Columnists

Hopping On Gig Economy

When traveling home after a ball game, we often stop at a certain national pizza franchise for a late supper. This particular restaurant normally stays open past midnight –– a significant criterion for finding a satisfying meal after the game.

We like eating there because the room exudes a fun atmosphere. It’s always alive with buoyant kids and bedraggled parents absorbed in their own post-game reverie.

So, it was with much surprise that when we stopped in, last week, the place was as dark as Hitler’s heart. It wasn’t closed, but the employees were only passing pizzas to the hungry motorists in the drive-thru.

“Is the dining room open?” I asked when it became our turn in line.

“Oh, no sir,” the young man said, somewhat in a tone of disbelief that I had even asked the question. “We close the dining room at 2 p.m., right after the buffet comes down.”

“Seriously? Two o’clock?”

“Yes, we can’t find employees willing to work Friday nights,” he said.

“How do these folks earn enough money to live?” I asked. I eyeballed the deep-dish pizza the lady behind him was boxing up.

“Well, many of our employees find gig work on the side,” he said. “A friend who works here has her own TikTok channel, and models women’s golf apparel for a major brand. Monica, behind me here, also is a Spark delivery driver for Walmart, and my friend Danny makes extra money testing video games on his live stream. He hopes he can get enough followers to quit this job, though.”

I couldn’t believe it. Here I was, famished, and all that these people could think of was making money. The Gig Economy was ruining my life, not to mention my nourishment.

The Gig Economy, if you didn’t know, is the concept of abandoning a salaried or hourly job in favor of earning money independently, one job –– or gig –– at a time. You lose the cozy benefits and regular paycheck of working for someone else, but gain the autonomy of working for yourself, making your own decisions and knowing that it’s OK if the boss sleeps with your wife.

I shouldn’t criticize. Most of my income comes from gig work –– although in my day, we called it working freelance. I’ve been a freelance writer, a freelance graphic designer and a freelance caregiver. Earlier this year, while taking time off to begin writing my first novel, I even signed up as a food delivery person for DoorDash.

It was fun for a while, but I never made much money at it. My best tip was four dollars and a warning not to eat the sushi from Wild Jim’s BBQ Hacienda.

My problem with the Gig Economy may be the name itself. I never hear the word “gig” that I don’t think of my buddy Mark and I gigging frogs in the little stream behind his house. We’d ambush the croakers, and take the big ones back to his Dad. He cleaned them, and fried them up for supper.

The little ones, Mark slipped back into the water, but not before ripping off their right hind leg. It was widely held in those days that frogs regenerated missing appendages, and although certainly cruel, it was a good way to increase the frog leg harvest by a quarter.

Even though I could never bring myself to lop off a limb, I was certainly an accessory to the amphibious amputations. To this day, I often have nightmares that I’ll be greeted at the Pearly Gates by thousands of one-legged frogs demanding their legs back.

A problem with a three-legged frog is that they can’t swim forward. Without a right leg, the frog’s natural swimming stroke propels them around and around.

I kinda feel like this might happen to the Gig Economy, too. When the recession peaks, and disposable income becomes scarce, the gig opportunities likely will disappear. I’m afraid that people will be clamoring for jobs that might no longer exist.

And at that point, like the three-legged frog, we will notice that we have come full circle.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning writer for Sagamore News Media