There are some mighty questionable gigs out there…
Earlier, I wrote about my least successful and most successful gigs. And now, to finish off this strange, strange trilogy, I’ll talk about some shady and/or questionable gigs I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
Individual views differ, and it’s entirely possible that what I consider to be questionable gigs would actually sound great to you – and vice versa. Nonetheless, here are the three gigs I’d never do: donating plasma and driving for Lyft/Uber.
Donating plasma. The terminology itself is quite misleading: there are those who legitimately donate their plasma for free (a gift, a true donation) to their local blood banks, and there are those who sell it. The latter really ought to be called “selling plasma” but some PR expert must have struck gold when they came up with that “donation” euphemism. When you sell your plasma, it goes to pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs, not to your local hospitals and the people in need. The standard recommendation is to give plasma only once every 28 days. At the same time, however, the FDA guidelines allow people to sell their plasma as often as twice a week, or eight times every 28 days. That’s quite a big variation.
My plasma is precious: I’m AB-positive. Only 3.4% of population share my blood type: it’s useless for donating blood (it can go only to other AB-positive folks) but our plasma can be given to anyone. I knew that factoid, which is why I’d signed up to donate (as in “give”) to the United Blood Services back in college. I wanted to do something good for my community, and that seemed like a really cool (and low-effort!) thing to do. Besides, sometimes they’d give out coupons for free Baskin-Robbins ice cream: that wasn’t my primary motivation, but it was a nice touch. Until…
Fair warning: the following paragraph contains some graphic imagery. Feel free to skip it. One time, during my monthly plasma donation, I got a medic who was either brand new or severely lacking in motivation. (Perhaps both.) Plasma donations require much wider needles than blood donations. My veins are fairly easy to find, but the medic kept poking the needle in over and over, unable to enter the vein. I lost count – he definitely tried taking it in and out more than three times. I was too horrified to even protest. Eventually, he got it in. I gave my plasma. I went home. Instead of the little puncture mark that heals and fades away within days, I ended up with something that looks like a birthmark, centered against my vein as if it were a target. It’s been 10 years, and it’s still there. (When medics and cops see it on my arm, what goes through their minds?..) What’s worse is that for weeks afterwards, I could feel my vein itching from the inside. Mere words cannot describe the horrifying sensation of an itchy blood vessel, of knowing that something deep inside of you is terribly wrong… I never donated again.
When you google plasma donation side effects, you mostly get smiley and happy-go-lucky pages assuring you that plasma donations have no side effects aside from a little dizziness and temporary weakness. That may be true for casual donors (once every 28 days), but if you dig deeper, you’ll find references to lower serum immunoglobulins levels (that can make you more susceptible to infections) and scar tissue in your veins, which is what I suspect happened to me. I cannot help but wonder how many of the top-ranked happy and smiley search results are due to algorithm manipulation by the pharmaceutical companies…
This excellent Atlantic article from 2014 shines a spotlight on the industry, as well as the people it preys on. If you sell your plasma tice a week, you can make up to $100 (and it might be higher now), or $400 a month. The people in that article mentioned their own side effects, the kind they hadn’t been warned about. The scariest side effect (which was experienced by the journalist as well) is getting random blackouts: scary if you’re at home, potentially lethal if you’re driving.
The United States contributes 70% of the world’s plasma supply, and you have to ask yourself: is this because all the other countries are greedy and selfish, or is this because the poorest and most desperate Americans are being taken advantage of, and being literally drained?.. The money isn’t worth the side effects, in my opinion. I only hope that those who sell their plasma twice a week manage to find a way out: that is no way to live.
Driving for Lyft/Uber. I remember being a sad hourly analyst in Seattle, making just $18-ish an hour plus overtime. That’s far higher than the federal minimum wage, I know, but Seattle is an expensive city, and I had student loans… I seriously considered becoming a rideshare driver. I did my research, looked at the payouts, and actually stopped and looked at the people who would order a ride after hitting the clubs, bars, or what have you.
I didn’t much like what I saw. The payout structure has changed over the past six years, but back then, in 2015, it was still possible to make a few bucks as a driver. That was the upside. The downsides were far greater:
- wear and tear on the car: on my own, I averaged less than 1,000 miles a month. Becoming a rideshare driver would’ve meant putting well over 100 miles on my car each night.
- dealing with drunks: I have nothing against alcohol, but not everyone is a quiet happy drunk. Spending 20-30 minutes trapped in a vehicle with someone obnoxiously loud and not in control of their facilities… That would be my idea of hell, and that’s assuming nobody threw up in my beloved Kia.
Those were my main objections, with others being just different variations on the theme. (I doubted I’d be able to provide good customer service to my passengers after a stressful day at the office.) In the end, I decided against it: I wonder just how many weird stories I would’ve gotten if I’d gone ahead with that plan, or how much (or how little) I would’ve ended up making. Just one of the many things I’ll never know for sure, eh?
There are many questionable gigs I would rather avoid, but these are the main two. I really hope nobody out there combines them: the only thing sadder than blacking out behind the wheel after selling your plasma would be blacking out while driving other people…
What about you? Are there any questionable gigs you would never, ever do? What are they, and why? Sound off in the comments and let me know!