Why do people work?

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As I am awake as six o’clock in the morning preparing to drive pedicab for the Saint Paul, St. Patrick’s Day Parade this question is on my mind. I’ve received Social Security for my multiple disabilities for fifteen years now. There is no expectation that I have a job and for the first six years of being sick there was no way that I could work. My job was figuring out how to live but as soon as I could do anything I started working. One benefit to this is that I qualify for a Medicaid program in Minnesota designed for employed people with disabilities. Having medical coverage is essential to me and Medicare doesn’t really cover it but that’s another story.

Obviously the need for money is why many people work. It’s the driving assumption behind efforts to raise the minimum wage. People with a job should be able to survive in this modern world. For most people their job is their primary source of income but it’s hardly the only way to get money and perhaps not even the most efficient. You certainly can make more money panhandling than you can working at McDonald’s. The idea that if you work hard you will be financially rewarded for your efforts is a myth. In this modern age, for most people, working hard is essential for survival but it is no guarantee of great wealth.

Since money is essential for survival, if money is the only reason people work then the modern job is only one step removed from slavery. If money alone will get someone to do something that they wouldn’t do for any other reason, I don’t see how that is any different than bribery. That’s how I felt the other night when I had four stippers climb into the back of my cab all waving twenty dollar bills in my face. Believe me, I really wanted to help but as I explained to them, the law only permits me to transport three adults and even more important to me than the law was that I could lose my job. They were very disappointed that no amount of money could get me to give all four of them a ride. They also didn’t want to wait for another cab to arrive. They wanted what they wanted when they wanted it and thought that money was all they needed.

It is my belief that meaningful work, far more than money, is essential for human happiness. The work we do helps us form connections with other people and gives us an opportunity to make a difference in the world. Work is what gives us purpose.  Most of the work I do I don’t get paid for at all. Writing this blog is work for which I don’t get paid. Being a parent is work for which I don’t get paid. Being a friend is work for which I don’t get paid. I get paid for performing music but not any more than it costs me to be a working musician. Driving pedicab is the only work I do which makes money but if money was my only motivation, I wouldn’t do it.

So what do you think? Would you do the work you do if you didn’t get paid? If you didn’t need the money?

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Roll with the changes

I received a phone call last Friday from Twin Town pedicabs asking me when I was going to start going out again. I guess that is the first true sign that winter is on it’s way out. We’ve had a couple days now of above freezing temperatures so the snow is starting to melt. I don’t want to get too optimistic because I know it’s still going to be a bumpy ride but at least we are heading in the right direction.

Last time I wrote anything of substance I mentioned that I was helping a friend shop for a new car. At some point during the process I decided that a new car was probably the best option for me as well. I was looking at upwards of a thousand dollars worth of repairs to a van that is only worth five-hundred; a van I no longer needed or wanted. The more fiscally prudent thing to do may have been to get a two-thousand dollar car for cash but where is the fun in that. I also didn’t know if that would resolve my constant repair problems. Now that I’m driving my teenage daughter around everywhere, having a reliable, fuel efficient vehicle just seemed like the responsible thing to do.

It just kind of blows my mind. A year ago I was flat bloke and realizing that I needed to cut my expenses any and every way possible. With my vehicle being one of biggest expense I figured it would have to go. The only problem was that I needed it for one of my greatest sources of income. So I set out to create a job where I didn’t need to drive. I did that. I was still worried about how I was going to see my daughter but it was looking like she was moving back to the city. Back in September, the driving job ended and I was ready to dump the van. Then I lost all communication with my daughter. I held onto the vehicle simply because I had no idea what was going on.

Now I’m the proud owner of this…

New-2014-Ford-Fiesta-SE_ID20739620_o

 

It was really such a crazy decision. I never thought that I would own another vehicle again, let alone lease a brand new one. I feel like I’m going back on everything I believe but I’m really not. The only thing I truly believe is that I never want to be beholden to my beliefs. Well, that and love. I still believe in love and buying this car was an act of love.

