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The Worst Jobs We’ve Ever Had

The Staff of The Stranger on the Weirdest Work We've Ever Done (Not Counting Working at The Stranger)

The Worst Jobs We’ve Ever Had

Brian Taylor

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I Was a Mall Easter Bunny

By Paul Constant

I was an Easter Bunny at the Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs for about a month and a half. For six dollars an hour, I was required to wear a full-body Easter Bunny costume and sit in a wicker throne in the Citadel's food court. Children would sit on my lap for pictures. Sometimes, during the slow periods, my assistants would guide me by the hand around the mall to wave at children and lure them back to my lap.

The suit—full-body tan fur, with an egg-festooned vest and matching bow tie, and a giant, hard plastic head sitting awkwardly atop my shoulders—was hot, but at least it kept the smell inside. I basically gave up on hygiene during my time as a bunny. I always wore the same gray T-shirt and cutoff jeans under the suit, and I stopped trying to shower the smell off because the second the suit went on, the reek would cling to my skin like it never left. Occasionally, my manager would take the suit home and flock the fur with baby powder when it became matted with baby-fluids, but the only way to clean the head before I passed it off to the other bunny involved spraying an aerosol disinfectant inside; if anything, the disinfectant smelled worse than my own stale breath.

And the tail! The suit's poofy cotton tail jabbed into my ass every time I sat down, and it ground into my skin every time a new child was sloughed onto me. Eventually a raw, bloody welt the size of a 50-cent piece blossomed on either side of my ass crack. Sitting down caused a sharp, raw jolt to zap up the length of my spine. I had to sleep on my stomach.

Soon after I took the job, the only other full-time Easter Bunny, a 16-year-old high school dropout, had to quit. (She got pregnant.) My eight-hour shifts became 12-hour shifts, and I started working seven days a week.

The repetition drove me mad. My assistants would plop a child in my lap. I'd ask what her name was. She'd tell me. (Britnee!) I'd ask what she wanted for Easter. She'd tell me. (A tricycle with Barbie on it!) I'd look over at the parents, who'd nod approvingly. (Maybe this was a regional thing, or maybe the customs had changed since I was a kid, but to my surprise, most of the children who visited me got presents on Easter morning, like it was Christmas redux.) I'd say that I would see what I could do. My assistants would snap the picture. The next child would be dumped in my lap and immediately begin shrieking in fear. I'd try to console them from behind the screen of the bunny mouth, my voice no doubt distant, coming as it was from the cavernous depths of my helmet. The child would be removed. Another Britnee would land in my lap. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Teenagers punched and kicked me and shouted cruel names that I couldn't hear through the bunny head.

It wasn't all torment: Once, there was a fashion show at the mall, and my keepers brought me into the dressing room, where a bunch of models in their underwear fondled my crotch and made jokes about my Easter basket. Even during the drudgery of putting people on my lap, I got groped a lot; drunk mothers and young women loved to sit and massage me in my tenderest bunny parts and squeeze the boner that developed. I wondered what they'd think if they could see the young man they were fondling under the suit: Filthy, ass-smelling, my skin pale and clammy, in asymmetrically cut jean shorts, a huge oozing sore on my ass.

It was all worth it for the time when Hunter S. Thompson was walking around the Citadel Mall. My friends and I had seen him in town that week—this was the spring of 1996—and there he was, for some reason, making a beeline through the food court to the parking lot outside. I was on one of my irregular walks, and I stuck out my paw for him to shake. He pushed me away. I like to think that he was tripping balls, and that I appeared in his vision like a looming demon, but probably he just didn't want to be seen with a mall Easter Bunny. I loved him more for it.

The time passed in a gauzy blur. When I slept, I dreamed that I was looking out on the world through the inside of the bunny head. My ass felt as though it would never heal. I lost my grip on reality; sometimes, when a child was taken from my lap, I couldn't remember whether I had engaged in normal patter or if I told him that his mother was a whore. Finally, on the last Saturday before Easter, I was saying my good-byes to my manager. She thanked me for all my good work and asked me what I was going to do with myself. I wasn't sure. She told me that Christmas, on balance, wasn't very far off. I didn't have a naturally white beard, so I couldn't play the Big Man, but she said hopefully, "We're always looking for good elves!"

