Doing Anything You Can to Survive – Silence And Surprise In The Night

Are you doing anything you can to survive? You are not alone. Grit, hustle, perseverance all come to mind when I think about survival. I want to share with you an experience that happened to me in 2010 that made me think about how far each of us will go to survive.

One night, I was playing poker into the wee hours of the morning with some buddies. The poker game ends and the team of entrepreneurs and new media types say their good-byes. I leave up $51 bucks, which is a nice return given my $100 buy-in. But, it's a pittance against others leaving with wads of cash big enough to substitute for butt-cheek implants if so desired.

The last time I was out until 3:30am was when George W. proclaimed we won the war. There are so few cars on the road, when I do see one, I wonder what trickery lies ahead. There's a certain tranquility one feels when others are sleeping. Dim yellow lights glow in San Francisco's misty haze. Nobody bothers you because nobody is conscious enough to care.

Almost home, I decide to instead drive towards the Bay and take in the silence of black murky waters and a revolving spotlight that perpetually emits from Alcatraz. I wondered if this calm is how Frank Lee Morris felt before he tried escaping The Rock some 48 years ago.


TAP, TAP, KNOCK I suddenly hear on my passenger side window as a dark lady in glasses mouths a question.  Not sure exactly what's going on, I buzz open Moose's window two inches – wide enough to hear her speak, but narrow enough to prevent foreign object intrusion.

The lady reiterates her question again, “Hey baby, want to have a good time?

Shocked at the apparent breach in normalcy, but relieved about not being carjacked I respond, “Whatcha talking about?“, knowing full well what she's suggesting.

Only $50 or $100, that's what I'm talking about,” as she whispers with a smile.

$50 was almost exactly the amount of money I “worked” so hard to earn in poker for the past four hours. There was a time I was up over $100, but I couldn't hold on. Here was a mysterious young lady willing to sell herself for at least $50 bucks for a presumably much shorter duration, but potentially much higher risk.

No, thanks. I'm just enjoying the night miss“, I respond back. She apologizes for disturbing and walks 20 yards to another car. Tap, tap, knock. This time she gets in.

Bump In The Night

There's a different world out there when we're all sleeping. It's filled with creepy crawlers and mischievous beings looking to get ahead. When you wake up one morning to see graffiti all over your neighbor's wall, you know it wasn't done while you were awake. When tires are slashed and pots are smashed, you know it happened while you were asleep.

My car was parked in one of the most expensive parts of one of America's most expensive cities. And there she was, a woman looking to extract and make a living. $50/$100 were her poker blinds. Despite the obvious illegal activity, is it so bad for her to hustle and make a living? If you've run into serious money trouble, doing anything you can to survive is bound to cross lines.

It's apparent there are men out there who disappear in the middle of the night to “clear their minds” in front of Alcatraz. Is it so bad this lady was addressing a demand? Maybe this woman is a single mother with a child to feed, who knows.

When I finally drove away, I noticed multiple walkers roaming the streets. Women just randomly strutting their stuff as if everything was normal. All I could see were walkers everywhere whereas before I never noticed. Life is strange that way.

For example, as soon as you buy something, let's say a white Honda Civic, you'll suddenly start noticing white Honda Civics everywhere. It's as if we are blind, and only want to see what we want to see. Or at least only see what's at the front of our minds. When you're doing anything you can to survive, chances are you'll see lots of others doing the same.

Doing Anything You Can To Survive

When the going gets tough, we need to do things, almost anything we can to survive. I'll don my old McDonald's purple and black for minimum wage if I have to in order to may the mortgage. Maybe they'll promote me to manager and pay me $13/hour if I work hard enough. Or maybe I'll be a male gigolo for $100/hour instead. One can only flip so many burgers before carpel tunnel sets in.

Money is so flippant when we have some. You've got pocket jacks, so lets go all-in pre-flop for $200, why not.  Yet, as soon as you lose your job, or start drowning in debt, maybe you're not going all-in on a whim anymore! 

Maybe you're hustling at night looking to make a quick buck despite risk of arrest. Whatever it is, I admire the lady by the Bay for trying. She was courteous, stated her price, and gracious upon rejection. All I hope is that whatever money she makes, she puts some away in savings!

