Matthew Gerring✌🏼 Profile picture
May 8, 2018 95 tweets 16 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I usually work as a freelance software engineer. Today, I’m a bike messenger. Thanks to a surprise layoff, I have to scramble to pay my rent & bills next month. I need to hit 20 deliveries by 12am to do it. Follow along! (Thread)
1/20. The notification for rush hour went off as I was writing the last tweet. This one took me to a pretty dead part of the city, so I have to schlep back to the Sunset or further to get more orders.
Along the way I’ll be tweeting about labor laws, the welfare system, and San Francisco’s insane economic divide. Let’s start with my visit to the SF Human Services building yesterday.
Do you see this, #GoogleIO nerds? This is innovation.
Anyway, the welfare office: my last employer had a bad habit of making verbal promises about when our invoices would be paid, missing their own deadline, and not warning us. As a result I missed my first health insurance payment last year.
Because U.S. law is insane, that meant I was screwed on getting health insurance for the entire year.
New delivery! BRB
2/20! And it’s early yet.
Waiting for 3/20 now, still delivering lunch on the west side. I’ve never managed to make it downtown for the lunch rush, where I assume it’s busier, but biking out here hurts my soul less.
So, healthcare: supposedly, a change in income or losing a job is a “qualifying life event” that allows you to sign up for Covered California outside of open enrollment. But I’m an “independent contractor”! Changes in income don’t count the same for me,
even though my last client effectively demanded I treat work with them as if it were a full time job (there were a lot of stern talking-tos about “commitment” and “seriousness”, etc), despite not providing me benefits, legal protections, etc
That meant getting laid off gave me an opening — if I could claim 0 income and get on MediCal (California’s version of Medicaid), I might then have a chance to get on Covered California before the end of the year.
3/20. Hoping I can get downtown and catch some lunch stragglers.
So here’s the fucked up thing about Medicaid eligibility — my rent in SF is $1400 a month, which is at or below the average (the average of what people actually pay, not the average on a new lease). Medicaid eligibility stops at $1397 a month or something.
I’m talking to my caseworker at @SFHumanServices (who was fantastic, as was the entire experience of visiting the office, seriously incredible) and I’m like “so if I make enough money to pay my rent this month, I’m not eligible for Medicaid?” And she’s just like “yep”
Which is fine, kind of, because the whole point is to qualify for Medicaid, then disqualify, then get on Covered California like I would have been if my last boss felt responsible to make payroll
But the fact that I have to do any of this is completely insane. The fact that there’s an entire government office dedicated to all of this means testing is madness. This is why we need #MedicareForAll. But I digress.
I’m doing an order at a sandwich shop. Thank god the customer ordered a drink that comes in a bottle. Delivering fountain drinks is a fucking nightmare.
4/20! Nice.
I’d like to pause for a commercial message about Merino Wool. I’ve been through like a dozen microclimates today already, from cold/foggy/drizzly to now sunny and hot, and I haven’t had to change once.
The solution to SF weather is actually just to wear the same black wool bike jersey and leggings every single day of the year in all weather. It’s perfect.
Long story short, I qualify for Medicaid, but if I get these 20 deliveries I’m already going to be dangerously close to the eligibility cutoff. I am incentivized to scam the system, not to get free health insurance but to obtain the privilege of paying for it.
5/20. One of the biggest challenges doing this work is making sure the very precious, delicate plating of #artisanal foods is preserved, like the severely twee #avocadotoast I just delivered
Don’t ask me how much it cost, I didn’t look and don’t want to know
Anyway SF is full of potholes, 45 degree inclines and dumb, aggressive drivers but customers expect pristine garnish arrangements and spill-free fountain drinks delivered by bike.
6/20. This is fine.
7/20. 3:00 is usually the beginning of a lull that lasts until around 4:30, so hopefully I’ll have time to take a short break before things start getting stupid around dinner time.
Another shoutout to Merino Wool — the wind started coming in off the bay, and I can feel the breeze because Merino Wool breathes, but I’m still a comfortable temperature.
If whoever runs @MerinoWoolRocks wants to hit me at that’d be tight
I’m happy to write poetry about this stuff, for money
Also shouts out to @Chrome_Ind and @icebreakernz for real y’all these deliveries don’t pay well
Also so much for my break, 8/20 in progress
lol, there is no god
9/20. Unusually busy right now. I am all the way here for it.
Taking a damn break
I read somewhere that drinking beer doesn’t really help you with the kinds of carbs that help you on a long bike ride, and then I decided whoever wrote that is a liar
Before I go back online I want to talk about working class solidarity
One of the reasons doing this work is so jarring is because, working in Startupland as an engineer, you are the one being served. Everything in this city is arranged for your comfort and convenience.
When suddenly you’re the one doing the serving, everything is different. They want you to stand in a different part of the restaurant. The doorman is suspicious of you by default. Everyone can afford to make you wait.
You become part of the invisible support network, increasingly orchestrated by invisible and unaccountable algorithms, that exists to enhance the experience of the city’s wealthy. Which is a much more harrowing experience when you’ve previously been one of them.
This support network, this comfort machinery, is noisy, messy, ugly and dangerous. Everyone is hustling for every single dollar. You can measure your payout by the sweat on your back.
This is what startup founders like to make believe their lives are like. They’re not.
