GIG: Americans Talk About Their Jobs by John BoweGIG: Americans Talk About Their Jobs by John Bowe

GIG: Americans Talk About Their Jobs

EditorJohn Bowe, Marisa Bowe, Sabin Streeter

Paperback | August 21, 2001

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“An engaging, humorous, revealing, and refreshingly human look at the bizarre, life-threatening, and delightfully humdrum exploits of everyone from sports heroes to sex workers.”
-- Douglas Rushkoff, author of Coercion, Ecstasy Club, and Media Virus

This wide-ranging survey of the American economy at the turn of the millennium is stunning, surprising, and always entertaining. It gives us an unflinching view of the fabric of this country from the point of view of the people who keep it all moving. The more than 120 roughly textured monologues that make up Gig beautifully capture the voices of our fast-paced and diverse economy. The selections demonstrate how much our world has changed--and stayed the same--in the three decades prior to the turn of the millennium. If you think things have speeded up, become more complicated and more technological, you're right.

But people's attitudes about their jobs, their hopes and goals and disappointments, endure. Gig's soul isn't sociological--it's emotional. The wholehearted diligence that people bring to their work is deeply, inexplicably moving. People speak in these pages of the constant and complex stresses nearly all of them confront on the job, but, nearly universally, they throw themselves without reservation into coping with them. Instead of resisting work, we seem to adapt to it. Some of us love our jobs, some of us don't, but almost all of us are not quite sure what we would do without one.

With all the hallmarks of another classic on this subject, Gig is a fabulous read, filled with indelible voices from coast to coast. After hearing them, you'll never again feel quite the same about how we work.
John Bowe is the author of Nobodies and the co-editor of Us: Americans Talk About Love and Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, GQ, and McSweeny's, among others. Marisa Bowe, co-editor of Us: Americans Talk About Love and Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs, is a writer and...
Title:GIG: Americans Talk About Their JobsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:688 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 1.4 inPublished:August 21, 2001Publisher:Crown/ArchetypeLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0609807072

ISBN - 13:9780609807071


Read from the Book

Neal Smither I'm the President and owner of Crime Scene Cleaners. We clean up death scenes, like homicides. You know, the room where someone gets murdered. We also handle suicides, accidental deaths, meth labs, things like that. A lot of people have the assumption that police take care of the cleanup after a crime. That's not true. It's never been true. If Johnny or Sally gets shot in your house, or your store, and there's brains everywhere, it's your problem. You have to do the cleaning. It's not the police's responsibility at all. You clean it. Or else you call my company or one of my competitors. The idea to start this business came to me six years ago. I was twenty-five years old. I'd just been laid off from my job as division manager at a mortgage banking firm. And there I was, wallowing for weeks in my unemployment misery, when one day, bam! I was watching the movie Pulp Fiction. And you know that scene where they blew the guy away in the back of the car and then had to bring in Harvey Keitel to clean the whole thing up? Well I saw that scene and I thought, wow, that's intriguing. Are there people out there doing this kind of job in real life? And I did some research and found out that that the answer was yes. But there were only a few companies, and they weren't marketing themselves to a broad based range of clients. They weren't selling effectively. Well, I knew I could sell, I just didn't know if I could do that kind of cleaning. So I made some phone calls. I called every janitorial company, anyone who had anything to do with cleaning. I made literally thousands of calls. I'm a neat freak, typically, but I didn't know how professional companies carried out their work. So I took a job with Merry Maids for a couple of weeks. Merry Maids is a residential cleaning company, sort of the McDonalds of maids, really cheap, really shitty. But working there taught me a lot about technique. Then, next, I started contacting coroners and police, because they were going to be my target audience. I was gonna give them a percentage to give me business referrals. You know, so like somebody dies, the cops show up, they're like, Hey, we know a guy who'll clean this up. They send me the business, they get a cut of my fee. Good idea, right? No. Wrong. Because what I found out is that they're not allowed to give out referrals, due to liability. They can't give one, they have to offer a list of cleaning companies, so there's no issue of favoritism. That was a bit discouraging, but whatever, I was into it by then. I just changed gears and I started targeting the people at mortuaries. They can give referrals. My first job came on referral from a mortician. The victim's sister hired us. It was a lady down in Marina Bay area of Richmond. She had terminal cancer and she'd blown her brains out -- shot herself in the head with a .357. Experience-wise, it wasn't too messy -- just enough to cut my teeth and kind of get an indicator of whether I could do this. And I learned I was capable of doing it. And when the cleanup was done and I named my price, the client started cutting a check without any hesitation whatsoever. I knew immediately that this work was for me. Of course, back then, I was totally inept. My partner and I -- I used my wife as my partner on that job -- we were there for three hours and I only charged two hundred and fifty dollars. Now, I'd be there an hour and we'd charge five seventy-five. So I've learned. I've learned so much. My second job was so hardcore -- I'll never forget it. When I think of how little I knew, doing a job like that, it just makes me laugh. It was at a fairly upscale condominium complex in Oakland. A hugely fat guy had died on his hide-a-bed. Weeks, weeks and weeks had gone by and no one had discovered him. He was a loner. No one knew he was dead until they smelled it outside and by that time, it was atrocious. My assistant and I -- this time it was my sister -- opened the door and this ungodly smell just slammed us, big time. We hadn't learned about wearing respirators yet. We hadn't a clue. Well, the whole bottom of this guy's bed was encased in plastic from the manufacturer, and the plastic had trapped all these fluids. So I was moving the bed around, and it started stirring up these juices. And when I tip the bed over, not realizing what's going on inside of it, this rushing torrent of maggot-filled liquid spews out all over the place -- all over the carpet and all over my clothing. I vomited several times. My sister started gagging uncontrollably until she just couldn't take it anymore. So she ran out the door, and jumped over the deck, right into the pool! That one still rates as the worst decomp we've ever done. And we knew so little about equipment, disposal techniques, the whole thing.

Editorial Reviews

“Amazing . . . a gem of a book that uses only the strength of the human voice to tell an American story -- sometimes dark, always fascinating.” -- USA Today “The accounts are wonderfully revealing, with gritty and almost shockingly honest detail. For all their variety, they weave a cohesive, passion-filled story of what people bring to their work. It's an addictive read.” -- Harvard Business Review's Best Business Books of 2000 “Keen, disturbing, and deeply felt . . . the stories in Gig deliver a more rousing political wallop than those in Working . . . remarkable and strangely moving.” -- Susan Faludi, The Village Voice “I love this book! It's surprising and entertaining and makes the world seem like a bigger and more interesting place. Gig manages to document everyday life and give pure narrative pleasure at the same time. One feels proud to live in the same country as the people in this book.” -- Ira Glass, host of This American Life “A fascinating compilation of what the American workforce has to say about itself.” -- George Plimpton “Eye-opening . . . more revealing than any theories a sociologist could concoct.” -- The Industry Standard “Entertaining, sobering, validating . . . Ordinary people discuss their jobs with extraordinary candor.” -- US Weekly “In the age of advanced spin, this book accomplishes a very rare thing. It actually lets workers speak for themselves. . . . The result makes for a fascinating read.” -- Andrew Ross, director, American Studies Program at New York University “Emotional and eye-opening, each compelling description offers insight about the job itself and, more important, an intimate view of a single human life.” -- Austin Chronicle “An engaging, humorous, revealing, and refreshingly human look at the bizarre, life-threatening, and delightfully humdrum exploits of everyone from sports heroes to sex workers.” -- Douglas Rushkoff, author of Coercion, Ecstasy Club, and Media Virus