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We Asked People About the Strangest Thing They've Ever Done for Money

"I spent a year looking after TV fortune tellers in Budapest."

by VICE Staff
Aug 11 2017, 3:10pm

Foto udlånt af Ana Jakšić

This article was originally published on VICE UK.

Ah, part-time jobs. That sweet cash-in-hand you got from rolling through to your local pub after school to wash plates and steal a bottle of crap vodka for your buddy's house party. Getting fired from your waiter job for forgetting a customer wanted their extra-spicy wings "extra spicy but not too extra spicy" because they're "allergic to extra, extra spicy." Learning the hard way that no matter how much money you may be making, no girl is into a guy who holds a sign while dressed as a giant sandwich.

But last time you needed some extra cash, it probably didn't cross your mind that you could've done something a little out of the ordinary—like knitting Superman-themed jumpers for penguins, or applying make up on cows. We spoke to eight people from around the world who are living proof that side jobs don't have to be a complete bore.

Karmen*, 25, a social worker from Germany who styled cows for photoshoots

Photo courtesy of Karmen.

VICE: How did you end up styling cows in your spare time?
Karmen: My sister was already working in the industry and she needed some extra help. I thought it would be easy because I grew up on a farm and knew how to handle cows.

How do you make cows more beautiful?
We would travel as a team, along with a photographer, to different farms in the region to scout for cow models. When a cow was chosen, based on whatever the beauty criteria was, we would clean it, use flour to touch up its white spots, trim and brush its tail hairs—just trying to make it prettier. Most shoots were for specialized cow calendars. To be honest, I have no idea what makes a cow beautiful. For me, a cow is just a cow, but there really are people whose job it is to be able tell the difference.

Were you afraid of the cows?
No, because I was raised on a farm. But every cow can react differently to people—some kick when they're upset. I've gained a few bruises, but nothing worse than that.

– Nora Kolhoff

Lyn, 60, a receptionist from Australia who knitted sweaters for penguins affected by oil spills

Photo courtesy of Lyn.

VICE: Hi Lyn, so you knitted sweaters for penguins?
Lyn: Yes, it all started 17 years ago. I work as the receptionist on the Phillip Island Nature Park in Victoria, Southeastern Australia, and we take sick penguins in for rehabilitation. In 2000, there was a series of really bad oil spills. Just a small dot of oil can go straight through a penguin's waterproof feathers, which allows the freezing cold water to get straight onto their skin. They can drown or die from the cold. They also panic: They don't eat, and if they make it to shore they ingest the toxic oil while trying to clean their feathers with their beaks.

We tried a few other ways to stop the penguins from preening and to keep them warm while they recovered, but there were hundreds of birds. Then one of the vets saw a pattern in a magazine that someone had made up for another breed of water bird. She and her friend adapted that sweater so that it would fit the little penguins.

How many sweaters did you make?
I probably made about 300 sweaters. Because it was such a great idea, we didn't have to put the word out very far before we were inundated with thousands of offers to help. It took years to sort through all the sweaters we received in the mail. We haven't had a major oil spill since 2001, but we've kept hold of all the sweaters, as we occasionally get a penguin come ashore covered in oil.

How long does it take to make one?
I'd spend a couple of evenings after work. It's a two-sided pattern, so I would do one side one evening, the other the next—and then you just sew them together. The more patterns the better; it makes them look very sweet. I've also knitted Superman penguin suits, and loads of football team shirts too. I even did an Elvis one with a high collar and cape. It was so cute.

– Liberty Lawson

Ana, 24, a writer from Serbia who was a freelance sex coach

Photo courtesy of Ana.

VICE: How did you become a part-time sex coach?
Ana: I used to work with a couple of Australian pick-up artists in Belgrade. Together we taught insecure and socially awkward guys how to talk to women. A few weeks ago, they asked me to teach in a sex workshop they were putting on in a "sex dungeon" they had rented in Barcelona.

Did you have to have sex with your students? How many coaches were there?

No, I didn't. In total, there were four female sex coaches, two BDSM demonstrators and two pick-up artists—all that for just four students. We taught the guys how to be dominant in bed—how to role-play, spank, and whip girls in a sexy way. They also took classes in therapeutic and sensual massage therapy, as well as tantric sex. It was very intense but really fun at the same time.

More importantly, the organizers made sure that consent was a key part of the workshop. The students had to ask for consent before every exercise, and they also practiced how to do it in different real life scenarios. We had safe words and signals, but I never had to use my safe word.

What were the guys like?

They were not the sort of shy guys I was used to working with—they had very good social skills and didn't seem to have any problems seducing women. They just wanted to learn a few tricks that would improve their sex lives.

VICE Serbia

Tage, 20, a student from Denmark who worked as a breakfast-themed stripper

Photo courtesy of Tage.

VICE: How old were you when you started stripping?
Tage: I started working as a stripper for hire when I was 18—mostly at bachelorette parties, but also at special functions for larger groups of women. I always tried very hard to make it special for the bride-to-be, while making sure everyone else had a good time too.

