It is possible in Los Angeles to list your apartment on AirBnB on Friday afternoon, crash with friends or lovers until Monday morning, pocket the cash flow, and in the right sort of neighborhood prize the rent without a day job. That’s one kind of gig.
There’s an app you can use to clean the place and handle the next booking for you. That’s a gig for the cleaners. Also, the bookers.
If the guests can get hungry, they can scroll through their phone, and someone will shop for them, then dash to the door with food. That’s a gig for the dashers.
If your guest gets bored she can press a button on her phone and a car will arrive at the door in minutes and take her to the club. Driver gig. Or side hustle, to borrow the corporate sales pitch.
Her boyfriend can beg off, stay in the house and go online. “Take off your underwear,” he can text, and somewhere on the other side of the city or the planet a woman will remove her underwear, slowly, to keep the meter running. The sharing economy, in action.
More of us are working, but fewer us are employed. Our world is rounded in 1099 forms.
Uber has been extraordinarily good to me. So good I don’t have to consider renting a room in our house on AirBnB. Everyone knows what it’s doing to the taxi business. Few know Uber has become so ubiquitous in the past two years it has displaced rental cars as the most commonly utilized ground transportation, even among corporate clients. Last week Hertz disclosed massive losses, and may default on its bond debt. Its fleet of aging cars are flooding the after-market. The inventory spike will put pressure on the dealerships to unload inventory, which makes for a buying opportunity if you want a new car to drive for Uber.
Whole Foods has been good to me, but its formerly dominant position in organic foods is under extraordinary price pressure from all sides and it may not survive another two years in its current form. Uber has been selling rides at a loss since arriving in LA, with no plans to stop doing so. Amazon and Etsy are slowly strangling Fashion Square. On the other hand, the Century City mall is expanding, upscale. Our economy is bifurcating into hyper-luxury and dollar stores. Concierge service or waiting at bus stops with street people. UberPool is getting cheap enough to displace Metro riders. Soon, perhaps only derelicts will ride the bus.
Steve Jobs’ bicycle has democratized capitalism. It means MacLeod Ale can rise out of an auto repair shop, find a clientele, and prosper where retail never could. It also means 100 people are simultaneously gripped by the same fever dream of selling biscotti made from their kitchen. Ninety-nine of them end in tears. But they can console themselves by renting out the spare room. Unless there isn’t one. Then they make themselves scarce while tourists cavort in their bed and rifle their drawers.
It’s an extraordinary time to be grinding out a living in Los Angeles. Unless you’re not.
Perhaps we should hedge our bets, like my friend Johnny.