‘Gig’ compiles workers talking about working

“Dude, if you’ve been ripped off by a hooker, you don’t call the cops.”


You have to do something. Everyone has to do something. A mandate trumpeted again and again in America is that you have to make money to properly be a part of our society. Whether you stuff dead animals or provide $2.99-a-minute psychic guidance over the phone, your occupation will become a part of who you are. You may like it. You may hate it. You may become so involved in it you forget what life was once like. In any case, you’ll likely have to get a job someday, and no matter how you feel about it, it will probably occupy at least a third of your day—every day—if not more. The book “Gig” is about what people do every day to earn a living.

“I don’t care what gender you are, what color your skin is, what religion you are, it makes no difference to me. If you break the laws, I arrest you. But I don’t do it without compassion.”

—Border Patrol Agent

Though we will all take part in this collective “time is money” phenomenon, few of us will experience it in the same way. The reality of the situation is that only some will be doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen. Some people will be McDonald’s workers, ministers and human resource directors of slaughterhouses. The boost in the economy and expansion of trade have led to creation of numerous new jobs, though most of them are low-paying and without benefits. People are doing all kinds of things to make money in America; selling phone cards; pretzels; their bodies.

“I hate having to deal with someone that you can’t stand, five days a week.”

—UPS Worker

The idea for “Gig” was based on the 1972 book “Working,” by Studs Terkel, which explores people and their working lives. Sabin Streeter, John Bowe and Marisa Bowe, editors at the Web magazine “Word,” collected over 120 monologues from nearly 40 interviewers talking to people about their jobs. The interviews were originally the content of the webzine’s weekly column, “Work,” and now appear as one volume in the book “Gig.”

“I’d rather be doin’ this than have a million dollars.”

—Produce Stand Owner

“Gig” is 545 pages of people talking about what they do. It is a husband and wife trucking team inventing Christmas carols while driving through a snowstorm. It is a bounty hunter explaining how to safely capture a man bigger than you. It is a stripper explaining why she had to stop exciting herself at work. It is a heavy metal roadie reminiscing about the time he booked Metallica in 1982 for “two cases of beer, a quart of Absolut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.” The monologues are as random and varied as real life. Fittingly, there are no comments and no conclusions drawn by the editors.

“Or when you hear kids in the background crying- it’s good. And lonely people, obviously lonely people, they’re great. They’ll talk forever and give you a credit card number if you ask nice enough.” – Telemarketing Supervisor.

The people come from all over. An escort was found in the Yellow Pages in Wichita, Kansas. The trucking couple was found at a truck stop in Laramie, Wyoming. A buffalo farmer was a friend of a “Word” reader. Two young boys, ages nine and eleven, were found selling lemonade on the side of the road. Work, like life, happens to everyone, but everyone tells the story a little differently.

“I became pretty well identified as the major supporter of gay rights in Massachusetts. But I was totally closeted. I had no life as a gay man.” – US Congressman, Barney Frank.

You’re probably not an Elvis “interpreter,” or a highway flagger, or a transvestite prostitute in the Meat District of Manhattan. You may never work security in a casino, drive a bus, or own a gun store, but somebody does. We all have to do something, and what we do identifies us as people. Some people pluck handfulls of feathers from chickens for minimum wage. Some people pull in handfulls of cash working carnival games every night. Either way, our current way of life requires us to keep working, to keep doing all these crazy jobs that somebody has to do.

“My favorite thing about the job is just the fact that I have a job. I guess I’ve worked so long that I feel like I need to go to work every day.” – Wal-Mart Greeter.

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