I’d kind of taken to thinking of my job search as an exercise in futility. Sure, the only exercise I was getting, but it wasn’t really contributing to an elevated state of health – physical or mental.
In searching for appropriate career level positions, I hit wall after apathetic wall.
The struggle is surreal.
I found myself rethinking the jobs I was applying for with companies I told myself I wanted to work for. My thoughts turned toward,
Do I really want to work for these companies?
Learning from my interviewing experiences with them, I realized answer was coming back “No” more and more frequently. Hell, more often than not, I was realizing I no longer wanted to be their customer.
At the same time, I was really digging my lil writerly routine.
Come to – er…wake up.
Head to the Arthouse and write for a few hours.
I found that the morning was when I was really able to create. I worried that work would ruin that flow.
Realistically, though, I needed to work. Not just for the financial aspect – although, obviously – but also for the ancillary payback.
Allowing me to feel that I’ve not just accomplished something, which I achieve with writing, but to feel that I’ve contributed to something.
Then there’s the social interaction void after leaving retail. I’m used to dozens if not hundreds of quick interactions with people that challenge me and keep me socially engaged.
That’s tough to replace.
I wasn’t getting that on my couch – and I tried both ends!
Out of literal desperation, I applied for a part time job as a clerk in a convenience store. For what the owner called “Good money for a job like this” during my interview.
It was $12/hour.
The owner calls that good money, Oregon called that Minimum Wage. I should note that this was at the time, Oregon’s Min Wage is now $12.50, so I think I now qualify for membership at Mar-a-Lago or something, right?
I quickly learned the reason that the owner considered Minimum Wage good money for this job: his employees didn’t do much during their shifts. The majority of them played on their phones or read books waiting for customers. They didn’t even say “hi” to them when they entered the store. Some had friends stop by. Still others had hangouts with off duty employees.
The owner wasn’t getting a good return on his payroll investment, for sure.
But I just had a few lunch/dinner shifts a week, like 16-24 hours. Covering a store for an hour while the associate took their meal break, then moving to the next for an hour and then the last store to finish my four hour shift.
I got to talk to people and I got to do things…even if it was just putting beer and water into coolers. It’s weird, it was what I did at the airport to help out my associates. To make them feel supported. Now it was my job.
The other employees objected to that aggressively productive behavior of mine with an array of flimsy reasons. My response?
I came to work!
I didn’t care if they loved or hated me. I was getting paid with that sense of contributing with every task I completed and customer I met.
You’re so much nicer than the other employees!
I heard that a lot. In all three of the stores. Just about six months in now, I still hear it once or twice a week.
You know what? That’s nice to hear, but it also makes me feel bad. Most of my co-workers are nice enough to me – despite my reluctance to work down to their standard. What if the job just beat them down into spiritual submission?
Was it only a matter of time for me, too?
Doubts like that aside, I was finding myself entertaining the notion of finding job and financial satisfaction in more of a piecemeal manner. I’d been witnessing younger workers doing it for the last decade. Running from part-time job to part-time job to cover their expenses. Maybe I could turn away from the full-time mentality and “retire” to a gig mentality.
I began exploring app-based work like Uber or Postmates. The obvious problem there for me was: no car. Still, with Postmates I could use my bike. The problem there? My lazy ass. Since the FWV (friends with vehicles, duh!) I dropped hints to about this notion let those hints drop unacknowledged, I tabled the idea.
Somehow, in this same timeframe, I became the boss’ shining star employee and go-to. She asked me to cover her role during her month-long vacation. At full-time.
Fine, as long as it’s just for four weeks…I can do it.
Three weeks before she left, all hell broke loose. Two people got fired and another quit in the course of maybe five days. By the time my boss left for vacation, I was ready to go back to my sweet lil four hour shifts.
Flash forward two months and I was still averaging about 35 hours a week. Feeling broken, I at least had my family’s annual vacation get together to look forward to in a month.
Still, I told my boss to schedule me less so I could get my writing back on track. I was an entire project behind schedule.
No change. Unless being scheduled for only 32 hours counts.
Then I got a call I wasn’t expecting.
A temp agency specializing in HR had reached out to me a few weeks earlier about a position they thought I’d be perfect for.
Oh, and the position you originally applied for was filled, unfortunately.
No shit? That was months ago!
Anyway, the position was designed to offload the HR responsibilities of a dual role HR/Ops manager that wanted to focus on her Ops responsibilities.
I agreed, I would be perfect for the role. I interviewed and still thought it would be a great fit. The money was certainly better than the convenience store, but it was only two-thirds of what I should be earning. At part-time the money would barely cover my monthly expenses. Looked like I wouldn’t be ditching the convenience store job anytime soon.
