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The price of employment

Tamara Miller
Dominique Taylor/ Illustration by Amanda SwansonPete Christy lives dual life as a bartender at night and a trim carpenter by day.
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Pete Christy used to eat and sleep work.

Christy, a bartender, would begin his day in the late afternoon and would work into the wee hours of the night. When he wasn’t at work he would think about work. When he saw his girlfriend, he’d talk about work.

He’d talk about the customer who made him mad and the stress of holiday crowds. He’d talk about the monotony of having the same barside conversation, over and over again – Where are you from? How was your ski day? How was the snow?

“Work was going home with me and it was starting to affect my personal life,” Christy admitted.

So this past summer, Christy decided to make a change. He started working for a contractor as a trim carpenter five days a week, during the week. He cut back on bartending, and now works three, non-weekend nights a week, at dish!, a new restaurant in Edwards.

Christy guessed he works between 60 and 70 hours a week these days – not much less than what he did before. But now he feels like he has a life.

“I don’t work weekends, I go to Denver pretty much every other weekend,” he said. “It’s nice to go home, relax, hang out with your girlfriend at home, talk about pertinent issues, instead of why that customer pissed me off … “

Perhaps Christy didn’t get the memo: People move to Vail to escape 60-, 70-hour workweeks, not to pursue them. But Christy is in good, if not overworked, company. Thousands of Eagle Countians work more than one job to make ends meet. And increasingly, those supposedly high-paying professional jobs come with long workweeks.

The Christian Science Monitor, reporting on results of a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, noted that about one-fifth of all high wage earners work “extreme” work weeks of about 70 hours or more.

That’s not necessarily news to urbanites, many of whom seek the big-city life to live out glamorous, and demanding, career goals. But some of our mountain residents are working big city hours, too.

Christy probably works just as much as he did when he was just bartending. But being able to work days, and in a new occupation, has given him a new lease on life.

“The idea of a day job was to get me up in the morning, to stimulate my mind, to get me doing something new and different,” he said. “Because I know how to bartend. I know how to do that.”

He’s trading out money for that new opportunity. Even with two jobs, he doubts he’ll bring in as much as he did when he was bartending full-time at Juniper, a high-end restaurant in Edwards.

“The money is a big thing you trade out,” he said. “You trade out happiness for making that 400 bucks a night.”

Working overtime can take a toll on families, too. The Center for Work-life Policy study, “Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek,” also found that nearly 60 percent of “extreme workers” believed their career undermines their relationship with their children.

Judy Caligiuri sees that often with the children she works with as a counselor at Red Canyon High School. Many of the parents with kids at the alternative high school are juggling two to three jobs. Often those parents feel like they can’t spend as much time with their kids as they would like, she said.

“Now we are just seeing lot of splintering with families who do not know how to cope,” she said. “They don’t have the skills, they’re overwhelmed with trying to work. Their kids don’t do their homework and they aren’t able to supervise.”

Many of those kids have jobs, too. The school requires it – so the kids, many of whom struggled in traditional schools, learn responsibility. It’s not unusual for the family to need the teen-age child’s income, as well.

Caligiuri can relate to a lot of the parents she works with. She held down two jobs while being a single parent to her daughter. Her daughter’s 23 and out of the house now, but Caligiuri still works four nights a week counseling adults at the Samaritan Center in Edwards. And this is despite recently earning a doctorate degree.

“That’s the reason I went back to school; in education, the only way you can earn more money is to take more classes,” she said.

So why can’t she cut back to just one job? Caligiuri says she’s no workaholic.

“I haven’t quite figured that piece out,” she said. “I spend more than I make. There’s nothing extravagant about my lifestyle.”

Putting her daughter through college was expensive, and she goes on vacation every year. She recently signed up for a Pilates class in an effort to schedule more time for herself. Lately, she’s been working about 50 hours a week.

She’s no martyr, though. Caligiuri just likes her jobs.

“I love being here and that’s really the thing that drives me,” she said. “I never say I’m going to work; I’m coming to school.”

Janet Hill is keeping the Vail dream alive, though. Hill moved to the valley 26 years ago. In her former life, she was the manager of Stonebridge Ranch Country Club in Dallas, where the annual dues are about as demanding as the clientele. Hill said a typical day would begin around 5:45 a.m. and end around 9:15 p.m. She worked extra hard to gain the respect of men who might doubt her abilities because of her gender.

After the club was bought out by another company Hill opted to leave. She headed for Vail, a vacation spot she had visited for years. “I wanted the lifestyle I saw in the original, old Vail post office; people wearing flannel shirts and jeans and dogs laying on their feet,” she said.

So, she traded in her fake nails and high heels for jeans and hiking boots.

These days, Hill is the co-partner of a property management company. She still works hard – friend Holly Perry, an equally hard-working team manager of Keller Williams said Hill was one of the few people Perry knew who worked as hard as she did. She and her business partner are responsible for tidying up second-home owner homes, taking care of any emergencies (like flooding from a broken water pipe) and picking up mail.

“It’s quite the opposite of a razzle-dazzle job,” Hill said. “This morning I’ve already put 15 Christmas boxes inside houses, shoveled sidewalks.”

Hill is on call, but her clients don’t care when she works. She stays organized and she’s efficient – “I get stuff done by 10 a.m. that most people take all day to do.”

That’s how Hill can take care of some of her jobs in the morning, ski in the afternoon, and finish up in the evening. She guessed she works about 35 hours a week on average, instead of the 80 or so she logged in Dallas.

She’s known of people like her who moved here to slow down, but couldn’t. “They don’t survive here long,” she said.

Hill’s also known of people, worked with people, who work crazy hours and several jobs.

And she’s not one of them anymore.

“It’s spoiled the quality of their life,” Hill said. “There’s no dating, they’re waiting tables in the morning. They have an office job, work nights as a bouncer and there’s not much room for sleep and fun.”

E-mail comments about this story to tmiller@vailtrail.com.


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