Fired From the Gig Economy

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Photo: Pawel Nolbert (

As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, I’m often cutting it close. In modern America this reality is remarkably common; nearly 80% of workers live this way. In addition to my “full-time” job (where I usually end up with less than 35 hours per week), I have been driving Lyft for the past year to make ends meet. (I was also donating plasma from time to time, until a BioLife employee informed me that my veins were too close together for their new standards.)

During my experience driving with Lyft, the pros outweighed the cons. The work was relatively simple and consistent, I had a new and reliable automobile, and I could receive instant electronic payments whenever I had accrued earnings. The vast majority of my passengers were pleasant, and I maintained a five-star rating. This “gig” was also something I grew to rely on in times of need.

Today was much like any other. Although I only had $3 in my checking account, my wife and I knew we had enough groceries to last until tomorrow. More economically stable folks might develop anxiety in such situations, but for us this had become normal. We had things under control.

My plan was simple: After an early dinner, I’d do five or six rides during rush hour, then swing by the grocery store on my way home. By my estimation, this scheme would allow us to easily make it until Friday — my actual payday.

While juggling through apps like a squirrelly millennial, I decided to check my Lyft driver app to gauge the daily demand. After logging in, an ominous message popped up. It read, “Your account has been deactivated. It looks like there was an issue with your account that could not be resolved. Please check your email for more information.”

This made me a bit nervous, but I recalled a similar incident several months prior, which turned out to be a short-lived issue with the entire server. I checked my email, and spotted a new message from Lyft (see below).

I reflexively descended into a brief panic, which eventually evolved into a mere bitter frustration. “How long does it take to get approved to drive for Uber?” I thought to myself. “Maybe I could sell some books or dust off my old Postmates account.”

I replied to the email, clarifying that all my information was accurate and up to date, but I haven’t received a response.

Fortunately, I have loved ones I can rely on in situations like this. But not everyone is so lucky.

I realized things would be okay, but it was still an extremely uncomfortable experience. In addition to the primary issue of being essentially barred from acquiring the groceries that seemed within reach, it was also a bit creepy to be fired electronically, without a scintilla of human contact. Well, I guess I wasn’t necessarily fired — I was deactivated. Maybe even by robots.

My situation also got me thinking about the dystopian and unstable economic state of so many Americans, and the gradual disintegration of the social safety net beginning around my birth in the early 1980s. But I am creative, positive, privileged, and confident things will work out.

I just needed to vent. Thanks for reading.

Socialist. Herbivore. Husband. I usually write about politics, current events, and history. My work has also been published by The Hampton Institute.

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