. . .
“You mow lawns?” he asked. “How much?”
And that was how it started.
from Lawn Boy
by Gary Paulsen
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2007
After I found out what the gig economy is, I realized how much I depend on it. We all do, really. I know lots of people who are part of it, or at least they were until last week or so. Covid 19 has most of it pretty much shut down.
Turns out everyone who works independently, everyone who starts up his or her own business, everyone who works as a freelancer, is a gig worker, just like the narrator in the quote from Lawn Boy. The gig economy is named after musicians who are hired to play gigs. Their work may or may not be steady. It depends whether anyone wants their services.
The gig economy is made up of all the independent workers. You know them. Hair stylists, house cleaners, dog walkers, the mechanic who works out of his garage, writers, artists, entertainers, Uber drivers (at least at this writing). It’s a long list. Probably farm workers are. For sure the people who have stalls in a Farmer’s Market.
We depend on them, and our whole economy does.
They pay taxes, probably more than big corporations do. They sometimes employ other people, too. According to https://www.lawcareers.net/Explore/CommercialQuestion/Travers-Smith-LLP-The-gig-economy-Uber-and-Deliveroo “[t]he 'gig economy' describes a working practice whereby individuals are paid for the 'gigs' they do rather than for their time.” The carpenter you hire to build your garage, the seamstress you pay to hem your new pants.
You get the idea. I could probably complete all 800 words of this blog with a list of gig workers. I won’t. I’m thinking more about what they are all doing now that so many of us are sheltered in place.
No one is asking for their services. Without work, there is no money coming in to pay for rent/mortgages, food, utilities, petcare, prescriptions, Bandaids, and especially toilet paper. (I still don’t understand the hoarding mentality of that.)
Gig workers mostly do *not* have paid health insurance or paid sick days.
Our leaders in Congress are working out a plan to support those workers who are vital to keeping our economy going. The Federal Reserve assures us that in co-ordination with the Treasury Department, anyone who wants access to his or her cash will be able to retrieve it. Small business loans will be easy to get and some will be forgiven under certain conditions. Loans for big businesses will be available, too.
Unemployment payments are the responsibility of the individual states. The Federal government says it will help.
Millions of people will use these resources to move from day to day while we shelter in place. Most impacted, though, are the gig workers. And there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it. We’re told to stay home unless we need to refill our prescriptions, or other medical issues. Or buy food. Here in Ohio restaurants are still allowed to provide food for customers on a carry-out or delivery basis only. Ohio’s list of what is open and what’s not is at https://www.cleveland.com/news/2020/03/whats-open-closed-under-ohios-stay-at-home-order.html Those neighborhood restaurants are full of gig workers.
So I started thinking about the shelter-in-place order. I understand that this rogue virus needs to be contained. I know that you don’t always know you have it, so the rampant infection is spreading wildly. I know there is no cure (yet) or even medicine to relieve the symptoms, but it feels like we’re going around this whole thing kinda inside-out.
We have always been told to stay home when we’re sick. In other words, we isolate the sick people and the people who are well can go about their business, gig workers, or employees, or CEOs, or anyone else. This time we’re isolating all the people who are well (and those who are sick or might be) and no one can go out or about.
I’m not complaining. For introverts like me, this isolation is a respite from the demands I feel in my former, normal day to day. I relish the time I can stay home. I don’t miss being around people. I have to remind myself to call my friends, and I do. I know most people are not like me. And I really do feel for them. Really.
So I guess the best advise I can give myself is to keep calling my friends, or text, or email. Keep physically not socially distant. To move around. A couple of flights of steps in the morning, laps around the island in the kitchen while I’m making dinner. It’s easy for me to curl up on my big, green chair with a book and stay there for a few hours. And wash my hands!
Mom was really right about that!
-—stay curious! (and patient)