Further Reading

Readers, what would you do if you suddenly lost your job and everything you owned? Would you be willing to do anything to provide for your family?  If prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, why isn't it still legal? After all, prostitution on camera (pornography) is legal. If you're doing anything you can to survive, what risks and sacrifices have you had to make?


Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

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39 thoughts on “Doing Anything You Can to Survive – Silence And Surprise In The Night”

  1. Interesting story, FS, and thought provoking questions, as always. My thoughts:

    [i]Readers, what would you do if you suddenly lost your job and everything you owned? Would you be willing to do anything to provide for your family?[/i]

    That’s quite a philosophical question, FS. I’d like to believe that no matter what happens, I’d still to my morals, but if it had been several days since I’ve eaten, my family was starving by my side, and selling myself/selling drugs/theft was the only way we could eat… well, the decision becomes much more difficult. If my back were against the wall like that, then suddenly my hard moral stance might find itself weakening…

    [i]If prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, why isn’t it still legal? [/i]

    Well, as the array of previous comments have shown, there are areas in the world (and even in the United States) where prostitution is legal in one form or another. I think the reason most of the US still bans prostitution is the (mistaken, in my view) sentiment that allowing something is the same as supporting, or even encouraging it. We could eliminate many of the problems with prostitution (potential for passing along diseases, money supporting unsavory elements of society, etc) by legalizing, regulating, and taxing it; but as long as even mentioning such an idea would get a politician painted as ‘pro-prostitute’ (and anti-law enforcement, morality, and family values), it ain’t going to happen.

    [i]After all, prostitution on camera (pornography) is legal.[/i]

    Good point, and here’s a few thoughts about why this double-standard exists. My best guess: it’s ‘acting’; it’s not about sex or pleasure, per se, it’s about creating a movie. Just like we don’t arrest married movie stars for adultery because they have sex on camera with someone who isn’t their spouse, we don’t arrest porn stars for, well, making porn. There’s also the fact that much of what we call porn doesn’t actually have any sex involved (Playboy being a prime example) and that a fair amount of porn is made outside of the US, making it an interesting (if nigh impossible to prosecute) legal situation.

    Of course, my own view is that porn gets a pass because too many judges like it to rule it illegal, but that’s just me ;)

  2. In need to support the family I would probably find myself open to a lot of things I wouldn’t normally consider. Prostitution is not one of them. I would be more likely try to live of the land than my good looks… I’d probably be more successful in the woods too!

    Even when times are good I’ve never believed in the concept of job security. Instead I have always lived with a back up plan in place. If I lost my job tomorrow I would be earning money again within 7 days.
    .-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..Combat The Closing Technique – The Consultative Close =-.

  3. I would say that most sex trade workers (the “PC term” here in Vancouver), especially in the Downtown Eastside are doing it as a survival job. Not because they really want to, but because they have to, to feed their addiction to crack cocaine, heroin, or crystal meth.

    Did you hear that Vancouver is looking towards becoming the first place in North America for legalization of prostitution? (We already are the first place in North America where you can shoot up in a supervised site).

    I personally feel very sad when I drive by and see sex trade workers standing on the street corners (and you don’t have to be out at 3:30am to see them!! More like 24 hours of the day!)… especially when I see a man picking them up. I try and give them a dirty look!

    The Vancouver police will press charges on “Johns” but they won’t on the sex trade workers themselves. Just like the police will press charges on dealers, but not the people using drugs themselves.

    I know that prostitution is the oldest profession in history… but the feminist side of me cringes that there is a demand for this throughout time. =(
    .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..Questrade and the Online Trading Academy =-.

    1. I hear you Y&T. Perhaps if the cops pressed charges on both parties, this would deter the activity? Then again, it goes back to the point where if the sex trade workers are doing it out of their free will, should we be ones to judge? I will do anything to survive if I lost everything, especially if I had a family to support.

      1. =) Really, so you would sell your body for money? =)

        I’d rather work at a McDonald’s! =)
        .-= youngandthrifty´s last blog ..Weekend Ramblings and PF Blog Love =-.