Experience the unexpected

Expect the unexpected because things rarely go as planned. That was the case last night. It was my plan to be done driving pedicab for the season after Halloween but there I was, working the Vikings game. This guy, Chris, had called up a week ago to see if I would be working. I had given him and his family a ride over the summer and they had so much fun that they wanted to do it again when they were in town for the game. How could I say “no”?

Well that didn’t go as planned either. I tried, I tried, I really did try, but in the end we never did meet up. It still wound up being a good night for me. I hope Chris and his family still had a good night. I’m pretty sure they did. They got to see what will probably be the only game the Vikings win in the United States this season. I wish that I could have been part of their night but that is not the way it played out.

On the way home I stopped in at Club Jager for last call. I had no idea what to expect but as it turned out it was Buttrock night – hard rock and hair metal on vinyl! As I walked in, this song was playing:

Man, I remember when that album came out. I was blown away! I usually don’t pay attention to new music, especially from bands I’ve never heard of but this one caught me off guard. Most of the time I don’t discover new music or new artists until they have been around for a year or more, sometimes decades.

So I got to thinking. What other debut albums did I experience in the moment they were new that blew me away?

Poison - Look What the Cat Dragged In (front)I remember buying this album based on the cover alone! I knew nothing about the band or their music. I just thought they were so pretty! That probably explains a few things about me.

Pretty fucking great album though!

But I think my biggest thrill in discovering new music was when Van Halen released their debut album. I was eleven years old and it only took thirty-two seconds of this song to realize that my life had been changed forever.

There have been numerous seminal debut albums to come out over the years but for most of them, I was either too young or just not paying attention to experience that joy of hearing something brand new. To experience the unexpected is one of the greatest joys in life. It hasn’t all come at the hands of ’80’s hair metal however. It continue to this day but as I’m experiencing nostalgia, here is some of the new music that blew me in the years that followed my buttrock days.

From the debut album, Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars

From the debut album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More?

And from the man who finally got me over my crush on Eddie Van Halen:

From the debut album, Let Love Rule

It just dawned on me that what happened between Guns ‘n’ Roses and Edie Brickell had nothing to do with changes in the music industry. What happened during that time was a very major change in my life. That was the year I suffered a near fatal car accident and the loss of my right eye. It was a very unexpected time to say the least.

I hope you have enjoyed my trip down memory lane. I would love to hear about your experiences with the unexpected. Tell me about a brand new discover that you had which almost made you pee your pants.

Choices

I don’t know why I decided to try writing right now. I don’t know if I have enough time but I probably do. I probably have just enough. I have two hours before leaving for Duluth but I still need to shower and get packed. I’m taking some comfort in the fact that Venus is almost always late but no matter what I’m going to be scrambling up to the last minute. Whatever I decide to do, something is going to be left by the wayside. Is this really the most important thing to do with my time?

Last night was Halloween and what was suppose to be my last pedicab shift for the season but I had a personal request from a customer to drive them after the Vikings game next Thursday so I agreed to come in one more time. It’s not so much that I have a hard time saying “no”, it’s more that I have a propensity to say “yes”. It’s how just about everything in my life has come into being, but it’s also how I wind up feeling overwhelmed.

Even working last night seemed barely worth it. It was cold and rainy and I worked my ass off. I hardly slept last night in anticipation of today but it was probably worth it if only because the alternative would have been worse. Halloween is my favorite holiday and for many years I spent it partying my ass off. I believe working my ass off is better even as I’m struck with nostalgia. Halloween last year was the best! I also remember playing a Halloween show at the old Uptown Bar… but I digress.

I’m trying to decide if I should bring my laptop to Duluth. I don’t need it. Chances are I won’t even have time to get online or write but what if something amazing happens and I really want to capture the moment? NO, I’ve never heard of pen and paper. Anyway, I probably will, just in case.

Time to hop in the shower and wash off the rest of last night’s makeup…

Really?!?