I left Colorado Springs a month later and never returned.

I Was a House Painter

By Dominic Holden

I had dreadlocks at the time, so I had to wrap my hair in an old T-shirt every day before work. Otherwise, my dreads—which were admittedly pretty gross—would fill up with paint, making them way grosser.

A company of three, our painting business was known for meticulous work. It's hard not to be meticulous when you smoke that much weed at 7 a.m. Things become very, very methodical. Plodding, even. But once we got known around town, we'd get paid fantastic hourly wages finishing the interiors of new houses that had to be painted in a way that captured the architects' aesthetic vision.

Aesthetic vision is subjective. And often impractical. One wet December, we began a job at a new house in the Mount Baker neighborhood, in which a vaulted ceiling soared three stories above a concrete-floored living room. This ceiling was to be painted with a faded whitewash so that the wood grain showed through, while the beams in between were to remain raw brown wood. A paint roller or sprayer would not do the job—the ceiling had to be painted carefully with a brush. This required an incredible feat, and the person selected to accomplish this feat was me.

Every day, I had to lay out a few planks of plywood on the crossbeams, crawl out several yards above the chasm, carry a bucket of thinned whitewash and a paintbrush out onto the plywood with me, and then lie on my back to paint the ceiling. The plywood plank was held in place solely by gravity (no screws, no harness), and once positioned on my back, I'd dip my brush upside down into the thin paint and then swipe my brush on the ceiling.

In case you hadn't considered it before (and why would you?), paintbrushes don't work well upside down. Particularly with paint about as thin as water. Rather than saturating the tip, the paint pooled in the base of the brush, and then in creeks that began running down the handle, dripping onto my arms and elbows and face. Driiiiiiip. Drip, drip, drip. Drip. Drip. After a week lying upside down three stories above concrete, tempting certain death, and swallowing paint, the job was done. Just as the architect had wanted, the ceiling was slightly lighter than the beams. He walked in, looked up, and said, "You know, I was wrong. It should be lighter. Let's put on another coat."

I Was a Night-Watch Security Guard

By David Schmader

No, not even that: I was the night watch whose job was to watch the night-watch security guard. It was June 1991, I'd just graduated college, and I was living with my parents in St. Louis while I worked to save enough money to move to Seattle. The job was a full-time position with a home security firm, and it required me to sit in a fluorescent-lit office from 10 at night till 6 in the morning, five nights a week. My primary task: making sure the guy in charge of responding to the alarm calls didn't fall asleep. The firm had learned from experience that leaving one man alone in an office all night was too risky, so I was brought in. Occasionally, I was given a stack of reports to file. But mostly, I just had to make sure the other guy stayed awake. This other guy had had his job since before the second-man mandate came down, so he was used to working alone, and he made it clear that the only time I should speak to him was if he fell asleep.

In other words, my main task was keeping myself awake. I accomplished this through reckless caffeine consumption and immersive study projects. The first installment of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series had just come out, gathering four hours of music onto three CDs that I listened to on headphones, start to finish, every single night I worked. The remaining hours I filled in reading Madame Bovary, which I got through four and a half times before I'd scraped together enough money to flee. I never had occasion to talk to the other guy.

I Was a Dairy Queen Blizzard Maker

By Emily Nokes

Before I understood anything about schedules and uniforms, I understood one thing: I had to get a job so that I could buy better jeans than the single pair my mom evaluated as being "still in good shape." Good-shape jeans were NOT the low-rise hip-huggers in extra-light denim I so desperately needed.

I turned in an application (which must have just included my name?) to the closest business to my house—a corner Dairy Queen. I'd been there a million times throughout my 16 years, and I considered myself an ice-cream expert. How hard could it be? I was hired by the high-anxiety, extremely tan husband and wife team who owned the franchise, but then informed that my shifts would take place at the other Dairy Queen, the smaller, summer-only location clear across town from where I lived.