  4. Good attitude J regarding increasing your desire to work things out financially and make it happen. I’m sure a minority of folks pay to just have a conversation because they are lonely or what not, but I don’t really know. How interesting a conversationalist would these walkers be?
    .-= admin´s last blog ..Wealth Is An Illusion Of Happiness =-.

  5. Some of my best friends have been ladies of the evening (years ago in my wild and crazy days). They were lovely women, with a very high sense of integrity and loyalty. They weren’t big savers though.

    I’ve been mistaken for one myself and asked if I wanted a temp job going to work downtown at 8 a.m., in hotel bars, in Amsterdam more times than I’d like to remember and in Mykonos. “Wie viel?” (how much?) – just think I might have been able to pay for the trip(s) and I wasn’t rolling in the dough at the time. :-P

    If I lost my job today, I’d just cut back my spending a bit. Fortunately, having savings gives you choices.

    Peter McWilliams wrote an interesting book on consensual “crimes” like prostitution, drugs etc. It’s called “Aint’ Nobody’s Business If You Do – The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country.” The whole thing is online here:

    I always liked this (probably fictional) Churchill quote:

    Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
    Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…
    Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
    Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!
    Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.
    .-= Single Mom Rich Mom´s last blog ..Do I REALLY need to work? =-.

    1. Bytta @151 Days Off

      Ah, politicians and prostitutes.
      Prostitution (and brothel in some states) is generally legal in Australia. Heck, a few years ago, a brothel in Melbourne (called “Daily Planet” of all names) went public. It caused so much stir, not sure if it still exists (but healthy profit i imagine).

      Would I go that far to provide for my family? I don’t know. I would never know until I’m absolutely in that position. But with the business skill and education background I have, I would probably rather be the “manager” than “the artist”. Make it a classy joint for wealthy gentlemen. $1000/hour I read the current rate is. Interested to be a business partner?
      .-= Bytta @151 Days Off´s last blog ..Day 28: The Most Anxious Time I Had in a Restaurant =-.

      1. Yeah, politicians and prostitution seem to go together – in more ways than one. I’d go for a niche market myself – maybe promote to guys like Steve Pavlina with his BDSM fetish. :-)
        .-= Single Mom Rich Mom´s last blog ..Booyah! The pantry reduction game is working! =-.

  6. wow what a surprise. Hopefully I’ll never be between a rock and a hard place financially. I’ve definitely become more and more cautious about spending as I get older and I make sure my savings is growing each year.

  7. There is prostitution at every level. Whether you are selling a specific sexual act for a set price or you are engaged in “sleeping your way to the top” you are a prostitute. This activity is gender-neutral. A Man “kissing ass” of his superior is an abstractly sexual act that results in financial gain. There are millions who have been caught up in the sex trade that are afraid to leave. They are victims and need help. Human trafficking is about to overtake drug trafficking on the world financial stage. A disgusting fact of our current global situation.

    To look at the situation from a purely anthropological viewpoint, a professional football player uses his “biological assets” for financial gain. He uses his body to perform acts that earn him money. A sex worker essentially does the same thing. We like to think that we rise “above the animal” and engage in activities that are “cultured” and “refined”. We are not and we do not!

    Prostitution is illegal because it threatens society. It is not illegal to have sex, just illegal to pay a stranger for it. I think Prostitution and drugs should be legal (and taxed), not because I like them (I don’t engage in either) but because the black market for these base activities will always prevail if left in the shadows. The drive for pleasure is biological. Men are sex seeking animals. Anyone who does not believe this is:

    a) not a man.
    b) an idiot.

    But to answer the gist of the post, there are lines both ethical and moral that people try not to cross. Murder, cheating, prostitution and betrayal are examples of this. Good people will do all of these things under circumstances that require them to. Killing in self-defense or lying in order to provide food or shelter to a child are examples as well.

    Prostituting and depriving oneself of dignity in order to take care of a child is perhaps the noblest of acts. People who are disgusted by the thought of it and cocooned from the raw reality of life should consider the question: “What would I do?”

    What would I do if I had no money and my 18 month old was hungry?

    What would I do if I had no money and my 2 year old was sick?

    Prostitution to me is disgusting and vile. Paying for sex and/or receiving money for sex is against my personal beliefs about what constitutes a moral and ethical life. I also understand that my beliefs sit atop a cloud of relative abundance. I live a comfortable life in America.

