Miami needed this event. 40 people filed into the small 8th floor kitchen at the downtown co-working space. The crowd pulsed and the vibe was just right. Tonight’s event was the first of its kind and I was leading it. Participants were given a seating chart for the evening and they would meet others in a small group setting.
Months prior, the company hired me to assist at some of their events. The job entailed checking in guests and directing them to the name badges and the bar. These larger events attracted close to 100 people and guests exchanged business cards and practiced their best sales pitch. The drinks flowed well into the night.
We were minutes away from starting the event. I had selected a co-working space to help create new collisions with tech founders, entrepreneurs, and working professionals. With the seating chart generated, our guests made their way to the assigned spaces. Tonight’s event brought in the diverse crowd I was hoping for. Some folks worked out of the co-working space and others never heard of the shared office concept. Small business owners connected with consultants and a tech founder shared his project with an engineer.
We finished the event but our guests were not ready to leave. The remaining group piled into the street and that’s where I said my goodbyes. It was at that moment that I became a Professional Networker.
The GPS directed me to the abandoned suburban school. Along the perimeter of the property, signs and banners covered the chain-link fence. Passerby’s stopped to take pictures of the collateral to capture where “it” took place. I found the entrance and parked my car.
The school shooting, a few months prior, rocked this affluent community. Lives were lost, the school year disrupted, and media attention distracted teachers, administrators, students, and parents. In spite of this, the chatter among the teens remained consistent with what I remember when I was their age. Mrs. Dee commanded the room and her students had her respect. This felt like a normal classroom, but in the back of my mind, I knew something happened here.
I opened my tool bag and took out my drill, level, pencil, and anchors. A local business had donated classroom items to the school. On this weekend morning, our team assembled cabinets, hung shelves, and mounted magnetic boards. After the shooting, sections of the school were closed off and existing spaces were re-purposed to handle more classes and activities. We gave Mrs. Dee’s Student Government room a facelift: fresh paint, new storage, and plenty of space to remember the good times.
It felt good to give back. While school shootings are becoming almost ubiquitous with America, this one hit close to home. On my way out, I shook Mrs. Dee’s hand and thanked her for all that she has done.
Lisa opened up the passenger door and stepped in to my car. I could tell she was nervous; she had never done something like this before. The second-hand accounts and website collateral did little to quell her fears today. She clicked her seat belt and we headed to the clinic.
Lisa arrived a few days before the procedure from out of state. She had undergone a smattering of tests to ensure she would be a viable candidate. In addition to compensation for the procedure, the highly-secretive organization paid for her flight, accommodations, and meals.
We reached the clinic at 10:30; there was no turning back now. The preparation from the past few months all came to a head. Lisa met all the criteria, passed all her screens, and was matched with a recipient. She shut the passenger door and walked inside for her appointment.
A friend referred me out for this job. After providing my banking details, I received the donor’s information, as well as, the pick-up and drop-off locations. As this was the first time working together, I requested half of my payment up-front.
An hour later, my phone rang; it was Lisa. I sensed a sign of relief; her voice was clear. I downed the last of my coffee and headed back to the clinic. Inside the car, we talked about the procedure. The doctor put her under anesthesia and she awoke at what felt like minutes later. She felt no pain, no fogginess. Lisa would fly out tomorrow morning and immediately go back to work. After a short car ride, we said our goodbyes. The door shut and I headed to my next job.
Recently widowed, Jack and Kate found each other on an online bereavement group. After months of courtship, they decided to take the plunge and unite their two families. Jack moved himself and his two young children across the country to be with his new wife. Kate, a local gal, brought 5 of her own to the new family. Together, they bought a new home to start their next chapter of life.
I arrived at the job at 10am. The house whirled with activity: painters putting the final touches on the walls, the cleaning crew mopping the floors, and handymen installing appliances and toilets. Together with another tasker, our job was to assemble all of the new furniture for the family. Stacks of boxes containing the parts for bunk beds, regular-sized beds, dressers, nightstands, and cabinets filled the garage.
