Entrepreneur beats recession blues, dudes’ wangs
BY D. ARMENTA
“… in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.”
“… and the hand relief market.”
IN THESE DIFFICULT ECONOMIC TIMES, many small businesses are being rubbed out. But Helen’s by-appointment tug-job service is exploding. In addition to her wage as a bartender, she makes anywhere from $800.00 to $1200.00, tax-free, per week . Helen answers to no one (read: pimp) and never puts herself in physical danger.
I interviewed her over the course of two days in one of her “places of business”, an upscale bar in a tourist town where it’s always warm and sunny. Helen fits right in with the crowd in an expensive, summer-weight silk jacket and knee-length skirt. She wears hardly any makeup, doesn’t need to. With her pale blue eyes and mane of honey-blonde hair, she’s very attractive in a sort of Rebecca de Mornay-ish way. She’s very friendly and speaks with a charming foreign accent. She has no guilty qualms about her work whatsoever, but has requested we change her real name and location, for obvious reasons.
D: So Helen, where are you from originally?
H: Europe. I come here with my American husband in 1989, it was always his dream to live in this place.
D: But the jer–jackass left you here with two small kids quite awhile ago–
H: Yes, in 1994. It was very difficult for me then to know what to do or where to go for help, not being from U.S. I knew I had to go to work right away for the kids, so I find a job for tending banquets bar at [redacted] Resorts. Banquets bartenders work for conventions, business meetings, like that. Most of these are in afternoon or early in the evening, so it suits my home schedule.
D: And how did you get into your, er, sideline?
H: One younger girl I work with then, she tell me she dances nude upstate at [redacted], makes $200., sometimes $300.00 a night in tips. I know I cannot do this, but it makes me think.
D: “Cannot do this”? Because of the taboos associated with strippers and hookers, etc.?
H.: (Laughs) Well, no. Where I was growing up, we do not see sex workers or nude dancers as dirty or shameful people. But this is small town, and American town. People have,hmmm, different opinions of sex here. My kids go to school here and I do not want other kids to make them miserable for this.
D: So you were thinking, and you ruled out being a stripper…
H: Yes, and I see that there are many men coming here from out of town for conventions at my resort. I see that although there is a–hmmm, a taboo here, as you say, many men are looking for sex workers but this is illegal here. And this gives me idea. I look in the google and see that hand relief is legal in this state.
D: “Hand relief”? Is that what it’s called by the lawmakers? Hahahahahahaha!! It had better be legal, since your typical male self-administers “hand relief” what, 2 or 3 times a day?
H: (Giggles) Yes, and sometimes more! And this is good, since it is how I make my living.
D: How do you do it? I mean, how do you set up your, uh, customers and so on?
H: When I first start, I meet many men at banquets in the resort. I talk to them, and some that I like I meet for a drink later…
D: You just do this for guys you like? You can pick and choose who you, who you–work with?
H: Well, yes. This is where I start, tending bar, you know. This is where I meet the men. And I can see whether they are nice people or not when I am tending bar for them. I do not want to work with men who are bad-tempered or mean in spirit. I must be very careful in choosing who to meet. Now of course, I have–hmmm, what you call regular customer base. And referrals. Word of mouth. When certain business are in town, like [well-known software corp] or [well-known communication corp] they will call or email me one, two weeks before they come here.
D: And so you meet a guy and he seems okay. What then?
H: Then I meet him for drinks here or at [local upscale cigar bar].
D: So how do you–I mean, where–do you like, go out to their car, or their hotel?
H: (Laughing) No, no. I never put myself in danger. I do it right here.
D: Here, right out in the open? Like on the dance floor, or–
H: No, you are so silly! I would get into very much trouble like that. No, it is very possible to be discreet sitting right here at the bar, as long as there are many people around. Sometimes we have a drink in a booth and I do it there, if there isn’t much of a crowd.
D: Okay, but how do you know who’s who? Is there some kind of secret code word or signal that a guy uses to get–er, uhhhh–
H: Hand relief. This is what the state law calls it. (Roguish grin) Does this make you embarrassed, to talk about hand relief?
D: (Writhing in embarrassment) No, not at all.
H: (Lays a well-manicured hand on my arm) You are uncomfortable, I think. This is very, hmmm, typical thing for Americans. Where I am from, we do not look at sex things in this way. It is healthy for a man to have relief, yes? Even healthier if by hand instead of other ways that may spread disease. This is very natural thing.
D: Yeah, I guess it’s that whole Puritan streak a lot of Americans have. I’m trying to lighten up, though.