A Day in the Life of a Day Laborer
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
6am – Having shown up the day before at 8am, I learned quickly
that in the day laborer world, the early bird definitely catches
the worm. That day, I walked away without a job assignment, but
thankfully completed my application. I was hired on the spot.
Showing up at 6am assured me a work assignment, so here I am.
7am – Most of the other workers got assignments. They were actually in
line hours before I got here. Some of them slept outside waiting
for the place to open up. I’m sure some of them didn’t have a home
to go to. This was a good sign though. This meant that there was
enough work to go around and I was hoping to be called next.
8am – My name is called. The guy at the counter asked if I’ve ever worked
at a public entertainment event. I admitted that I hadn’t. He said,
“Ah, it’s no big deal. You’ll be collecting and tearing tickets at a
Monster Truck show in Tempe. You’ll do fine. Get there by at least
4pm and you’ll be paid until you’re released by the manager on duty
which could be any time around 10, 11, or 12. Here’s the address.”
The guy hands me a piece of paper then hits me with, “You’ve got a
car, right? I’m sending 4 other guys that need a ride there. We can
add $5 to your pay from each of their pay. Just pick them up from
here with plenty of time to get you to the job site. ” I agreed. I never turn down gas money from anyone. The guy then finishes off by
saying, “Come back tomorrow for another assignment and bring
your signed work completion ticket. We’ll cut you a check on the
spot.” NOICE! I’ll have money tomorrow, and another potential gig!
2:45pm – Everyone that was catching a ride with me had to show up at the
labor shop by 2:44pm. Tempe was at least 45 minutes away from the
shop, and we I didn’t want to find out what the repercussions were
if I wasn’t on time, and even more so, responsible for the late
arrival of the other 4 guys that were coming with me. Like clockwork,
all 4 guys were waiting for me right on time. There was a lot of small
talk in the car, and at least we all got to know each other before we
started working together.
3:45pm – As expected, traffic was not smooth. That’s typical in Phoenix,
Arizona, but we got there with 15 minutes to spare. I located the
manager on duty and we were given our instructions; put on the
polo shirts, hats, and reflective vests the manager issued to us, and
find an entrance to stand post at. Easy enough. Each entrance had
an Event Staffer there who gave us further instructions; collect
tickets, tear them in half, give half to the attendee and keep the
other half and put it in the fanny pack he gave us.
4pm-6pm – The Monster Truck show wasn’t scheduled to start until 7pm, so
we were basically told to “hang around” and wait until some of the
early arrivals started showing up. That really didn’t happen until
6pm, so we sat around and just chilled. This was a great time to
break out the smokes, if you had em’. The best part about this was,
we were still on the clock!
6pm – It’s showtime! People began arriving at our gates. There were
families by the boatload! I started tearing up tickets and wishing
everyone a good time. I handed each of them a piece of their
tickets back and stashed away the other half in my nifty little
fanny pack. There was a time when the crowds seemed to just
pour in out of nowhere. It was fast paced, but I kept up. I was posted
at an entry gate where the only way in was through me, and if you
didn’t have a ticket, I sent you right back to the ticket booth.
7pm – The real Showtime had arrived. People were still arriving at my gate.
It was pretty awesome to see all the families enter in anticipation of
a glorious time watching the monster trucks do battle on the ASU
stadium field. Throughout the night, I heard the trucks revving up
and causing all kinds of havoc. I couldn’t see the action from where
I was standing, but I could feel the rumble of the ground beneath my
7:45pm – There were very few late arrivals trickling in. Things had slowed
down to a crawl. We were just to stand post until the show was over
making sure no one came in without a ticket. In the meantime, we
sat and waited for arrivals or for the show to end.
9pm – We could hear that the show was wrapping up and before too long,
people were exiting through our gates. Our job was basically done,
but we couldn’t leave until we were dismissed, but not before our
work tickets were signed, and we turned in our equipment.
10:30 pm – The stadium was just about cleared out by now. There was still
some activities on the field going on after the show; meet & greets,
photo ops, etc. It was just a matter of time now before we were
relieved of our duties.
11:30pm – The place was a ghost town now. The manager on duty collected
our gear and our fanny packs full of torn tickets, signed our work
slips and thanked us for a job well done. I started heading back to
the shop to drop the other guys off.
12:15am – There was no traffic to contend with at night, so our ride home was
quick. We all talked about some of the characters we encountered at
our gates and we all had a good laugh at a few of the stories. I
dropped the guys off and went home. I was very much looking
forward to tomorrow’s pay-day and work assignment.
5am – I got very little sleep, and I didn’t mind it. Today, I would get paid
for my work from the night before. Not only was I eager to get that
check in my hands, I wanted to make sure I was early enough to
get another good assignment, and hopefully one that had an earlier
6am – I was one of the first 10 people in through the door. I got to the
counter and got my next assignment, moving cabinets into a new
apartment development. The assignment was scheduled from 8am
to 5pm with an hour available for lunch. I gave my previous night’s
work slip to a new guy at the counter who proceeded to enter the
information into his computer, which hurriedly clicked as it printed
the numbers on my check. The check was for a cool $68 bucks. It may
not sound like much today, but in 1997, during a time when I was
desperate for an income, $68 bucks was music to my ears.
The job moving furniture that day was a laborious one; one that netted me
$78 dollars. In 2 days, I had earned $146. I got a few more assignments after that, and the money kept a roof over my head, food in my tummy, and gas in my car, long enough for me to finally get an offer from an employer I had already interviewed twice for. I’ll never knock the hustle of an individual working to survive and I, for one, know that if I ever hit on hard times, a day laborer company
is sure to be out there, waiting and willing to give a person an opportunity to make a living and struggle a little less with life.
-Omar Tarango is a Freelance Blogger and Social Media Manager-