At first, the gig seemed okay, but once I tried every Blizzard option, made sundaes that were mostly marshmallow sauce, and attempted baking handfuls of the cookie-dough topping meant for Blizzards in the toaster oven, the job lost its charm. In fact, it fully sucked. My 18-year-old manager was a heavily made-up beast with a bad perm who lazed it up during our shifts together, only to kick it into "stressed-out and super hardworking" mode whenever the owners showed up. Tan Husband lost his temper when the machines hadn't been polished (polished!) at the end of a shift, and Tan Wife would nearly burst into angry tears if the Dilly Bars had not been properly stacked in the stupid freezer.

Speaking of Dilly Bars, there were a lot of cute boys cruising around with their learner's permits that summer, and when they requested a couple freezer treats, I didn't think twice about it. I hated those boring Dillies, and if I was allowed a few per shift, then someone could have mine. Especially if that someone got to cruise around in his mom's Dodge Neon all summer.

Meanwhile, I grew less interested in DQ by the minute. Everyone was catty, the customers were cranky, and polishing gunky Blizzard machines was the most futile task ever. Work, I felt, might not be for me. The new school year was rapidly approaching, but at the hourly rate of early-'00s Montana minimum wage, I'd barely succeeded in saving any hot-jeans bucks after factoring in the gas it took to get to work in my Dad's embarrassing Jeep.

FINALLY, summer was ending, and therefore so was the summer-only DQ. The night of my last shift, I was so restless. Parts of the store were already put away for the next year—most of the freezers were unplugged and empty, we were running low on everything. It was time to party.

It must have started with the dying whipped-cream container that spewed cream dribbles like a white sparkler. Into the air! Onto the person I was working with! I don't even remember anything about my coworker that evening, other than that I think she was a bit "bad"—tongue piercing, cigarettes, that kind of thing. Suddenly, topping spoons were used to launch Oreo and pineapple chunks; sloppy strawberry goop landed in our hair. We were shrieking, slipping around on the greasy butterscotch'd floor, having the time of our lives at work for once.

I suppose it wasn't the food fight as much as it was the decision not to clean it up. I mean, summer-only DQ was CLOSING, and there would be a deep, professional clean before the dormancy anyway. Sixteen-year-old me had it figured out.

I received the call the next day. Tan Wife informed me that I was fired. Since I hadn't planned that far ahead, I didn't realize they assumed I'd be back next summer. Ha! After a lecture about how she'd been "so wrong" about me, I replied with something equivalent to a verbal shrug and hung up, feeling relieved. Later that evening, I was hanging out at a dance class when my MOM burst through the gymnasium doors. "You're coming with me, NOW." Apparently, Tan Wife had called her about the firing, and now she was irate. More irate than I thought possible. I tried to explain—we left a giant mess, we were sorry, it was closing anyway, it's a messy job, big misunderstanding. After the world's longest-seeming silent treatment, she finally hissed, "Stealing, Emily?" I was completely confused. Huh? Stealing? I hadn't even been taught how to make change! I had no idea how the register even opened! I was the Blizzard grunt whose only job was to make ice-cream treats and apparently clean stuff. I pleaded for explanation. How much money was missing? When did it happen? Who else was working? My mom was given no other details, just that I'd been stealing. I imagined life in prison. I panicked.

When we got home, I called the bosses. For the first time in my life, I yelled (and swore!) at an adult I was not related to. At first I just yelped, "What the fuck? What? What the hell?" I demanded to know what Tan Wife thought she was doing (a) calling my mother in the first place, and (b) lying to her? After I hurled my pent-up ice-cream rage into the phone, her condescending voice coolly explained that Lazy Perm had tattled on me, and that "Giving away Dilly Bars is like stealing."

I Was a Sports Reporter Who Knew Nothing About Sports

By Brendan Kiley

Working the sports desk for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer one college summer wasn't the worst job for me—rather, I was the worst for it.

Most of my family members loved playing and watching sports, but I was not a natural athlete. (My mother and sister were yell-at-the-TV types when the Mariners were on; I'm probably one of the few American third-graders who routinely struck out at T-ball.) But I'd been working like a fiend at the Daily, the University of Washington's college newspaper, for two years—it paid a decent college-job wage if you filed enough stories—writing about arts, news, and science. When the Daily's comely, Amazonian sports editor, who I had a minor crush on, suggested I take a summer job at the P-I, I was sold.

