Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Avoid Service Jobs, Seasonal Work

It started innocently enough. Picking up work in the family business; a young, energetic entry level caregiver in assisted living with no medical qualifications getting 5-6 aging retirees up, washed, and dressed in the morning. Breakfast, activities, lunch, and then the reverse at night. In college it changed to whatever seemed interesting that friends could get me jobs at. Putting my film minor to work in Tower Video for $6.15 an hour. Working a busy outdoor espresso bar in the summer for 10. Another all night espresso bar for about the same. Then came restaurants, hosting, and then waiter. Each job seemed to fit well into a busy student and then post-student schedule; had flexible hours, and money that started out bad but finally got better as I accumulated experience in the hospitality industry. Friends and family along the way were happy to help out, and by the most recent jobs things seemed about as good as I could expect.

Waiting in Georgetown brought in more than I've ever made. You could make $800 a week without really trying or a grand or more if you really pushed it and weather was good. I've been saving since the start of the season in mid-March and after rent and expenses in the meantime I have about $7,500 in the bank and another 2 grand invested in vintage synthesizers. I'm sub letting my lease and traveling out west. Not bad for 5 months work when you're 23, single, and without dependants, eh?

Well, I'm starting to think it might be.

Chasing the money usually gets people into trouble, and here it gets me into trouble as well. Where am I today? Last week I worked 63 hours in six days straight without a day off. This averages to about the daily work week of coal miners at the last turn of the century. I made ridiculous bank, (ranking in a record 600+ on one Sunday double), but the work had a serious tool on my health. Since the week was so good, and because working so much leaves me few healthy outlets to unwind to relate to others socially, my means of celebrating the week was to drink heavily Sunday night (in the middle of the week), and after my Wednesday double (last day of the week). By Wednesday I was starting to feel pretty weak but I went out anyways.

The consequences could have been foreseen. By Thursday I had a sore throat, which was definitely a serious cold by Friday. Thursday I was able to keep a social engagement in Baltimore (Josh and Jane from Abiku's party), but Friday night I missed my friend and side project) collaborator Rachael Haywire's show at Bound, leaving Dan stood up there even though I told him the night before I'd be there. The same night too Juan and Patty were doing a DJ night, and I missed that do cause I was so damn sick.

Saturday I had to call out my double, which is the first and only time I've called out sick from this job in the year and two months that I've been there, which means I lost a significant amount of money. I hoped I'd recoup it Sunday, but a combination of bad weather, my manager reading the substitution book incorrectly and subsequently wasting my whole morning, the season (it's late august, most people in DC are on their last ditch efforts for vacations), and probably random coincidence resulted in me getting sat a total of FOUR tables on a double, all of which ordered very little, leaving me to walk out with $41 for 12 hours of labor, (approximately $3.40 an hour).

As my Dayquil/Advil cold and sinus cocktails from the morning were wearing off I became incredibly groggy, and around 7:15 took a nap on some chairs for an hour and a half. My coworkers were to wake me up when I was sat, but because it was so slow and everyone went outside, I wasn't sat the whole time. Finally my manager wakes me up and tells me to go home and get some sleep.

So here I am, at home, groggy, exhausted, and still a bit sick, having made no money and not getting any (1) moving preparations, (2) political work, (3) Bajskorv 3rd album mixing, (4) Savage Ideal mixing, (5) tour planning, or (6) friend talking to over the phone conversing done. As work takes up most of my nights, weekends, and holidays, and on my days off I usually have no energy for anything other than sleep and laying about the apartment resting, I come home to an empty apartment. I grab the spray bleach and in my tired delirious state attack the hoards of roaches feeding off my morning dishes in the kitchen. I take out the trash. I hop in the shower. And I come in, sit down, and collapse.

The only thing in the world I need right now is one person to give me a hug, tell me about their day, and do me the favor of turning that nice lovely London broil in the fridge, the corn and celery and onions, and the noodles, beans, and Tuscan seasoning in the larder into a warm, salty soup to hold, inhale, and gulp down. Don't get me wrong, usually when dating anyone I cook everything. But right now, I need someone to do me that one favor. I suppose I could call an escort service to send someone over to help me with dinner, but that's not exactly the same, you know?

I've come to the conclusion that the trade offs in the service industry just aren't worth it. It's not the money. The money's great. If I was doing what I'm doing now in a restaurant that was this busy all year round, as opposed to just during a 5 month season, I'd easily be making 30-40 + grand a year- great money. I can't complain about that.

But It's the conditions that fuck you. Make your life a hell and drive you more than a bit mad. These are generally the same across the board at all pay levels of the industry.

Number one it's the long days. Number two its the doubles. Doubles twice or three times a week, that's encouraged by the management and its seductive. It's seductive to know the money will be good and its also seductive to think you get more "days off". The reality, however, is that your days off will be spent crawling from your bed to the kitchen to the couch back to the bed and finally to the door to pay the delivery guy when you're too tired to cook the food that if you're lucky you had time to go to the grocery store to buy some days before. Now its going bad in your fridge. Will you throw it out to make room for the pizza box or just cram it all into the back and forget about it?

Physically it's exhausting. Socially it's crippling. Assisted living was start the morning at 7am, and end the night at 10pm. Record/DVD/Porno sales was start at 8:45am, and end at 12:30ish in the morning. Coffee #1 was start at 7 or 8 am, and end at 9 or 10pm. Coffee #2 was start at 7am, and end at 3-5am. Restaurant #1 was start at 10:30, and end at 12:00-12:30am. Restaurant #2 was start at 9-10am, and end from 11 at night to 3 in the morning.

