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Every morning I shuffled into my office at 7:00 a.m., exhausted and moving like a man whose limbs were quitting on him at the end of a marathon as retribution for forcing them to go through such wildly unnecessary punishment. The harsh florescent glare of the lights burned my retinas. My already tired eyes begged for merciful sleep. I could barely function. I dressed sharp to help conceal the truth; that my mind and work ethic were anything but. “It is a nice tie. Thank you! Now excuse me while I go play WPM typing games on Facebook to make you think I’m working super hard instead of having you pay me to attend this adult daycare.”
Everything I did at that job ranged from disingenuous to flat out lies. I was a terrible employee, but it was a terrible job. They didn’t pay a livable wage, but Co-Director of Marketing sure did sound nice. It’s sort of like having a badass tombstone after being ripped apart by wolves. My boss probably thought I was lazy, but only a mindless psycho would have burst through the door every morning (often predawn), fresh-faced and eager to do what I did. Every single morning I wrote traffic accident blogs for a St. Louis based personal injury firm’s marketing department. I blogged about the mangled property, bodies, and lives of strangers, all for the sake of clicks. That’s why I had to get there so early. I had to man the keyboard and wait for the carnage to unfold. If someone died, it was a good day (for our numbers).
Maybe the most disingenuous of all the things I did while working at the law office was wish the victims and families well. I didn’t give a shit. I wasn’t happy they died or got hurt, but I wasn’t upset by any means. It was too early, the people were too anonymous, and the task had become too morbidly routine for me to be moved by any of it. Every condolence I finished our traffic whoring blog posts with was copy and pasted, then reworded slightly, like a crap plagiarism job on a freshman paper at a community college. My boss, the owner of the firm, didn’t care. He was only worried about making sure I had hyperlinked enough of our other blog posts (minimum three) to keep our pageviews up. Also important was if I had mentioned certain keywords — generally geo-specific stuff along with the words “injury lawyer” — enough times to make sure we were the top spot on Google for those phrases. There was no regard for the fact that those phrases often fit in with the subject of the posts so awkwardly that our shamelessness was LEAPING off the screen. It wasn’t just ambulance chasing, it was throwing rocks that had a piece of paper with the firm’s name and phone number wrapped around it through the ambulance windows.
Every morning I was tempted to head straight for the coffee pot to give myself some temporary relief. Instead I resisted the urge, sleepwalked to my desk, and sat there doing absolutely nothing for fifteen minutes – the amount of time I deemed it acceptable for me to wait before I walked out to the handicapped bathroom, locked it, and took a nap for thirty minutes. Thank God we didn’t actually get enough PI business for me to have been keeping a recently handicapped person from experiencing another tragic emergency. I assume after about a month of this routine my coworkers either thought I had serious gastrointestinal issues or that I was eating chorizo heavy breakfasts every morning. Whatever, it didn’t matter. Here’s a pro PGP tip: nobody’s going to confront you about your poops, ever.
Sleeping in a bathroom was the best part of my morning, which speaks quite a bit to both my mornings and me as a person. The worst part were the daily marketing meetings in which we discussed how to get more eyes on the site (at least I could autopilot through the actual blogs). Should we use the victims’ names more? Obviously we want them –or their families, if the victim died (whatevs) — to find the site and get the idea that they needed a lawyer so they could start suing everyone’s faces off until they got their just(ish) reward for having their own face peeled off by the tire of the F-150 that crushed their Miata. And, of course, we should definitely mention the highways and roads these accidents happened on as much as possible. Surely other people will be Googling those to see where accidents occurred that day. Hopefully those people Googling us for traffic updates would be doing it on their phones while in the car. That way they’ll drive distracted, slam into someone else, and then that victim can sue the people viewing our site on their phones for injuring them while driving distracted. The business was practically self-sufficient.
For whatever reason, blog posts about motorcycle accidents always got the most views. This was likely either because they were the most gruesome, and a lot of sick bastards are out there Googling disturbingly weird things, or because there are a lot of loser motorcycle owners who Google motorcycle bullshit all day. Probably both. A dream scenario for our site traffic and a potential lawsuit would be a grandma and a baby riding a motorcycle that got totally obliterated by a Wal-Mart 18-wheeler. Covering an accident like that might have gotten us over a thousand views for the day! So tragic. So many great keywords!
The best part about writing a blog post for that hypothetical motorcycle accident is that, to seem like we were promoting safety and not just capitalizing on tragedy, I would have to insert a line about “when riding a motorcycle be sure to always wear a helmet to improve safety,” as if a helmet would have kept a massive truck from turning an otherwise unprotected old woman into a soupy pile of humanity. Worst of all, I’d have to be a hypocrite and use the blog to chastise the truck driver for falling asleep on the job and causing the accident. Truly, everything I did was without shame, and carried out as instructed (though both inefficiently and half-heartedly).
Once, there was a flaming truck wreck right outside of our office, about three blocks over. We could see it clearly from our windows. We all wondered aloud whether or not we should go down and snap pictures for the site. I don’t recall anyone wondering whether or not the driver had made it out okay. There’s a 50/50 chance that no one actually did.
It would be remiss of me to act like there are never times when someone needs or deserves a personal injury attorney. Certainly, there are. Certainly too, there are many (some?) good, honest, and ethical personal injury attorneys in the world. However, I can guarantee you that pretty much none of them have an active marketing campaign. Those guys are the bloodsucking assholes rednecks hire after they slip on pee in the bathroom of a TGI Fridays.
I would also not be totally honest if I said I was forced to do this particular job. I did, technically, have one other choice. The firm had two main specialties, and thus two sites with which to stock “relevant” content every day. The other specialty was personal bankruptcy. If I had so desired, I could have blogged about bankruptcy law every day instead. In fact, there were days when I did. I had to learn a bit about bankruptcy law while employed there (mainly the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 11) so that I would be decently familiar with it in case my job ever changed or I had to cover for someone. The problem was that bankruptcy law is so boring it makes C-SPAN look like a porno directed by Michael Bay and starring every Victoria’s Secret model. If I had to spend all my early mornings writing about bankruptcy law I would have eventually snapped and driven my car into the Mississippi River, which, ultimately, someone else in the office would have blogged about.
“Unable to escape his car as it sank into the muddy waters of the Mississippi, Robert Fox drowned early Monday morning. We send our deepest condolences to the Fox family in these difficult times. To help prevent fatal car accidents in the future, remember to keep yourself secure by always buckling your seatbelt.”
I still got it!