It’s also pretty jarring to go from startupland, where everyone is white and aged 21-45, to service industry land, where everyone speaks with a different accent, almost nobody is white and ages range from 19 to probably 70-something
10/20 starting now! Brb
11/20 now, and it turns out the best Super Duper Burger location in SF has been hiding in the Financial District
Love too deliver fast food hamburgers to luxury apartment towers located walking distance from world class dining
Steady at 11/20. Longest lull all day. People are about to start getting home from work.
Waiting on Dim Sum for 12/20. The incentives are weird here: I get paid to wait and relax, but I’m going for volume of deliveries, not a high payout per delivery. So this is kind of a pain in the ass.
Aaaand we’re off!
13/20 now, the dinner rush is starting to pop off
Fuck dude there is nothing worse than seeing a route with shit like “Alta” or “Terrace” or “Heights” in the name, god dammit
Swear to god, every time I’m delivering to the top of a hill the customer lives at the top floor of a 100-story walkup
Hell yes, 14 and 15 are right on top of each other
Except Mel’s uses these big ass bags that don’t fit anywhere
Shouts out to the engineering geniuses at @WholeFoods for making this amazing hot cold bag that never lets me down
Probably actually in a factory town in China somewhere IDK
Now is the time of night when deliveries start piling up on top of each other, and you’re sometimes doing two at a time. And I’m in the Marina, where (no judgement guys) people love having food delivered from 4 blocks away
What aesthetic is this
This restaurant is fucking up b a d l y and I’m starting to get pissed off that I’m not out getting mor orders in the middle of tjaaaaaaand my order came up literally as I was typing this
Sometimes I meet other delivery people who are neither dirty or sweaty and I do not trust them
Both 16 and 17 are from restaurants that are absolutely dragging ass, and the deliveries are stacked so I’m making two customers wait.
But, like I was saying before, about working class solidarity: it’s important to recognize that everyone in this weird supply chain is busting ass for tiny profit margins that are getting squeezed all the time.
It’s so important to remember that I have more in common with the restaurant staff than I do with the customers, and that everyone in this city that works for a living needs to be in it together
Case in point, there’s a guy who’s picking up for himself who’s about to get all pissy at the staff, and guaranteed they’re going to take care of him before they take care of me.
lol no they hooked me up first, worker 1 jerks 0
Both of these deliveries were to houses that were like around the corner, god bless the marina
17/20 and bad weather rolled in for an assist, LET’S DO THIIIIIIIIIIIIS
Props to the dude grilling on his balcony in cold drizzly fog, I salute u
And now: despair! No new deliveries for the last 15 minutes even though my map indicates it’s extremely buuuuuuh never mind just got one
Had to climb this hill though
19/20, just one more, please @LILBTHEBASEDGOD bless me so can go offline and watch the rest of the Warriors game
This mf ordered a $3.99 piece of garlic bread and is paying me at least $5 to deliver it
OH SHIT 20/20 IS UP. It can still get cancelled though. Ballgame is not over.
Also, the sun went down and the fog came in but I’m still comfy in the same clothes. Is it magic? No! That’s The Power Of Merino™️
For real @MerinoWoolRocks @icebreakernz @Chrome_Ind I need that cash this is not a drill
Real as it gets
20 OUT OF 20 ACHIEVED! But I didn’t go offline so the app added a 21st lol
P.S. tipping in cash is a great way to show solidarity with the working class, in all situations, but of course I don’t accept cash tips because it is strictly against the T.O.S.
Hell yeah, the night wouldn’t be complete without getting attacked by some random dude on 6th street, yelling at me, “HEY WHITE BOY, YOU ALL FUCKED UP RIGHT,” and getting six inches from my face right outside this bubble tea place
Attacker was another white guy naturally, what are we gonna do about all this white on white crime, smdh
Btw Fuck this intersection in Mission Bay (which is not a real neighborhood btw), Google says the road is open and is extremely stubborn about routing around it
But what did I actually have to do for this? It was a lot more than just tonight’s deliveries to get this bonus — it was $1,100 for 90 deliveries over 5 days. That’s an average of 18 a day. Today was an *extremely* lucky day (thank you @LILBTHEBASEDGOD)
I’ve worked an average of 12 hours a day for the last 5 days in a row. That comes out to an average of $18.33 per hour, which is not terrible, BUT the only way to get it is to do all 90 deliveries.
Also, this was a promotion. This is not a structural bonus you can just get all the time. It’s also unsustainable for the company offering it so technically burned VC cash paid my rent this month.
The figures I used to get CalFreah and MediCal (WHICH EVERY GIG ECONOMY WORKER SHOULD) were the actual guaranteed base pay, which is $5 per delivery, and the more sane rate of 10 deliveries per night.
Because as I learned recently, counting on shit that is not in the contract is a Bad Idea.
And finally, here’s the kicker: I have a new freelance client. The reason I had to do this is that my work for them won’t pay out until the middle of next month. What am I doing for them you ask?
Working with economists studying the behavior of consumers who are subject to major income shocks, and separately, working on open source software for Medicare and Medicaid provider screening. Fucking kismet.
In conclusion, I’m looking for a job, hit me up. Also follow my other project,…, where I’ll be documenting a trip in a van across these United States in a few weeks.
Thanks for following, and if you want to buy me a beer I’ll be at Tempest.
One more since this is blowing up: I wrote about the income divide and @techworkersco for @BrokeAssStuart last year, check it out:…

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