I realized that idea didn’t bother me. I romanticized a perfect schedule where I worked my gig HR three days a week from 8-5 and did dinner breaks from 6-10, earning enough to feel financially able while having four days off a week.
But this is my life, right? That Cinderella story didn’t happen.
Surprisingly, the person creating this job thought you were too into people. She’s going with another candidate.
Oh, for fuck sake.
The person who was more into the Ops side of her job and didn’t want to be bothered with the Human Resources side of her role…didn’t want somebody who was into humans to take that off her plate.
This journey is basically the meat of my next non-fiction book. I’m leaning toward calling it 50-gig – get it? I’m ~50 and competing for gig work with them there millennials? – however, on days like that one…it’s hard not to call it These Damn Idiots I Meet.
I mean, really, dating. Job hunting. It could be the group name for my non-fic work. 50-gig and Dating Into Oblivion could both easily fall under that heading. I wonder if there’s a third piece to round out a trilogy.
Obviously, The Gym.
But, I’ve digressed.
Romantic notion of working three days a week: le poof.
Anyway, I go back to my partly full-time job at the convenience store, grateful to still have a purpose but missing out on writing. At night, I drink wine on my lonely couch while binge watching Star Trek TV shows in their chronological order versus release dates while mentally cutting myself to take away the pain of my obsolescence.
Then the HR temps call back a few weeks later.
Maybe a month.
Let’s say a few weeks ago.
I doubt you’d be interested, you might consider it too boring.
I took this with the grain of salt required to swallow my belief that nobody wanted me, anyway. Basically, my position was, “I dare them to fucking hire me!”
Still, the “three or four days a week” aspect really appealed to me.
They’d really like someone to start next Monday, if it’s a good fit.
I just laughed at that, still waiting for Old Mother Hubbard’s second home to land on me like a was The Wicked Job Hunter of the West.
Oh, boo. What was that collision of metaphor?!? Mixing nursery rhymes and Young Adult novels from barely the last century.
Hey, don’t even worry about it. It’s Wednesday…if they let me know by tomorrow morning, I can have my boss at the convenience store work me around it.
Apparently, my “I fucking dare you to hire me” attitude was too much to resist. Thirty minutes later, they called back and told me to get in there Monday morning.
Having resigned myself to never getting another professional job again, I’d gone back to thinking about app based gig-work. I’d looked into car-sharing options for driving with Uber or Lyft using someone else’s car through an app called GetAround. It would probably end up costing about a third of what I’d make driving, but it would pull me out of being able to say “yes” every time my boss at the store had a need.
Actually, every time isn’t fair. I knew she tried to not abuse my availability. I appreciated it. But still, of the instances I knew of where she didn’t call on me, I knew she was just sucking it up about half the time.
I felt bad about that.
Anyway, somewhere in there – and consistent readers already know this – I said “Fuck it”, and bought a car. They’ve subsequently been dubbed Pat the Patriot in a perfect fit of Portland political correctness.
I figured maybe I could still do some gig driving, if only for the experience of writing about it in either my blog or even that notion of a book. I’d actually priced it all out and come to the benchmark of driving only six hours a week covering my car costs.
I could live with that.
I could also live with my complete lack of surprise at my experience trying to sign up to drive with Uber.
I’d given up using Lyft in conjunction with Uber a decade-ish ago when a woman in a homemade floral print dress and Jesus bobble head on her dash tried to fist bump me. If I was gonna drive, my first choice was going to be with the brand I’d been using as a consumer.
After a month of effort, let’s just say that I’m driving with The Verb and not The (unearned) Adjective.
And it’s addictive.
Not just the people engagement reward, but actually, the immediacy reward, too. I’ve only driven three times, but it’s been very satisfying…like 90% fun and 10% “Meh, that was still better than a day working for my last professional job”.
Plus, I get a cell phone bill and think, “Welp, let’s cash in on the app” and my pay is instantly in my checking account. The next morning I wake up to a utility bill and think, “Well, I’ll go have coffee with The Fox and then drive for a couple hours to get this paid…beats paying for two more hours of parking”.
And, yes – I am looking for a monthly space to rent! Especially if I want to leverage that whole three days of work/four days off thing.
Until then, a couple hours to pay my $30 gas bill versus spend $4 on parking turned into driving for five hours and saving $10 on parking and limping out of my driver’s seat with $100.