Well I made it through my ten straight days of driving pedicab and am now giving myself two days off. There is much that I could be doing to keep myself moving forward but I really want to see what I come up with if I give myself nothing to do.

So far I’ve found myself writing stupid shit on facebook, listening to crappy dance-pop and drinking cheap wine. Hmmm… I’m not sure this in an improvement. At the very least I thought I would want to write about my stressors but instead I’m bopping my head to Ke$ha. It may be time for an intervention.

Naw… sometimes I just need a day or two to not give a shit.

By the way… did I hear that the government is shut down? Way to go fuckheads – you’re playing right into my hand! I’ve always said, “If you can’t do anything good, at least you can serve as a bad example.”

Keep calm and pedal on

I’ve just completed five straight days of pedicabbing. That may not seem like a big deal to people who work a five day work weeks every week but for me it’s pretty unique. I haven’t done the same job five days in a row since 1999. Also, I’ve scheduled myself for the next five days as well. That may be a bit crazy but it’s crazy with a purpose.

I’m doing this because it is something that I can do. The parts of my life that are out of control are out of my control. There are many things that I could be stressing about but all that it would give me is stress. So I’m focusing on what I can do. It’s a little bit avoidance, a little bit escape and it’s not a permanent solution. It’s just a way of biding my time while the rest of my world sorts it’s shit out. In the meantime, I’ll continue to get in better shape and save money so that I can survive the winter.

I’m also trying to accomplish one thing each day that will move my life forward. I still have a long to-do list but if I can do one thing each day it will help. Somethings are bigger than others but they all help me carry on. In the past week I have caught up on laundry, changed the sheets on my bed, dyed and trimmed my hair and beard, checked in with my band leader, set up my new phone and gone grocery shopping.

Pretty boring stuff, huh?

I suppose that’s part of why I haven’t been writing as much. I have been working on an economics article. I’m halfway through but I may not be able to finish it until next week when I finally give myself a couple days off. Until then…

Post number 100

NOTE: This is my 100th blog post. I’ve known this day was coming for some time and have thought quite a bit about how to make it special. I wanted to do some sort of reflective piece discussing my goals and where I am on my path to obtaining them. Let’s just say that that goal, like all my other goals, isn’t following any prescribed timeline. So this post is nothing special for being number 100 although it is number 100 which is kind of cool in and of itself.  

I feel like I have some catching up to do. After taking 10 days off from driving pedicab to spend time with my daugher and focus on the benifit show I have gone back to it full force. Since last Thursday I have clocked in 46 hours driving pedicab. On top of that I spent 8 hours today delivering City Pages. That is an hour longer than it should have taken me but I was moving a bit slower having had only three and a half hours of sleep last night. My only day off was Monday and I wasn’t feeling very social. Writing is a social act for me so I hope you can understand why I haven’t written in a while.

I recall writing not too long ago about worrying that the pedicab thing might cause me to make too much money. That has not proven to be the case this past week. I actually did alright last Thursday and last night but Friday through Sunday was a downward spiral. Sunday I actually lost money. I’m sure that the company would have cut me a break on rent if I had asked for it but I’m not going to do that unless I have to. I look at this as a business and I’m in it for the long haul. Some days are going to be better than others and some days I may lose money. The important thing is that company I lease from are able to stay in business because they allow me to have a job that I can do, is meaningful and moves my life forward. Money is secondary at best.

After having a not so hot Friday night I was really tempted to take Saturday off. The weather was really kind of shitty which added to my difficulty getting in the mood. I went into The Depot for breakfast with coffee and a screwdriver. In came a group of cyclists that stopped by for a shot on their way to Tour de Fat. They were already half in the bag which is really where I wanted to be. If I wasn’t driving pedicab, that is exactly where I would have been.

