A Day in the Life of a Day Laborer

A Day in the Life of a Day Laborer





Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Year: 1997


May 13th

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.


May 14th

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

start time.

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-