Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Breaking Patterns.

Before I bought the car, I walked the 3km to the city and back. Sometimes twice in a day. After a week or two, I started to fall into a set route walking to and from the city. Post car-purchase I started driving to the edge of the free transport zone of the city, parking just at the edge of the city in free-parking side streets and walking the rest of the way. One day I was forced to make a detour on foot due to ongoing construction work. Having to abruptly re-plot a route, I was suddenly made aware of the inefficient walking route I had been taking from the car park area into the city. The same route that had been previously a very efficient route when I was walking all the way into the city.

So what is the point of sharing this story?

Being human, we tend to rely on algorithms and heuristics. Even in the face of abrupt changes in the environment we still tend to fall back on old set patterns that have worked in the past. Most of the time it works. Sometimes it leads to very bad end-results. Each individual de-facto decision in a long chain of events may be individually reasonable, but the "sunk cost" effect that discourages changing tracks may lead to a less-than-optimal situation.

Have I confused everybody with my mangled thoughts yet?


I am no longer working seven nights a week at the big commercial pizza place. No, I did not get fired or quit the job or find long-term decent-paying work. I just started going to work for a small independent pizza place in another suburb further away. The process by which this happened illustrates my initial point about the dangers of falling into set patterns and losing track of the big picture.

Was driving back from the beach (and got lost on an impulsive detour) when I saw the sign in the small pizza place saying "Drivers Wanted". On impulse, I stopped in and had a chat with the guy behind the counter. Who turned out to be the owner of the place. Must have made a good impression because he talked me into coming in and trying out one of the nights, just to get a taste of a different type of pizza operation.

At the end of the trial night, the owner offered me regular hours on Wednesday to Sundays. Due to the shorter hours, I would be making less money than with the big commercial pizza place. I told the guy I would think about it, put his number away and thought no more about it.

Then the next day, I got my payslip from the big pizza place for the last fortnight of work.

I had fallen into the pattern of working for the last two weeks under "crisis mode" that I had not had much time to think about what I was doing. Desperately trying to earn the money to buy food, pay the rent, buy fuel, to save for the car registration. Making deliveries automatically - check docket, plot route, drive, smile, greet, hand over food, collect money, repeat for any more docket, return to base, cash in, repeat. Go back. Clean up. Get enough sleep and food. Check car fuel and tyres. Clock in for my shift. Repeat.

My jaw dropped when I saw my summary payslip. I clocked over 80 hours in the last fortnight and almost 200 deliveries.

In the last fortnight, I earned enough money. Enough money for food. Enough money for rent. Enough money for fuel. Enough money to jump-start saving for the upcoming car registration payment. And I still had some money left over. And frighteningly in the last fortnight, I had not done much serious jobhunting at all. I had almost fallen into the vicious trap of being so busy trying to live day-to-day that I had neglected to address the future!

So I am taking up the offer of work at the independent pizza place, and scaling back at the big pizza place to the remaining two days. Guess I must be doing good as a delivery driver there because the main store manager seems sincerely regretful to be losing me for the peak days. And I have a standing offer of more hours of work back the big pizza place, should the setup at the independent place not work out.

I will be making less money, but I will have more time available to job hunt. And from the calculation of an hourly wage rate, I come out slightly behind - but the pace at the smaller independent joint (focusing on gourmet quality pizza) is nowhere nearly as hectic as a big commercial place (focusing on volume standardised pizza).

As proven from my mistake of not recognising to stop when it is "good enough", it would seem possible to make a low-income level living from just delivering pizza in Perth. Highly not recommended at all - from personal experience, but entirely possible. I have to remember that I did not leave Singapore working crazy hours earning above-average wages, to come to Perth to work crazy hours earning subsistence-level wages!

And I have yet to watch a sunset over the Indian Ocean without being interrupted ("hi, can you work a shift today?") or
falling asleep or being foiled by the rain.


So what did I do with the extra money I had left over by being a "not knowing when to stop" pizza delivery driver?

I will save the details of that purchase for the next blog post. (Hint: "TDT D10 97B")

The cybercafe is closing soon, and I still need to send out a few more resumes.


Anonymous erahnan said...

Welcome to OZ!! Where work is truly a means to an end and everyone gets by pretty much! Great news to hear. You seem to be quite "in demand" in this industry segment and in just a short span of time. This scenario is reflective of other industries as well. "Get your feet in the door and others will open."
Cheers matey and good luck. - erahnan

September 01, 2005 12:01 AM  
Blogger vivienne said...

You're dead right.. Sometimes in our quest to improve our lives, we don't think about the reason to why we are doing it. And I guess, most of the time it's a tradeoff.

Well, it's great to read that you are aware enough to re-evaluate yourself constantly and your habits are certainly well suited for breaking patterns (recall a quote from one of your older posts "the way to feel free is to reduce your needs to zero").

Anyway, good luck for the job hunt!

September 01, 2005 12:13 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

The best of luck in all you do.

Great insight into your thinking too.. perhaps i should do more on my own blog in the same fashion

September 01, 2005 10:09 AM  

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