I still went to Tour de Fat on my pedicab. Since it’s a biking event there weren’t many opportunities to get rides but I did get one.  It was a mother, her toddler and her friend who had come into town from Chicago to support her while her infant son was in the hospital with some serious medical problems. Along with them came a stroller, an umbrella and a couple big bags. It took an hour before they were ready to leave the bar then I drove them to the liquor store and pharmacy before bringing them back to the apartment. It was the type of service that could easily have warranted a hundred dollar tip but I refuse to be about the money. They paid me what it took for them to feel good – just like anyone else. I was just thrilled to be part of their experience. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to be part of that moment.

I know that some of the pedicab drivers that are upset because I do some things for less money than they would and that by doing so I somehow cheapen the profession. I also take care of obnoxious drunks that other people don’t want to deal with. I also spent half an hour helping one of the cashiers at our favorite downtown convenience stores find an ATM so he could deposit money even though he didn’t have any money to give me. I also gave a ride to a homeless woman, clear across town, during bar close, because she had no idea where she was and needed to get to the shelter. I have no idea if any of this makes good business sense but it’s the human thing to do. I just feel lucky that I have the ability to do something about it. Still, at the end of the season I’m pretty convinced that I will have made as much money as anyone.

This weekend though, where I didn’t make very much, my thoughts were on how much I saved. If I hadn’t been driving pedicab and having wonderful, meaningful experiences, I would have been out drinking and spending money. I’m not saying that wouldn’t have been wonderful and meaningful as well but the economics would have been different. Hmmm… that’s got me thinking about drunk economics. I mean Freakonomics is already taken but maybe I could write a book called Drunkonomics.

I don’t know, I’m a pretty cheap drunk these days. Since I’ve been driving pedicab I’m not drinking as much, I’ve lost weight and my metabolism has changed to the point where it doesn’t really take that much to get me drunk. After working Sunday I decided to do an experiment and see if I could bar hop home without getting shit-faced wasted. I fucking love science!

Well the experiment was pretty much over after two bars and three drinks but I was still committed to seeing it through so I grabbed my self some White Castle and kept going. I don’t know why but as long as I’ve been a vegetarian I still crave shitty fast food sometimes. Okay, maybe being drunk had something to do with it, but still… gross.

Next I hit The Otter for some Karaoke. I requested to sing “Use Me” by Bill Withers but had finished my beer and whiskey before they called my name – probably a good thing.

From there I had my choice of bars to hit but I knew that it would be a good idea to put some distance on my bike before drinking any more. Jimmy’s seemed like a good call and it did wind up being a good time. Oh yeah, there was kind of a side experiment going on to see if I could get drunk enough to hook up with a random stranger. I was totally there but apparently not everyone was running the same experiment so I moved on. I had one more stop before I had to head home.

I did wind up getting picked up at the last bar. I can’t really say how that went south but I have a feeling it had something to do with drunkommunication. Anyway, I wound up back at the bar and biking home. I made it home just fine. I was pretty wiped out from the weekend but I was home safe… except I didn’t have my keys to get in the house. FUCK! I had them when I unlocked my bike.  Where could they be?

I tore through all my bags and pockets until I was convinced that I didn’t have them. I contemplated breaking into my own house. I contemplated calling the police because I was concerned for my safety. Crazy, disabled, drunk people shouldn’t be left outside alone at night… but then I realized that we are all the time and that I really was on my own.

I knew that my keys had to be somewhere between my house that the bar which was three and a half miles away. Chances were that I dropped them when I unlocked my bike so I headed back to the bar. I made it to the bar but couldn’t find my keys. I collapsed on the stoop feeling completely defeated when the staff started filtering out of the bar.

The bartender asked me, “What’s wrong J?”

“I can’t find my keys.”

He looked around the bike rakes and picked something up and said, “Are these them?”

“Yes, yes, yes. Oh thank you soooo much!”, and I gave him a big hug.

Feeling all energized I made it back home although I really was still running on fumes and swerving all over the road.

Oh well.

All’s well that ends well, right? Okay, so maybe drunken pub crawls can’t be part of my lifestyle these days. I’m also concerned that getting drunk is not a solution to lack of sex but that is why we run experiments. I’m still convinced that science holds the answer.

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