Until recently, Theodore Johnson worked as a massage therapist at a luxury hotel spa in Fort Worth, Texas.
He worked about 30 hours a week but was a contractor. So Johnson lobbied management for a staff job to qualify for benefits. That possibility vanished when the coronavirus hit and all his work dried up.
Johnson promptly decided to apply for unemployment. It didn't go well.
"I wasn't able to get through to the Texas Workforce Commission, and I wasn't sure if I was qualified. It was just chaos. The website was crashing. You literally just had a busy dial tone when you called in to the numbers," he said. "So I was just in this limbo state, and I wasn't sure how I was going to pay my bills."
That's when Johnson joined the nearby Amazon warehouse and ended up working the overnight shift filling boxes.
The hourly pay at Amazon is much lower than what he earned as a massage therapist. But he's making about the same weekly wage by putting in much longer hours. He also finally got what he didn't have at the hotel spa: health insurance.
"I've been working close to 60 hours [per week], and that's the cap," he says. "It's a lot of squatting. ... It's hard work."
He plans to stick with the Amazon job for a bit and is reevaluating his career path by taking classes at his local community college.
He said a massage may be one of the last things on people's minds right now, "because we are in a recession and maybe a depression."