“Alger is to America what Homer was to the Greeks"
March 22, 2017 4:23 PM   Subscribe

The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself To Death. Mary’s story looks different to different people. Within the ghoulishly cheerful Lyft public-relations machinery, Mary is an exemplar of hard work and dedication—the latter being, perhaps, hard to come by in a company that refuses to classify its drivers as employees. SLNewYorker, written by the always-interesting Jia Tolentino.
posted by Greg Nog (33 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
That Nathaniel West story sounds like the economic equivalent to Johnny Got His Gun.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:39 PM on March 22, 2017


“Luckily,” as Lyft put it, the passenger requested a short trip.
In one acid sentence, Jia Tolentino sums up why I have never been a fan of the gig economy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:42 PM on March 22, 2017 [7 favorites]


They couldn't even at least call it Tenner?
posted by serena15221 at 4:48 PM on March 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Stakhanovites of under-employment
posted by thelonius at 4:50 PM on March 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


I know from experience that living one gig to the next is an absolutely a suck ass way to exist. You will never be able to: take vacations, call in sick, leave early on your birthday (or any important day), celebrate holidays with your loved ones, attend weddings, care for an agging ing parent etc. etc. etc. You dare not do any of that stuff, lest you loose your gigs. There's always someone nipping at your heels that wants the job you're on.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:51 PM on March 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


I think the solution is for any management in a "gig company" needs to register for "Tricoteuse," a special app that collects downvotes. Once they've reached their allotment, the manager has to disembowel themselves on pain of something ore ghastly. That would stop this bullshit in its tracks and make for great TV. It'd be a win-win-win trifecta.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:01 PM on March 22, 2017 [20 favorites]


It appears that GenjiandProust and I have subscribed to the same newsletter.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 5:05 PM on March 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


Or, you know, we could just go right to pitchfork mobs; it seems about time.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:05 PM on March 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


one time an Uber driver (back before everyone hated Uber to the degree we all do now) called me to ask my destination before pulling up to let me get in, which I thought was a bit of a dick move and against their rules and I'd already put it into the phone, but also what do I care, so I told him. then after I got in he said, Sorry about that, but I'm at the end of my shift and the last time I picked up one last passenger around midnight he made me drive him to Philadelphia.

(I live in DC)

and I did not ask him why he didn't tell them to fuck off or just say "Sure" and then drop them off at the train station with helpful instructions on the socially acceptable way to get to Philadelphia, because even though I don't know the driver regulations, it was evident from his manner of telling the story that you are not allowed to do that or Travis comes and guts you with a linoleum knife and you never work again.

Lyft with their cheery tip option, I would like to force them to autopay the driver the entire ride cost and then give you the optional option to tip the company itself, if you feel their service was really exceptional that day. there could be a quid pro quo legislation thing where we agree to drop the campaign for higher minimum wage for tip workers in exchange for implementing this policy in all tipping industries. restaurants especially also too.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:28 PM on March 22, 2017 [13 favorites]


[Fiverr "entrepreneurs"] should/would "answer a call from a client while having sex, as recommended in the video."

wat.
posted by spacewrench at 5:32 PM on March 22, 2017


I think I will invest in guillotines.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:05 PM on March 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


Or, you know, we could just go right to pitchfork mobs; it seems about time.

Sadly, the ones who we'd be mobbing against own the police and keep them well-armed.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:12 PM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think the article makes a lot of good points, but because this is Metafilter, I note that every time an article mentions a Horatio Alger story without the author actually reading one it makes me cry inside. There's a lot that can be said about the relation of Alger stories to modern day, but they're not as simple as the "rags to riches" they're always shortened to.
posted by corb at 8:27 PM on March 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


They're worse, really. If Alger stories were just "Poor boy works himself nearly to death but eventually earns millions of dollars from his hard work", that'd be one thing - but instead most of the stories are about the poor boy working himself to death and still can't even reach "middle class" until someone just gives him money for something "heroic" or "noble" he did that has nothing to do with his work. The lesson isn't "hard work pays off, so bootstraps" it's "hard work is necessary for Moral Superiority, and if you're very very lucky one of your social and economic betters might deign to notice that Moral Superiority and reward you for it."
posted by soundguy99 at 9:19 PM on March 22, 2017 [33 favorites]


Yeah corb, I have read one, for college a while back, and soundguy99's description sounds accurate. It relied on someone Superior recognizing and rewarding hard work. Richguy ex machina.
posted by JHarris at 8:55 AM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


The incentive to overwork inherent in gig work is plenty horrible for the people doing it. Even worse, though, is when the work involves operating dangerous heavy machinery in an unpredictable environment. Y'know, driving automobiles. It's a huge risk to the workers and the general public.

Some gig drivers sleep in their cars in between shifts. This makes for lousy sleep under any circumstances, but add in cold weather and some opt to run their engines the whole time to keep the heat on. It's a recipe for carbon monoxide poisoning as well as the obvious sleep deprivation, and neither of those is something that professional drivers should be experiencing.