You can't have a social life in any of these situations. If you're dating someone by the time you come home they're already in bed. If you're not dating someone by the time you get out and go to a club, everyone's already met someone or the club is about to close. If you're just trying to hang out with friends they've already made plans by the time you get out or get a free minute to give them a call. If you're lucky you're estranged from your family and don't even have to worry about not being able to talk to them.

On top as you know it's the emotional labor. The dealing with freaks and assholes, and having to be differential to them even when it would really be for society's greater benefit to bitch slap the daylights out of them and have them banned from the premises. All that maybe I could deal with, they're paying me well after all... or at least, even if they don't know how to tip, the next guy who tips really well
makes up for it. But it's not that clear cut. You're not just absorbing their BS in exchange for their money. It's the opportunity cost you're losing of being able to have a social life. It's not that you are alone, depressed, and have no one in your life; meanwhile the beautiful, rich, upwardly mobile and sexually hyperactive clients all around you have plenty of friends, lovers, concubines, family members, etc.. What
it is is that your life is empty and horrid BECAUSE their lives are fulfilling and carefree. All the time and social energy you could have spent on yourself got spent on them. By the time your off not only do your feet hurt but your voice is horse. You don't wanna talk to anybody. You've worn out all your charm. You're brain's tired. You're not gonna think up any more fun stories. You just wanna get out of there and be left alone.

It's not worth it. It's not worth the money. The social costs are too high. Also, the political costs (in terms of time wasted and mental demands) are too high.

Both these problems are severely exacerbated by anyone engaged in seasonal employment. If you have ever been engaged in any kind of seasonal work, you know that the only thing worse that making no money during the off season is when you're mid way through you're cycle of the on season and you realize that ZERO percent of your attention is focused on even trying to get a social life. All you can think about is how poor and worthless you felt in the winter when you worked that hard for nothing that now you want to throw yourself 110% into as many shifts as you can get your hands on.

Its seductive. It's a trap. In most service jobs you make nothing and the benefits suck. You're also very unlikely to have any sort of benefits, union protection, or power in the workplace. In the jobs where the pay is better, the structure of the industry is such that its very difficult to separate yourself from your role. You aren't a person who happens to have this particular job. You are this job. When you're not on the job its just because you're resting in order to allow your body to catch up to get back on the job again. Man that sucks.

I've decided to try and get the hell out of this industry. The money is trap. It's not worth it. I was happier when I made $6.15 an hour. Sure I was depressed when I bought lunch and I think about how it took me a whole hour just to afford that lunch. But at least when I got off I had energy to actually do something else. At least the work was less mentally demanding, and I wasn't totally psyched out on a constant, 12 hour, quasi-militaristic triage of potential crisis management all day long.

Stay away from the service sector. All of it. Stay away from seasonal work too. Parents, if you love your kids, steer them towards non-service jobs. Please.


I'm not addicted to meth. I don't have an STD. I'm not getting shot at or marching around in a desert. I'm not in debt, nor do I have cancer, or a loan shark or a drug dealer or the FBI chasing after me. I'm also not starving to death. I guess what's worse than my own problems is realizing how comparatively simple they are. WTF? For the things that affect me are nonetheless still sources of frustration and pain. Is all that just supposed to go away because some other poor smuck has it worse?

I'm confused. Talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

this is a blog

Welcome to my first blog on here. My name is Christian. I am from Atlanta, Georgia. I've been living in Washington DC for a while. I was born in 1983. I have a Poli Sci degree and a half decade experiance as a performing synthesist. My two central music projects at the moment can be found online at and .

Here's a pretty song I wrote:

I am currently at a transition in my life; quitting my seasonal job in DC after I've been carefully saving and working 50-60 hour weeks since March. The next six months will involve traveling to Europe, as well as to the American West, living alone on a mountain in North Georgia working on music 24/7, and touring the greater US with Bajskorv and Worms of the Earth. I anticipate this to be a fairly interesting time in my life, and therefore I've decided to create this blog to share my observations and conclusions with people beyond those I already communicate with on MS and facebook.

Also, I do have many strongly held political beliefs. I don't like the war, or George Bush, or racists who attack immigrants. I don't like Democratic politicians who take money from the same companies that already bought out the Republicans and whose policies differ from them very little. I have many friends who are gay, lesbian, or trangendered, and homophobia as well is something that bothers me a lot. I also don't like the fact that being rich is a prequesite for official political participation in the United States. I identify as a Trotskyist.

I suppose its pretty common place these days to dislike our government and perceive it as corrupt. Right wing populism and left wing populism are both growing. To anyone who's still confused as to why anyone should criticize and distrust the American (form of) government, I reccomend that you apply for a job as a waiter in Georgetown.

I'm very politically aware about the world, yet while I am traveling I think that any kind of committed, organized political activism will be difficult to participate in. Therefore, I can at least keep myself abreast of events, keep my mind sharp, and contribute somewhat to political struggles by honing my skills as a writer in the meantime. Writing is something I've been meaning to do more of, but I've never really had the time for it these past years. Day jobs and before that school didn't help.

Anways, here you go. Laugh like a fish.