Now, before it starts raining Other Shoes, here’s what’s on the horizon:
– Before I committed to Lyft, I applied to drive delivery for GoPuff and Postmates. I’ll probably fold at least one of those in, if only for the potential writing material for 50-gig. But also: tips! I’ve actually never had a tip job before, so I’d be interested in how that adds up.
Plus, as a car share rider from the early days, I never tip. It was part of the deal. Then the deal changed, but guess who didn’t? Yes, me. But also: practically everyone else. Out of – I think I’m at…18 rides over three outings I’ve been tipped by two riders. I don’t expect it, but feel I’ve really earned the gratuity when they land. It’s not that I got a tip for reflex of it all, I did something that stood out compared to other rides these Tipsters have taken.
That’s what I’m telling myself.
– Oh, yeah…the convenience store. There’s a shoe. If you know me, you know I won’t repay hiring me when no one else would – yes, for a job I should have a lobotomy to be qualified for – by walking away, middle fingers flying just because I got a better opportunity. So, if this HR gig pans out, I see a serious scheduling conversation happening there.
– The HR gig. When someone – an employer – says “three or four days a week”, who knows what they mean? It could be three days, with the hope that the dangling fourth will provide added bait. It could mean four, for so many reasons.
In this case, I heard “three”, because that’s what I wanted to hear. Then I talked to the owner and heard the job scope and said, “Yeah, I can do that in three”.
Sadly, I think they really want someone for four, but tough nuts.
Or not so tough. If I end up working four days a week, it’s not the end of the world. Plus, since I’m HR, I have access. That access shows me – innocently, I assure you – that my non-temp predecessor was making $6/hr more than I am. But I get the temp costs offset. If they hire me off my contract, I’m getting that money. Knowing what I do of the owner, I won’t have to ask…she’ll offer. How awesome is it to have a boss you think of in those terms?
It’s fucking awesome.
Also: there’s an office cat. He’s nicer than Myrtle, too, which makes that fourth day a real draw. Poor Myrt. She’s not not nice. She’s just psychotic and can’t help herself.
Or I have Stockholm Syndrome.
Now, let’s see…other shoes. Other Shoes. Any others, hoes?
– Writing! Doy. The second book in the No One Of Consequence story is nearing completion. Yes, Phil…I’m editing! Hehe. After some good feedback, I also intent to brush off Book One and give it an extra lil polish before launching Book Two. Now I should have the ability to advertise, too.
I wanna run an ad campaign this month, I think I’ll go drive for a few hours.
I like the sound of that.
Then, come November I can put balancing work, work, work and possibly work schedules with writing, I’ll try and get most of 50-gig drafted during NaNoWriMo. That’ll be an adventure.
Almost as big an adventure as doing my 2019 taxes will be with two W2s, possibly four 1099s and at least a little bit of royalties income to factor in. I better start limbering up my procrastination muscles now!
Yes, it’s 5:30 in the morning on my day off…why do you ask? Truth be told, how this three job thing is working out so far has created a three weeks straight without a day off, so my old ass is tired! But I slept well on both Friday and Saturday night.
Of course, that was after saying
I’m burning the candle at both ends…with fucking blow torches!
So I was ready for early nights and good sleep. Maybe I’ll try a nap later.
Nah…I’ll go drive! Haha.
4 thoughts on “The Hustle”
Now that you have a four-wheeled vehicle, you officially join the “mad rush to get there” crowd. Welcome to the real world nightmare! Having fun behind the wheel is ALWAYS something to write about. Be careful, be safe and best wishes! 🙂 Naked hugs!
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“Then there’s the social interaction void after leaving retail. I’m used to dozens if not hundreds of quick interactions with people that challenge me and keep me socially engaged.” That right there is a novella, or a great short, or the story of a lot of lives of those of us who existed before tapping glass was the main method of communication. When people engaged. And about that editing thing – you followed your boast of hard work in that area with a clam. I’m on a big kick right now to self edit on the way to the page. OW! And I have also, though obviously your senior, been rethinking the variable time gig with several gigs instead of sitting around 4 hours a day or more with my brain in idle, occasionally talking to people on the phone I would despise and avoid in person. That solo lost in your own head shit world is great for creativity but turns the rest of your mind into a butterknife on a plate full of steak.
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It’s strange that you suggest a novella relative to this phenomenon. I was coming at it from…let’s call it The Butterknife angle and calling it Dilettante Nation. But focus on more of a mix between The Glass Tappers and the old Stranger On A Plane phenomenon would definitely be an interesting exercise.
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Perfect. The geezer and the hipster. Jennifer Egan blows out the hipster and glass tapping in “The Keep” in a very David foster wallace-ish way. But yes. The dichotomy and sameness of interpersonal vacuums
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