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COVID is Turning Peoples’ Side Hustles into Main Hustles

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The pandemic pushed Rebecca Pinnell to start teaching online cocktail classes to make a living.

Alright y’all, listen up. I know I don’t need to spin you a yarn about the wildly high cost of living in San Francisco because that shit is famous. People who’ve never even been here are pointing and laughing at us for it, and it’s hard to say they’re wrong for doing so. I mean, it’s obvious that things have gotten pretty bad in this regard, so ?.

We can blame it on the NIMBYs, we can blame it on the YIMBYs, we can blame it on the techies, the corrupt politicians, or the wealthy foreign real estate investors. One thing’s for sure: You need at least two sources of income to pay for your shoebox of an apartment and the lettuce hanging on your lip from that twenty dollar turkey sandwich you’re eating.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe and government-enforced business closures plunged millions into economic destitution, most San Franciscans already had a full time, a part-time, and a hustle on the side. Now we can clearly see that the situation has changed; for a few it’s better, but for most it’s worse. When the government rescinds your ability to work there are only two options: sit around and wait for your $600 stimulus checks to trickle in twice a year, or take matters into your own hands.

The outdoor hustle on Mission Street

If you turn off the TV and go outside, you’ll most likely see many people who are doing just that. These days a quick stroll down Mission Street will put you right in the center of a full-blown outdoor mercado. You can buy tools, electronics, tacos, bicycles, boots, skin care products, boomboxes, bungee cords, bulk pistachios, and pretty much anything else you can imagine off a folding table or blanket right there on the sidewalk. While this was happening before the pandemic, there’s a lot more of it now. I can only imagine many of these vendors used to work back-of-house at now shuttered restaurants or some other “non-essential” business performing “unskilled” labor. When they realized what the government thought of them, they decided to circumvent the system for no other reason but survival.

Odds and ends on a vendor’s blanket

They are not the only ones to have come to this conclusion either. Just the other day I bought a joint in Dolores Park from a guy in a dinosaur costume, and a magnifying glass to light it with from a dude dressed like a Peruvian alpaca farmer. I met an artist doing live painting house calls for small parties, and a musician who plays sax for the long line in front of Arizmendi Bakery on Valencia. My buddy Carlos is full time bike messenger who is now operating Rubberside Down, a fix & flip business doing custom bike builds and repairs advertised on Instagram.

Other folks have taken their pre-apocalypse jobs and turned them digital. Before the pandemic Rebecca Pinnell was a bartender and manager at Bon Voyage. When COVID shut down her work, she started Rebecca’s Cocktail Classes and made a business of teaching cocktail classes online. Similarly, when the pandemic hit Sienna Melissa took Yoga with Sienna virtual. She now teaches private yoga classes and does health coaching online.

John Ralston, owner of Hauler! junk removal service sells treasures he finds in the trash out of his warehouse in the Bayview. I mean shoot, here I am literally writing articles for Broke-Ass Stuart. Everybody is out there channeling their big swingin’ entrepreneur energy and if you’re not, well then you might soon find yourself in one of the breadlines we’ve been seeing pop up around town.

John Ralson of Hauler! with treasures to take to the flea market.

It’s time for us collectively to come to the understanding that the system is not working for us, and that the street hustle is the new main hustle. With self-determination and community empowerment we can help each other and ourselves through direct peer to peer commerce in the true Bay Area traditions of Craigslist, eBay, various FB groups, and the Alemany Flea Market. We don’t need corporate consumer bullshit designed with built-in planned obeselesence. We need goods, services, and repairs from local makers to keep that wealth and prosperity here in the community.

Many of us have known these things to be true for quite some time now, but its hard to get off the couch when you’re comfortable. Now that the centralized powers-that-be in our society have made things uncomfortable, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get down to the hard work because it’s become abundantly clear that the government and corporations ain’t gonna do the damn thing for us.

This is not a drill here people. This is a five-alarm fire. If you are waiting for the government to pat you on the head and tell you its okay to go back to providing for yourself and your family, you’re going to get left behind. It’s time to get out there and get active. I know you’ve got something you can offer your community and your community most certainly has something for you, so start rolling that ball up the hill. It ain’t easy, but it needs to be done. May your ancestors smile upon you, for it is time to wake up hustlers and be on that grind. In the famous memed words of unknown origin, Let us get this bread.

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Taylor Martinez

Taylor Martinez

Taylor is a self-described gentleman punk. He is a musician, writer, bicycle enthusiast, and collector of finely crafted artisanal experiences.

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