Moonlighting on Cyber Monday

When consumers call, someone must pick up on the other end.

We live in an age of transitions; at least that’s what we’re being sold. Gone are the glory days of union-wage jobs and pension funds. “Bring on the free agents” cry the 21st century prophets (or perhaps, profiteers) that tell us that all we need is a better, or more diverse tool set to succeed in the new economy.

Moonlighting—that age-old tradition of holding a 2nd job in addition to your primary wage-earning position—is something that more than 8 million Americans are engaged in. I’m one of those, juggling multiple paying gigs, all adding up to one mess of 1099s and a coming tax-paying train wreck of an employment situation.

If it seems like I’m complaining, I’m actually not. I love what I do.

Who wouldn’t want to parlay their gift of gab into some mad money for Christmas or for purchasing a new bicycle?

In talking with my dad the other day, he who my sister refers to as “Herman the German,” I learned that I’m descended from a long line of moonlighters, or at least remember now that he always had a little bit of alternative employment going on when my sister and I were growing up.

My father, who himself was fortunate to come up during those halcyon economic boom years of the 1950s and 1960s that we all hearken back to with so much fondness, remembers that they weren’t as golden when he was living in their midst. Raising a young family, especially two children with a genetic predisposition to crooked teeth, required a 2nd and sometimes a 3rd job to pay Dr. Chabot for the hardware crowding our young mouths full of sideways bicuspids and crowded molars. That’s one reason he worked painting houses, doing carpentry on the side, along with other jobs for various people, all to supplement a decent income he earned working the swing shift at Pejepscot Paper.

I’ve been working some variation of seasonal jobs going all the way back to 1987. I don’t work every year, but over the course of the past 25 years, I’ve done it enough to know that I’m capable of handling 65-70 hour (or more) weeks when I need to pad the bank account.

One of my previous part-time gigs for extra cash had me shilling gourmet  sausages to passing shoppers in crowded supermarkets. That required a thick skin, the heart and demeanor of a pitchman, and the constitution to stand on my feet for six hours or more every weekend after working 45-50 hours at a local nonprofit.  That yielded enough extra cash for a long weekend of basketball, fancy food, and decent lodging in Boston, not to mention paying down some outstanding bills.

This year, I’m working at a customer care center (some prefer the term, “call center”) somewhere east of Boston. My employer for the season is an iconic Maine company that’s been around for twice as long as I have.

The job’s fun, albeit challenging, especially on the nights when  I drive 45 minutes, forgo dinner, clocking in around 5:30 and answering calls ’til the wee hours from people wanting stuff.

I worked Cyber Monday and everything they say about Americans as consumers is true. America is back! At least back to being in the throes of consumption, willing to take on a bit more debt and add more stuff to the ever-growing heap of items they’ve been gathering.

The business channel talking heads all agree this morning that it’s a good thing. I’m not complaining because it’s putting money in my pocket, it’s helping my tax situation (I hope), and I’ve even done my patriotic part to pump a bit of my disposable income back into the tottering American economy as it clambers along.