Kate’s kids did not shy away from hard work. Home-schooled and trained to help around the house, the kids pitched in whenever they could. The 3 eldest grabbed their tool-kits and came ready to help us. Over a 2-day period, our team assembled the bunk beds and dressers for the boy’s room; the beds, dressers, desks, and nightstands for the 3 eldest; and a few other pieces.
With the moving deadline quickly approaching, plenty of work still remained. For now, the kids were taken care of; Jack and Kate were content to sleep on their mattress for a few days. In the years leading up to this moment, they overcame plenty of obstacles, but together, everything would be okay.
It all came full circle for me that morning, as I stood on the corner of Post & Powell, when the first two guests arrived to my free walking tour of San Francisco. I learned they were traveling from Sevilla, capital city of Andalucia, Spain, and my “second home.” Sevilla was the first city where I traveled abroad as an eager-eyed, college junior and created countless memories that set me on my path to leading a walking tour of my own.
Walking tours are my side hustle in San Francisco. I feel the most alive when I am creating and sharing experiences that bring people together. I’ve never given it that much thought before because I consider it as a very part of who I am as a person. I took my first tour in Sevilla to pass the time and was delightfully surprised by the rich history that dwells between the Moorish-drawn roads, hidden Jewish quarters, and litany of bars that crowd the city streets. It was one of many reasons why I fell in love with the city and call it my “second home.”
A great career opportunity is what initially brought me to San Francisco as a newly minted college graduate. Tech is the gold rush of our generation and has attracted many to Silicon Valley. While working in tech is my “9-5,” giving walking tours is my true passion. I believe side hustles in today’s economy serve as stepping stones to richer opportunities and enable us to be location independent. My side hustle is an avenue to explore my craft, be independent, and be the master of my own destiny.
Gary and his wife Jamie had been making the trip down to Florida for 20 years now. To escape the rough winters, they sought out the warmth in a familiar place close to the beach. Every year, they reunited with friends from across the continent. Kids attend summer camp, retirees winter in Florida.
The tight knit community was organized and word traveled fast. The community upgraded their vigilance to high-alert; they all knew I was coming. By the end of the task, I had met several of the couple’s neighbors and friends.
Gary hired me through the app his granddaughter recommended to him. After a few initial messages, we exchanged numbers; this was all new to him. The couple needed help with moving their bags from the car to the third-floor, elevator-less, apartment. The sedan was packed efficiently. For the 3-month trip, Gary and Jamie had only brought the necessities. I completed the job in under an hour and we both agreed to stay in touch.
As I was leaving, the neighborhood watchdog called out, “Hey kid.” A couple from Tennessee had just arrived and were exhausted. We introduced ourselves and I told them I could help with their luggage. After a gentleman’s agreement, I opened up the trunk and proceeded to move the contents out of the sedan.
“This is a first.” Words I utter to myself quite often working in the gig economy. I received a task to wait on a contractor and furniture delivery guys. The customer would not be home nor would I meet or speak to him.
I turned off the engine and the valet driver approached my vehicle. I had learned to press the latch on the back of my key to separate the vehicle key fob from the rest of my other keys. I handed him the key fob and, in exchange, he gave me my valet ticket. Most of these swanky downtown condos do valet-only and charge a hefty premium to park your car. I headed into the lobby and asked for the keys to apartment 1207.
This felt a lot like a service where you stay in a stranger’s home in exchange for a fee. Inside the apartment, the dirty dishes were piling up and there were papers everywhere. My client had left some money for the valet on the kitchen counter. I pocketed the cash and opened the heavy sliding glass door to the balcony. I sat down in a chair and took in the immaculate view. I wondered how often my client had sat in this very chair. The half-filled ash tray quickly answered my question. I messaged my customer and updated him that I was inside and patiently waiting.
The task went smoothly and I made my way down to the lobby. I signed out of the guest registration and handed back the keys to apartment 1207. I sent the invoice to my client and I was off to my next job.