Sean and the Art of the Gig Economy

Leonardo Di Caprio at 4am. That was Sean.

Sunkenly hansom like the sun behind a cloud.

“I was earning pretty good money doing drug trails,” he said.

“Somewhere in America?”

“You mean somewhere in the Americas?”

“Ah, sorry, you’re Canadian.”

It was lunch time in Edinburgh, the Spanish waiters smiled at the tourists and poured water from great heights.

Sean set up his pieces on the 5asideCHESS board.

“Yeah, from Toronto, where the drug trials were. I haven’t done any here yet.”

“I’ve always thought they looked pretty terrible?”

“Well it’s not much differant to normal life,” he said.  “They lock you up and don’t let you out. No contact with the real world, just a bit of manufactured exercise to make you feel vaguely alive. Constantly watching you, making sure you take the drugs they want you to. What’s the differance from that and working in an office, going to the gym and spending your life online?”

“Fair point,” I said.

“At least in those trials they let you out in the end.”

“So you’re going to do some here?”

“Nah probably not. I really hate working.”

“People aren’t proud of their jobs anymore.”

“True,” he laughed. ‘Actually I’m starting another one tomorrow.”

“You have two jobs? Interesting for a man who says he hates work.”

“Nah, I hate jobs, not work.”

Our first game of 5asideCHESS was played in silence.

After that we played every day. The Battling Suicide Bus was parked at the Edinburgh Fringe for the whole of August.

Edinburgh fringe mental health

The Gig Economy

We drew that first game.

“I work for Deliveroo,” Sean said. “I’m starting to do cleaning for AirBnB tomorrow.”

“They do cleaning?”

“Yeah, it’s like, you pick AirBnB places to clean and they pay you per place. It works because I don’t want a job.”

“Did you go to university?”

“Yeah,” he said, “White moves first.”

More than half of gig economy workers are aged 18-35, and 37 percent have degrees or a higher education qualification.

The game was fast. I won, trapping his king with a pawn and the Queen.

“I studied Fine Art.”

“What’s your favourite painting?”

“That’s kind of a stupid question.”

“White moves first,” I said.

“Harmony in Red by Henri Matisse is good.”

It was a stalemate, he trapped my King and forgot to give it an option out.

Cost of Therapy

The next morning a Spanish waiter fussed about the tables. Sean was on the way to his new job.

He sat down and moved a pawn.

“You know Matisse painted that picture in Blue for some rich guy at first, then changed his mind and got the painting back and painted it all red.”

“Legend,” I said.

“Yeah, but it’s not that easy is it. Just changing everything if you feel like it. Life isn’t a painting.”

“I think if you really want to you probably can. Do you really want to do this cleaning job?

“I don’t have much choice,” he said. “My anxiety is pretty bad, and I get pretty depressed as well. Actually chess makes that go away. Anyway, last thing I need is to work with a load of other people. Or have the pressure of some contract job.”

“Can you change being anxious?”

Tips to Beat Anxiety – Nobody is Worth It

“It’s this pressure of rent and living that gives you the problems in the first place.”


“Plus I drink probably too much, I mean, these gig economy jobs are obviously shit, but I don’t see another way. I have to pay for my flat and pretty much just survive.”

One in four gig economy workers earn less than £7.50 an hour.

“I hope she was worth it by the way,” I said.

He smiled a basketball diaries smile.

“Yeah,” he said. “She wasn’t. She doesn’t even live in Edinburgh anymore.”

“Classic. And to think you could be back in Canada earning the big bucks testing weird drugs.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I chased the girl and got addicted to zero-contract hours, no rights and valium.”

“Happy for you mate. Give me a sec, I’m just going to say hello to this guy,” I said, noticing a tall and quiet figure hovering around the bus.

“We can play ‘Suicide Chess’ next time,” Sean said.

The man pulled out his phone and showed me his Apple Suicide Notes.

These Connections and the Battling Suicide Tour were made possible by Bright Hygiene. Follow 5asideCHESS and help us make a difference on FacebookInstagram and Twitter !