Following is an excerpt from my up coming book about my experiences in the gig economy or more affectionately known as the ‘side hustle’ in entrepreneurial circles.
“I spent a year working as a security guard for the popular monthly Treasure Festival on Treasure Island in San Francisco. This was one of the many jobs I worked to support my family while growing my business Ocean SF. It was such an amazing experience I committed to staying for an entire year to write about it.
A year is a long time to work as a security guard and during that time I became part of a culture that few see from the outside. At the time I didn’t know it, but it would prove to be one of the richest and most memorable experiences of my life.” – Sydney
Excerpt from Treasure Festival by Sydney Chaney Thomas
The festival is over and everyone has packed up and gone. It’s eerie in the way it feels that no one has been here at all. The wind has taken all of the garbage into the gray blue water as if nothing had come before.
This is my first day at the distillery. Kim sits on a bench smoking a cigarette.
Tattered pieces of trash dance across the parking lot. The buildings once pristine and functional look on with their broken windows and boarded up doorways.
While working as a security guard for Treasure Festival over the week-end I met the owner of the distillery located near the festival. I let him in the gate reserved for vendors saving him the trouble of walking to the front where Treasure Island residents are admitted for free. Later, he returned and gave me a miniature bottle of Gold Bar Whiskey as a thank you and offered me a job in the distillery the following week.
The roads and buildings on Treasure Island are as beat up as the people who reside there. The community consists of Section 8 Housing and transitional housing for recently released inmates of the penal system. It’s unclear how the rest of the housing is allocated, but as I make my way past the the grocery store where the letters on the street signs have long been washed away I am greeted by an interesting array of humanity.
The San Francisco Bay sparkles and the city of San Francisco is like a mirage in the distance. A sail boat glides by. The seagulls squawk as if there is more to say. The streets are empty now as I sit in the early morning light with my own thoughts. They are a study in cognitive dissonance. I never dreamed I would be here, but here I am. I am keenly aware that I have left the comfort zone miles behind. The situation mirrors my own life with it’s many contrasts. I am now a part of the gig economy where work is easy to find and often lucrative. The flexibility and minimal commitment allow me to put my best energy and focus on my own company.
It’s a short term gig of four days. I shelve my work as a sustainable clothing designer, get up early and head back to Treasure Island the next day. My body is fit and capable of lifting the heavy boxes of liquor that the job demands, so I think of it as a four day workout that will also pay my utility bill and buy groceries for my daughters. I work on the line. We take turns rotating through the different positions. For a few hours I run bottles through a labeling machine, then I move to boxing the finished product, I tape the boxes and transfer them to a pallet. It feels good to work hard like this. I’m learning so much working for other entrepreneurs. It’s an education in problem solving, employee management and pure determination.
Everyone I meet now is named Charlie. The guy who sleeps standing up as he shirks his duties on the line, my bosses older brother at Treasure Festival, and my boss himself Chazz a derivative of Charlie. I call the cable company on my lunch hour and the representative I speak with is also named Charlie.
Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.
I look for coincidences and synchronicity now as animals in the forest use patterns in nature to find food to survive. Four Charlies in three days, what does it mean? There are no real answers to these questions and the many others that float through my mind. The next day I drive the Canadian Whiskey maker to San Francisco to purchase a new bottle topping machine. We walk into the industrial building and a guy with curly brown hair approaches and introduces himself as Charlie.
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