    Even the poorest among us are part of the richest in the world.

    .-= WR´s last blog ..Book Review: The Elements of Investing by Burton Malkiel and Charles D. Ellis =-.

    1. WR, thanks for your thought provoking comment. I would do almost anything for my hungry 18th month old or sick 2 year old if I was left with no other choice.

      Even the poorest among us are rich compared to the rest of the world, but that’s a difficult comparison because the poor among us can’t just transplant themselves elsewhere.

      I agree amount regulation and taxation. You know it’s going on. Just look at Craigslist and all the shady things they are selling in different sections. Just tax and regulate, like the gov’t tries to do all things in America. At least we’ll make many safer, and make money in the process for potentially good things.

      Got your books btw. Thanks. Will try and read it by the end of this month and let you know!

      Best, Sam
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Wealth Is An Illusion Of Happiness =-.

    2. “Even the poorest among us are part of the richest in the world.”

      Not true. There are a very few countries in the world that are actually richer than the US.

      There are quite a few on our level.

      And in any event, the poorest of us are not part of us, and thus not part of the richest in the world. In much of Europe the poor live better than the poor in America. They also have more chance of leaving poverty.

  8. Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey

    Wouldn’t it be something if the hooker followed you from the poker game… LOL J/K

    This is a great story! It really makes me think about what people are willing to do to survive. Jeremy’s comment above makes a great point. What if someone paid the hooker… sowed into her life, just to get to know her. Food for thought…

    Thanks for sharing!!
    .-= Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey´s last blog ..You Know You’re Favored by God When… =-.

  9. Sam,
    I am convinced that regardless of our economical condition we can always work in something consistent with our values and our passion. To compromise any of those will make us miserable. Why is prostitution illegal in US? Because of a Double Moral. In Europe prostitution is legal and then the Goverment can protect the providers and users of these services.
    Interesting analysis…
    All the best,
    .-= Boris´s last blog ..When the student is ready, the teacher is evident =-.

  10. savvysavingbytes

    This post brought back memories of my first trip to Paris where prostitution is legal and where I myself was mistaken for a lady of the night. The guy I was seeing then had an ancient motor scooter that could only be started if he ran alongside it till the motor kicked in. I would have to walk up ahead a few blocks till he caught up and picked me up. The first time this happened in the dark wee morning hours, I was walking alone slowly along the deserted sidewalk when a man drove up and leaned over to speak with me. Though I couldn’t pick up on his French, I got the gist of his meaning. It was all very polite and I didn’t feel threatened, but still I was happy to have my friend zoom up on his scooter just then.

    As far as hitting the wall financially, I suppose what’s true for most is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” to whatever degree that’s necessary.
    .-= savvysavingbytes´s last blog ..Spring Break in New York =-.

      1. savvysavingbytes

        In my book Paris is absolutely THE most beautiful city. Can’t wait to see it again!
        .-= savvysavingbytes´s last blog ..Spring Break in New York =-.

  11. neal@wealthpilgrim

    I could write a book on this.

    I was speaking w/my 22 year old daughter about my career. When I started I was desperate to make a living. I mean very desperate. I didn’t sell crap…but within the realm of decent investments I tried hard to make a sale.

    In the financial world, you never know if the sale helps or hurts for 5 or more years down the road. I never sold junk but I definitely worked very hard to make sales for ME rather than clients.

    I haven’t been or acted desperately for a decade and I’m not really ashamed of my behavior but I am not 100% proud of selling so hard.

    Now I don’t but it’s so easy for me to be “decent” when I’m comfortable. Maybe next time around I’ll be a magnanimous popcorn vendor in Central Park.
    .-= neal@wealthpilgrim´s last blog ..What’s the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?m =-.

  12. Jeffrey Sikes

    I think male gigolos make upwards of $500/hr in big cities like SF and NYC. We’re rare. Don’t sell yourself short! lol

    1. The Simple Machine

      My first thought…why the hell would men make that much money!

