Kip asked me to write a little more about what it’s like to work for ChaCha, and I figured that the end of a day like today was the perfect time to do it. See, I worked a total of 12 hours today, and I don’t mean 12 hours straight. I mean 12 hours of work all mixed up with laundry, house stuff, taking care of Connor, running a few errands, and generally living life.
It was a long day, but it was a good one. I made $140 today, which is more than I’ve made in a week at some jobs. (It is also, I know, a crass number to toss about, and if I were not so tired I might be more vague. In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit now that I am also bragging a bit.) I am tired, I am completely wiped out, but it’s a pleasing kind of total exhaustion; it’s the kind of sheer brainfog that makes me sit back and go, “Damn, I did good.” I went through a whole routine a while ago — should I get wine? No, wine will make me sleepy. But wine is nice and relaxing after a long day! But I don’t want to be sleepy yet. But, but, but… wine! Or maybe I’ll just answer a few more questions on ChaCha…
It’s that kind of job. It is the perfect job for me, really: always interesting, always expanding, on when I am and off when I want to rest. The pay is not for everyone, and I know this, but it’s okay for me. It is, realistically, the best pay I’m going to get for sitting here in front of my computer and occasionally wandering off to do something else. It is also tailored specifically to meet and challenge my competitive streak. You see, I’m mildly competitive with others, but I’m constantly, ceaselessly competing with myself, and ChaCha is set up to let me do that. Every day, every minute, I can see how many questions I’ve answered, how much money I’ve earned, how well I’m doing — and every day, I can try to beat my own goal.
Which is not to say, of course, that I’m going to devolve into a blur of typing fingers and maniacal cackles. I’m not planning to do this for 12 hours every day, or anything. Most days, I do three or four or five or maybe six hours, and I call it good. I meet my baseline goal, I get my money, and I get on with life. Every once in a while, though, there are days like today when the whole system just works; these are days when I am tireless and the technical system is running like a dream and every question is awesome and they come thick and fast and I don’t even know four hours have gone by but suddenly Connor is waking up from his nap and I have $60 more dollars in my account.
I love the job for these days, and I love the job for the slower days — the days when I say, “Well, I’ve made thirty bucks, now I will go read a book.” I love that flexibility. I can’t lie: I also love the pay, and I especially love the pay system. You see, ChaCha pays me whenever I want. I can earn twenty bucks and go, hmm, I think I’d like to pick up a movie and some ice cream… and I hit a button, and that twenty bucks is in my account. I can think, gee, I’d like to open a savings account for Connor… and I work for a couple days, hit that button, and there’s my $100 opening deposit. If I run out of cigarettes, if the car’s low on gas, if it’s midnight and I really want a salty snack and a new book, I can do that. The money is there, and if it’s not, I can earn it in an hour or two.
It’s not always frivolous stuff, of course. I’m paying bills, I’m looking at IRA options, I’m really going to open that account for Connor. Still, the sheer freedom of knowing that I’m never broke… to someone who grew up like I did, who went through college like I did, who lived as a new mother and wife in a broke-ass town like I did? That’s a heady feeling. It no-joke boggles my mind to remember that we’re almost out of toilet paper and just go buy some. It utterly flabbergasts me when I’m confronted with my (shamefully classless) list of Things I Want and I realize that I can have these things. It’s not a license to get all spendthrifty, but it is a sense of freedom that I do not recognize.
It’s not all puppies and rainbows. ChaCha’s new pay structure is awkward, at best; their question-answering interface is often glitchy or slow; I am occasionally sick of the ever-running contests for Guides. Still, it is better to work for a company that pays me whenever I want, even if their pay structure is weird; it is better to have the option of walking away from work when it is slow and coming back later than to be tethered to a cash register for nine hours a day; it is better to work for a company that offers some form of fun incentive than to work for one that imposes a flair requirement or, god forbid, necessitates the wearing of suits.
In short, it is okay. I learn things every day (NB: the technical term for castration is “bilateral oophorectomy”), and I set my own schedule down to the minute. I like it, even when it leaves me so fuzzy that I can’t remember if wine is a good thing.