Your theme was a bit... strange.
Ha, yes. In Danish, "Bolle" can mean both a "bread roll" and "to fuck," so my stage name—"Morgenbollefyr" (Morning Fuck Boy or Morning Bread Boy)—was a fun double entendre. The idea was to bake breakfast with the women after I stripped, so I'd mostly get booked before noon. Typically, a gig would take an hour, so I could have a booking at 9 AM, another at 11 AM, and then maybe one at 1 PM at the very latest. I charged $190 an hour.

Did you use props?
Yeah, all kinds of stuff. I would lick Nutella and eat fruits off the guests' bodies. Basically, I tried to cross the line a little bit, while still keeping it legal. After we were done baking, I would separate the bride from the rest of the women by taking her into the kitchen, standing behind her and washing her hands while whispering something kinky into her ear. My main goal was to create a calm ambience.

What was the most awkward situation you ever experienced? Were you ever sexually harassed?
Yes, I remember it clearly. It was my final gig, and for good reason. When I arrived at this apartment in Copenhagen, there were about seven or eight women all over 50. As soon as I stepped through the door, they demanded I wear an apron and nothing else. I'd just turned 18 and I thought they were kidding, so I laughed it off but they were serious. I had to tell them that it didn't work like that. For the rest of the gig, the mother of the bride-to-be, who was about 70, kept grabbing my arm and asking me to join her in the bathroom. It was the longest hour of my life.

– Alfred Maddox

Maciek Piasecki, 28, VICE's Poland Editor who looked after TV fortune tellers

Photo courtesy of Maciek.

VICE: What was your side job?
Maciek: You know those TV shows where people call the studio to have their future read? Well, I had to look after the fortune-tellers. I did everything, from recruiting them to training them to speak on camera, and even making sure they stayed sober during the day. I wasn't sure whether they honestly believed they had a gift or if they were lying for a bit of cash. Most of them seemed like simple people, so I like to think they actually wanted to help others.

How did you end up working there?
I was 19 and had just lost my job at a local TV station in Warsaw. I felt like my university degree was getting me nowhere, and I knew I could pursue my dream of being a writer from virtually anywhere, so when I was offered the chance to work for a TV company in Budapest, I jumped at it without fully realizing what it would involve.

What were the best and worst parts of the job?
The pay was good and I got the chance to live in an amazing city, but the actual job was shitty. Later, the company also got me to work on game shows that were a complete scam—cheating vulnerable people out of their money. I'm proud to say I was terrible at it, and probably saved a few folks a lot of money. I was so relieved when I got sacked.

– Pawel Maczeweski

Inga*, 23, a student from Germany who ran on treadmills at fitness fairs

Photo courtesy of Inga.

VICE: How long did you have to run every day?
Inga: I was working eight-hour days, sprinting every 10 minutes during the busy periods. As the day wore on, the fair would get less busy, so I didn't have to run as much.

How fast did you have to run?
I was constantly sprinting because customers needed to see how fast the treadmill could go. However, there were some who would only ask me to sprint because they found it funny.

Would you do it again?
Definitely. Although running and talking to customers for eight hours a day is exhausting, I did get to meet a lot of great people.

– Nora Kolhoff

Claire*, 21, a student from the UK who occasionally works as a Shabari model

VICE: What is a Shabari bondage model?
Claire: It's a very niche type of Japanese bondage that is quite popular in London's kink scene. The instructor uses me as a prop to teach the special technique to groups of 10 to 30 people at a time. He's a very accomplished professional who does different kinds of bondage, but Shabari is his speciality. It's a very complex art form—not a buy-a-rope-from-Anne-Summers-and-do-it-at-home kind of thing at all. It's a very expensive and time consuming hobby, not to mention very dangerous; you can easily get nerve damage or break a bone if it's not done correctly, so everyone takes it very seriously.

Where does one go for a Shabari bondage class?
Every event is held in a private house. Everyone who takes part in the workshops is already part of the kink scene, so the whole thing has a casual feel. The house has a purpose built studio inside that has hooks attached to the ceiling, and padded floor mats in case I fall. Classes can be as long as five hours, and I get paid about $40 an hour, so it's not too bad. I'm never actually hanging for more than 15 minutes at any one time—any longer and you start to get problems with your circulation. But I've been working in classes like this for about a year now. Sometimes I work a few times a week. Other times it can be over a month between gigs.

How did you get into this?
I was on a night out at a club that attracts a large part of the kink crowd. I just started talking to this guy about it. He sounded a little strange at first but I soon realized it was like an artistic pursuit for him, which really appealed to me. I'm definitely into the sexual side too, but it's not like that at all during the demos. The atmosphere at the workshops is quite clinical actually. It's as sexy as going to a knitting class.

– Patrick Heardman

*Name has been changed to protect the subject's identity.