      Then I remembered when one of my female friends pointed out some guy at a salsa club who was dancing with a women that he was a gigalo and women love him. I realize now that perhaps unlike men women are looking the overall experience! But then again that is speculation on my part.
      .-= The Simple Machine´s last blog ..You want to be Broke… =-.

  13. Money Reasons

    Good points, but as a family man, I’d rather not have the temptation, especially since I have kids to support. The divorce rate is high enough already…

    Besides that, soon Apple will come out with the ILovebot sex android in the next few years ;)
    .-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..Saving By Paying Attention – Conclusion Part 4 of 4 =-.

      1. Money Reasons

        First in line, heck, I want to be a beta tester (think “Bladerunner”,”AI” or “Serenity”)…

        True about the legalization of prostitution, that may well be the case, but not in mine. I’m 100% positive my wife would leave me like a leaf in a fight with a hurricane…

        Love and sex is a fine line. I’m willing to bet some may find that they become romantically involved and the divorce rate would rise. I could be wrong though… Just a hunch :)
        .-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..Asset Class Diversification For The Middle Class =-.

  14. HAHAHAH Jeffrey said Short

    I would do almost anything to provide for my family. Would I prostitute myself? I don’t know about demand issues.

    Notwithstanding I think prostitution should be legalized, regulated and TAXED. I don’t think it is anyone’s business to tell two consenting adults not to enter in that kind of business exchange that hurts almost no one. Obviously, this is a simplistic view, and maybe I look at it too simply but really who is it harming if a knowing, of age, female sells herself. Not me. Maybe the dude’s wife but that really is not a societal problem.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..What is Keyman Insurance? Is Your Business Protected From Death? =-.

    1. Give it time and how desperate our government will become for income (you know like the topic). That and pot.
      .-= Investor Junkie´s last blog ..Monitoring Your Financial Independence =-.

  15. It’s not the only option, but being a sex worker (‘hooker’ is so 1980) is often one of the better paying options. The risks these women (and occasionally men) run are huge though – sex workers are raped and abused a lot.

  16. I think you’re right, Prostitution is the oldest profession. And yes, it’s illegal in most states, except parts of Nevada, I think. As for why it’s illegal, my guess is the morality of the business leads many to cringe. If I lost my job, I’d never consider such an option (disease, crime, gross, fat men…..ewwww)

    However, I would probably go back to working at Starbucks (especially since I have such an addition to them!) and take on another part-time job. I did that when I lost my job in 2001, until I started teaching. I’ve always been employed!
    .-= Little House´s last blog ..Tuesday Tips, Week 4 =-.

    1. The Simple Machine

      @ Admin I found the comparison between pornography and prostitution very interesting, considering that they are similar activities.

      @ Little House – I think you are right when you say that it maybe a morality issue. On the streets, the women face disease, crime and abuse among other things. While the porn industry is regulated is tested and seems more glorified. When a porn movie is shot there are numerous people present and it is really an act. While if prostitution was legalizes, there would be no real way of knowing if the women were facing abuse.
      .-= The Simple Machine´s last blog ..You want to be Broke… =-.

  17. There are two ways to go when hard times hit. You can lower yourself and thereby insure that you suffer a permanent loss. Or you can aim to rise higher. There are many true stories of people who faced hard times in ways that permitted them to rise higher than they would have risen had they never experienced the hard times.

    We all are tempted to give up and sink lower. That’s universal. That’s just human weakness. The test of the strength of a society is the extent to which it works to help those toying with the idea of giving in to the temptations. To the extent that we possess the courage to love our fellow humans (and ourselves!) we do what we can to help them to become their better selves.

    .-= Rob Bennett´s last blog ..“I’d Rather Not Ignore Requests of What Appears to Be a Significant Portion of My Readership” =-.

  18. Simple in France

    Prostitution make me sad–so does pornography. I’d like to think that there are other options out there for people. Hopefully. . . but I’m not really one to judge other people’s decisions (or lack of options). I doubt that you get into that kind of ‘career’ without going through some serious trouble–trouble I myself have never been through.

    As for what I’d do to get by–I’m pretty scrappy. I know how to work and how to pinch a penny. I think I’d fare as well as the next person if I lost everything–but I sure wouldn’t like it!
    .-= Simple in France´s last blog ..Take that, French driving test! =-.

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