Enforced unpaid vacation!
The life of a contract tester can be very hard, but there are a couple of blessings:
1) We may work very long hours, but states enforce (especially California, and ESPECIALLY after the EASpouse standard of living debacle) that hourly workers must get paid overtime during extended hours. So while the initial hourly rate is low, the end of the week paycheck can actually get kinda comfortable.
2) Sure, permanently hired employees get benefits, bonuses, and paid vacation, but usually only a couple of weeks. They’re discouraged from taking additional vacation in case someone should come along to interview better for their job. Contract testers can count on around a <5% chance they’ll get hired at the end of the project, and then comes around three months of sweet, sweet free time cushioned by unemployment… until hiring season comes around again and they’re picked up by a new project.
I missed getting summer vacation after I graduated from school, but now that I’m a contract tester, I can count on those long periods of fallow time to recover and ready myself for the next harrowing run to a ship date.