Friday Night Story

Part Time

I’ve worn many hats through the years. I started young, working a paper route back when labor laws kept you from doing anything else (although for some reason the laws were mum about a profession that ended up paying roughly $1.50 an hour when the minimum wage was three times that). I worked in retail as soon as I was old enough, but that was mainly for the discount, and at that age gadgets seemed so much more important. Putting myself through school, I worked construction, package sorting, industrial sauce mixing, security. I’ve had so many jobs that it’s hard to remember them all.

Of course, because I was working my way through school, I was usually working part time, and a student part time. I was still young and full of energy, and optimism, when I got married just out of college; in those days it still seemed like an okay idea to start a family, which I know dates me.

Now, my ex-wife says I’m a part-time father, which is mostly because she’s bitter that I was never there enough to be a part-time husband. I don’t blame her much. By the time we got divorced she was a full-time mother with a part-time job; now she’s a full-time lush with three jobs to pay her part of healthcare for our daughter and her full-time nanny.

It seems like it all happened so fast. It had started before I entered the work force; maybe it was there from the beginning, I don’t know, but the economy shifted towards a multiple-part-time paradigm. Those days, most people were smart enough to hold out for a full-time job with at least some benefits, so if you had bankable enough skills, you could do that. But everyone accepted that for part-time work, besides lower pay scales, it was perfectly reasonable not to get benefits. What we didn’t think about at the time was that it lowered the overall cost-to-labor ratio of part-timers, making them more valuable to employers.

Economically, it was a master stroke, and it seems completely illogical, I know, slashing hours and eliminating benefits while doubling or quadrupling the size of a company’s workforce- but it worked. Not every company was corrupt enough to consider screwing their employees like this, and there were still a few working unions, but enough companies did that it became impossible to compete for the companies who didn’t. The net result was a 35% cut in compensation by employers while maintaining (and sometimes increasing) production. It started in America, but the already troubled European economies had to follow suit to remain competitive in the global market.

I work 100 hours in a slow week, spread fairly evenly across 5 separate companies. It usually translates to 14-hour days; if it’s a weekend I’ve got my daughter, I pull five 20s during the week so I can be with her the whole weekend, even if I doze through most of it. I’m awake most days just long enough to work, but I’m only alive part time.

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