Maybe Lyft and Uber should issue bivy sacks to their drivers. If we can't solve the real problems, we could at least try to help people get a decent night's sleep before going back on shift and endangering everyone.

tl;dr: Driving while you're laboring to give birth isn't just horrible for you, it's horrible for anyone you might hit with your car while you're doing it.
posted by asperity at 9:06 AM on March 23, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah, in the rough aggregate I don't disagree with Soundguy. It's not always a RichGuy, but it's often, "Person Above Your Current Class Recognizes Your Superiority And Deals You In." And yeah most of the time it's not "and becomes rich" but "and achieves a stable job/gets a girl above his class/helps his mom not die in poverty." But there's also - and this is why I think of it for the age - a lot of "You Were Meant To Be Middle Class, Until Tragedy Prevented You, You Must Put It Right" "economic anxiety" undertones to the stories. No small few of them depend on the protagonist being deprived because of new laws or circumstances.
posted by corb at 9:08 AM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Horatio Alger stories are fables in which capitalism, morals, and predestination are all interconfused.
posted by beerperson at 9:15 AM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


IIRC they are far worse than that. Horatio Alger liked to play the role of the superior rich benefactor who recognizes the glint of good in a poor boy, except he did it for exactly the terrible reasons one would suspect if a sleazy rich guy did that today.

In the worst interpretation, an entire strain of bootstrappy philosophy is predicated on the fantasies of a sexual predator.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:20 AM on March 23, 2017 [6 favorites]


So I actually started rereading one or two, and the other thing that I note as /really fucking fascinating/ is how often these stories, which everyone has somehow shortcutted to "rags to riches/class mobility", actually present class mobility for the undeserving, especially new groups gaining power, as a huge problem.

So women, for example, gaining inheritance rights over a husband's estate, are placed as an object of fear, and the way that you see people are bad is often that they don't treat their betters with appropriate respect. It's really interesting reading.
posted by corb at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Horatio Alger stories are fables in which capitalism, morals, and predestination are all interconfused.

To be fair, at least Alger was more humane than Rand as far as capitalist fables go...
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:23 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


So glad the article links to those terrible Fivvr ads. They're such shit. Here's another one. Fuck the culture that created and promotes this.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:39 AM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


So where's this article about Horatio Alger stories we're all talking about? I don't see it in the FPP, which appears to be an article about PR campaigns that normalize exploitative labor practices.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:45 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


the Horatio Alger article is over here in this dark room, i'll show it to you,
posted by beerperson at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2017 [10 favorites]


Alger was referenced a couple times in the article and in the title, and we are Mefites.
posted by corb at 1:59 PM on March 23, 2017 [6 favorites]


Yes, we as a community love simple fables about moral uplift through work, that's a given, but I don't see why we should focus on Alger, who is unfortunately dead, rather than the ad campaign, which is worth celebrating on its own merits.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:06 PM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]


Boy, are those Fivvr ads depressing. Especially the one by musicians offering to play for five dollars. I remember in the 70's, back in a Midwestern town where every musician was in the Musicians' Union, where you could make somewhat of a living as a musician, even in a bar band. Not much of a career, but you could make enough money to rent an apartment and buy a car. Try that on your $5 guitar solos, chump.
posted by kozad at 2:40 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


believe that I have already sketched out a rough idea for a celebration.

That task finished, I am on to the Alger/Rand slash fiction that is sure to follow.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:25 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


There's a lot that can be said about the relation of Alger stories to modern day, but they're not as simple as the "rags to riches" they're always shortened to.

True, I'm pretty sure Ragged Dick was actually an underage male prostitute, not a career path most people want to bootstrap themselves into.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:00 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


These people make less per gig than I made per hour when I worked as a temp in NYC in the 80s doing nothing particularly important. And I made enough that I could actually buy health insurance.
posted by lagomorphius at 8:37 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]


Temping's gotten a lot less lucrative over the last 15 years or so. On average, the jobs are worse, harder to come by, and pay less, or at least that's been my experience. I think most of the offices that'd bring temps on whenever anyone had extra typing and filing needs (the genuinely temporary ones) just aren't doing that as often anymore, so most of what's out there are the abusive employers who just can't keep workers or won't pay for benefits. On the bright side, once you've found a good match with such an employer, they'll keep you as long as you can stand it, because it's not really temporary for them. Wait, maybe that's not a bright side.
posted by asperity at 10:24 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


He! he! he!—he! he! he!—yes, the Horatio Alger article. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady McGee and the rest? Let us be gone.
posted by No-sword at 6:01 AM on March 24, 2017



Temping's gotten a lot less lucrative over the last 15 years or so. On average, the jobs are worse, harder to come by, and pay less, or at least that's been my experience. I think most of the offices that'd bring temps on whenever anyone had extra typing and filing needs (the genuinely temporary ones) just aren't doing that as often anymore, so most of what's out there are the abusive employers who just can't keep workers or won't pay for benefits. On the bright side, once you've found a good match with such an employer, they'll keep you as long as you can stand it, because it's not really temporary for them. Wait, maybe that's not a bright side.


It had already started to get like that by the time I got out of it around 1990. I happened to get lucky and hit the sweet spot where companies were transitioning from turnkey systems like Wang to desktop computers and everybody was out to sea throwing money at anybody who seemed to know anything. Eventually it started to ossify.

I was often hired to help interns finish projects. In those days it was a perk for the interns to hire a temp to help them with the scut work at the big name places. But we all know where that went.
posted by lagomorphius at 3:09 PM on March 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


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