Thursday, March 19, 2009

Attempts at Quick Work: Take 2

Budget: -$671.10

Today I messed up, got burnt, and learned an invaluable lesson.

I was told yesterday to show up anytime from 5:30 AM to 10 AM. So when I found out it was going to rain (in fact, it actually didn't), I caught a ride into Lynn, arriving only at 7:30. It felt like it should be fine, because in Lynn, pretty much any time of day looks like very, very early morning.

No such luck. There were guys who had come in a good while earlier, and with the rate at which things were going as they waited, it didn't look like they were going to get to do anything today, either.

Lesson learnt. Next time, I will be there EARLY.

I put myself on the list just in case (quite far behind in line) and decided to see who else was there. The girl behind the counter, named Shante, was calling her boyfriend to wake him up to take her four-year-old son to school. (Since when do four-year-olds go to school?)

"I'm not trying to be a bitch," she said, "but McKye needs to be in school by 7 AM." It was almost 8. Someone finally picked up on the other end, so she had to switch to that conversation.

"Get your lazy ass out of bed! It's almost 8!"
"What do I know? What do you know! You need to get McKye to school right now."
"No, you need to wash his ass before his face."

"I can't ever keep a job," she later said. "No one takes care of McKye when I'm gone."


Eli came in around 8 and started asking Shante to let him cut the line.

"I used to work here. I was dependable. Worked every day."

"Why are you telling me this?" asked Shante. "As if I care."

The last day Eli had worked was January 26. Since then, he'd been in jail. He told me I looked familiar and that he could have sworn he'd seen me before. I told him he looked familiar too. He didn't.


Marco moved to Lynn from California a few months ago.

"It used to be OK, when I had a driver's license. I could get work twice a week. But then my, take a look." He pulls out his California license, which has an expiration date of 2-16-2009. "It expired. And I can't renew it because I owe child support."

Until he pays the child support, he can't get a new license. But he can't pay it, because without a license, he's found it next to impossible to get work.

"People will be behind me in line, but driving jobs will come up, and they'll get called, and I won't be. I've been coming in here every day for the last two weeks. Haven't worked once in that time. And rent is due next week."


At 9:40, Shante notices a man using a bathroom that was supposed to be locked. She has a fit.

"Who unlocked the bathroom, and how?"


"All right, I want everybody out. If there's work, I'll call you. Get out. Everyone."


I'm glad I didn't leave this experimentation for when I'm on the road. Next week I'll try to show up bright and early and see if there are fistfights for the first spots in line. And maybe I'll actually learn how to maneuver into a job.


  1. Been there. Done that.

    I ended up finding work one day, even AFTER showing up at 5 am. It was totally random too. This African guy comes in about 9 am with his teenage son. He's moving his whole family from one place to another and he needed movers. We get to the house. NOTHING is packed. We (the movers and the family) were literally just putting all of the families shit into the moving truck. I busted ASS, like ALL DAY.. I got $30. It hardly seemed worth it.

  2. He didn't tell you in advance how much he'll pay you?

    There were two guys on the day this post was written who went to do a moving job. It was estimated that it would take them four hours, so the customer and the workers agreed on four hours' pay. The workers finished it in two, but got the money that had been agreed upon.

    I wonder if moving is always estimated at four hours. Four hours' pay at minimum wage or just over after taxes comes out to right about $30.

  3. No, I wasn't told how much it would be.

    Oh and, by the way.. The check they cut you, I don't think I got mine the same day. It was probably on the Thursday after the work was done. That would certainly come into play if you are planning a 1 day thing.

    I've never seen those types of work offices in small towns. Only in small cities.

  4. In response to your points:

    X I was promised that any work I get, I'll be paid that very same day.

    X There are definitely no such offices in small towns, but you can talk to people much more personally than you can in cities. The possibilities and approaches are very different in cities and towns. At least, that's what I suspect; after the experiment, I'll be able to speak from a more informed viewpoint.