"Don't you have to be at work?"

My shift technically started at 5 pm, but my friend and I are lazily kicking around a swimming hole in the Washougal River, enjoying the sensation of the sun on our skins and talking about her impending move to New York.

I explain to her the beauty of having to pay for the privilege to work. Just so long as I pay for the cab, don't damage it, and get it back on time, everyone's happy. Other than that, it's completely up to me how hard I'm going to work. It's generally in my interest to work as much as I can—otherwise I'm not taking trips, and not making money.

But there's much more to life than money, and as I float on my back I find myself filled with gratitude for the Oregon summer, and even for my job. I forget about the cavalcade of drunks and dispossessed, and instead think of the freedom the job's given me in terms of both time and money.

We eventually swim back to shore, and by the time I get back to town and in the cab it's 9 pm. What I work of the shift is fairly mundane—I drive around talking to drunk people, deliver some blood, and get to see the sunrise illuminate Mount St. Helens as I finish up with an early-morning airport trip. Despite making less money, I can't wipe the smile off my face.