How much for your soul?

Once in a blue moon you may finally find something you’re looking for. You may think “this is my dream job, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for all these years’. And you’re so enthusiastic and grateful that you have been selected for this amazing position that you forget about everything else around you.

Every journalist wants to strike it big. Last week I thought I had a chance to finally make a difference. I thought there will be no need to deal with lame-ass editors who pursue certain agenda. I thought I would be my own editor and would have an awesome co-presenter by my side. 

I was full of ideas for our new video project. I always believed that you don’t need to be in one particular country to make news. Thanks to modern technologies you can now do it from any remote village in the world unless you have a stable internet connection. 

My new job was simple: we needed to make a fun, engaging and witty show about hi-tech industry for the Russian audience. Well, who doesn’t love hi-tech, right? There are so many things you can do about it. I remember walking to the chilly air conditioned apartment in a fancy neighborhood of Asok in Bangkok. It was my first time in a professional video studio with green walls , light, cameras and a bunch of people working on post production. My new boss seemed excited. My friend had an audition for the news presenter position and it all went smoothly. Our show was supposed to be an edgy version of ‘Borat meets George Carlin’. And hell, yeah, I love George Carlin. I was supposed to have an image of a serious teacher-looking news lady, while my friend had a style of a provocative and funny guy.

I thought of it as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I knew it would be popular, because we had so much potential. Yet things went wrong.

Imagine when your boss is a highly manipulative and demanding human being. Imagine working 6 days a week in a heavenly environment of tropical Thailand when you cannot even go to the beach because you’re too exhausted. Imagine getting 500 USD per month for a 55-hour working week? Imagine waiting for your boss, while he decides to schedule a meeting with you and be ready in an hour. That’s what it was about. 

We went to a neighboring city of Pattaya where my boss has another video studio and a huge villa. We planned on discussing technical details and trying to make our first video.

-so, how much do you think you will pay us for this project?

The boss takes a dramatic theatrical pause, as if he never thought about this question before. After ten minutes pretending to be thinking he says:

– Well, the first month I wanted to pay you 300 USD, second will be 450USD and the third will be 600 USD. We will have a trial period of 3 months.

– ???!!!!!! [this sounds bizarre, because the boss isn’t a poor guy, he clearly has money and can afford paying more. He even bragged that his other video projects bring him a lot of revenue from ads.] Do you realize that we need to rent an apartment and buy food? This isn’t realistic even for Thailand.

– Well, ok let’s just make it 450 USD each month?

Five cigarettes, three coffees and several international calls later we finally decided to take this offer. After all, it is once in a lifetime opportunity, right? The boss has repeated it several times. 

– Ok, guys, you need to move out of Bangkok and come live in Pattaya for three months. You have to be ready in a week.

– ????? okay, we’ll try to figure something out. However, I’m not sure we will be able to find a replacement that fast. My roommates who depend on my rent. I cannot just ditch them.

– Okay, tonight you can either stay in Pattaya or go back to Bangkok, it is completely up to you. We can finish the work tomorrow. I have a meeting in Bangkok at 11 am, but we can meet after and finish everything before 1 pm.

– Well, you know there is a curfew in Bangkok and the next bus to Bangkok is at 6 pm. So I’d rather stay in Pattaya overnight and then go to the city in order to avoid any trouble.

– Ok, it is up to you.

Five minutes later:

– Sooooo, are you guys ready to go to Bangkok?

– I thought we gonna stay in Pattaya tonight no? ok, we can go now. Not a big deal. Please call s tonight to schedule our meeting for tomorrow.

– Sure

There was no call, no text message, just a huge pile of frustration and a sticky feeling that we have been used and manipulated. Next morning at 9 am I receive a phone call from my boss:

– Morning, did I wake you up?

– Hmm, not really

– Okay, great. Let’s meet today at 10.30 am!

– I thought you had a meeting at 11 am?

– Well, it all got cancelled.

[Do you expect us to be always ready for you? Do you think it is ok not to call beforehand?] — all these thoughts were running through my head

Well, my dear boss, hell no. No, I’m not gonna be chasing after you. I’m not going to think that you’re making me a favor. I’m not going to turn into a voluntary slave for 500 USD per month. I guess if I decide to sell my time, at least I will sell it for more. 

So here comes the bottom line: ‘how much is your soul?’ 

Are you willing to sacrifice your time and energy for a project that might bring you a lot of exposure and will destroy you at the same time? Forget about yoga at 6pm, drinks with friends and late night guitar sessions in your living room. I guess Thailand has changed me a lot. Now I see the worth of my freedom and my time. I know that crazy long working hours won’t make me a better person. These things will turn me into a horrible human being. Maybe I would even become like my boss: manipulative and greedy. 

What will be your choice?