidate.

The strangest bit about the experience of "hiring" The Internship was not, however, the fact that we "hired" it. The strangest bit was the damn thing's salary demands.

Now, I know things are more expensive in Australia (oh how well I know it), and I know we were staying in a little tourist town. But perhaps my most acute sense of sticker shock was waiting for me when we walked into Family Videoland in Daylesford.

The videos on the new release wall were emblazoned with little orange stickers that read "$8 - Overnight."

Eight dollars? To rent a movie?

I had never seen the likes of it. In fact, I don't think I'd seen the $6 barrier breached by even the boldest of outlets that seek job placements for their videos.

The funniest thing was the way the place trumpeted this price, with these bold orange stickers, as though $8 was some terrific value for possessing a movie for 24 hours. Like it usually costs $10, but now it's only $8. Me, I'd think if you're going to hire out a movie to people for $8, the least you should do is feel shame about it. When I ask you what it costs, you should lower your eyes and mumble the number so I can barely hear it.

Of course, $8 is nothing compared to what it costs to watch a movie in a hotel room or something of the like. If it costs $14.99 to $16.99 to rent a movie in a U.S. hotel room, I can only imagine what they can get away with charging in an Aussie inn. (I have to be careful when I use the word "hotel" here, because a hotel can actually refer to a pub.)

But going to an actual video store is different. You have to get in your car to pick it up and to return it. Since there's no convenience involved, you hardly expect to pay a convenience fee.

Okay, I guess there was one little convenience, which is that we, as overnight guests and not locals, were permitted to rent from them without having to get a membership or having a local address. Still -- eight dollars?

"This better be some damn movie," I joked as we were leaving.

My wife laughed. We had just been to a spa afternoon and an expensive dinner, and were staying over in a nice hotel/inn/I'll call it what they called it: a villa. Eight dollars was not going to break us, at least not compared to the money that had already been splurged in honor of my landmark birthday.

And I must say that although The Internship didn't live up to being the most expensive rental from a video store I had ever participated in, it was probably an appropriate movie for a guy turning 40 and starting a job search in a new country -- in other words, starting over from scratch in some ways, like Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn when they get their Google internships.

Let's hope all this talk of "hiring" will be contagious when I start to go on my own interviews in about a month's time.

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