The P-I editor, Glenn Drosendahl, seemed like a gentle and intelligent man and had a graying, well-manicured mustache. My job interview mostly consisted of him asking if I was studying journalism, me squirming in my seat before sheepishly admitting I was an anthropology major, and him—to my surprise—beaming. "Good!" he said (more or less—I'm paraphrasing). "No real journalists major in journalism! If you want to be a reporter, major in anything else: history, biology, literature. Study something useful while you have the chance. You can figure out newspapers as you go."

And so I found myself working the evening shift at the P-I sports desk circa 1998, when manager Lou Piniella was dragging the Mariners up from the depths and sports fans across Seattle were actually excited for a change. My comrades were mostly pear-shaped people who watched the games on several overhead TV screens and ate lots of hamburgers while they wrote, edited, and cursed. My first task was to tabulate box scores—the "agate"—which involved me looking at columns of game statistics as they rolled in that night and using mathematical alchemy to turn them into tomorrow's study guides for nerds and bookies.

The thing was, I didn't know an ERA from an RBI and was ashamed to admit it to a roomful of Seattle's most knowledgeable baseball fans. Luckily, I was stationed at the back of the room. On one of my first nights at the job, during an exciting moment of the baseball game when nobody was paying attention to me, I grabbed a phone and ducked under my desk. I called my dad—I knew he'd be watching at home. "Dad," I whispered urgently, "I'm at work. Quick, what's an ERA?" He told me to get a calculator, some paper, and a pencil, and he'd walk me through the statistical mysteries of baseball. I turned in my agate more or less on time that night, and my summer job was saved.

I spent the rest of those months more interested in the anthropology of the sports desk than the sports themselves—the gentle-giant disposition of columnist Art Thiel, the world-weary and wisecracking subeditors, the frantic and high-strung sports writers known for locker-room altercations with athletes who were, that summer, Seattle's heroes. I remember the hamburgers. And, above all, the cursing.

I Was a Farmhand

By Katie Allison

In college, most people have social lives; I had a horse. As it turns out, horses are absurdly expensive, and her rent was consistently higher than my own. So I spent my weekends working at the barn, whittling down the cost by $10 every hour. Mostly, I cleaned up shit.

An average horse poops around 50 pounds per day. I'll repeat myself. An average horse POOPS 50 POUNDS PER DAY. It's weirdly incredible. Given that my barn had 15 horses, approximately 750 pounds of dense, fly- covered shit had to be removed daily. My only tools were a fine-tined plastic pitchfork and a very large wheelbarrow.

Of all the early mornings I spent enjoying this glamorous work, one really stands out. It was a Sunday morning in January, and approximately six hours prior, I had been playing some sort of topless drinking game. My brain felt like a vomit-soaked sponge full of nails.

In classic Northwest fashion, it had poured rain for days, and overnight, the saturated world froze solid. Mud, churned up into mountainous chaos by many hooves, solidified into a treacherous hellscape of wheelbarrow- and ankle-snagging ruts.

With grim determination, I wrestled my wheelbarrow into the first paddock. I was going to get this done, god damn it, so I could go home and die in peace. But as I attempted to scoop up the first pile, I realized the obvious: The shit was frozen, too. Into the ground.

I tried to work through it, I really did. I jammed my pitchfork's plastic tines into a crack and tried to get enough leverage to separate poop from dirt. Naturally, it got stuck. As I struggled feebly, nauseated, to free it, the frozen grass that had snared it snapped, and with a twang, the plastic tines flung a few bits of frozen shit-shrapnel into my face. The bulk of the pile stayed glued to the ground.

I just started crying. I may have thrown up in a bush.

I no longer own a horse. recommended

I Was a Foam Seller

By Bethany Jean Clement

That's what we sold: foam. It was the summer after college, and my expensive liberal arts education was not proving useful. The foam store was in the far reaches of North Seattle, on a busy, featureless highway; the businesslike woman who ran it was a friend of a friend of my parents, and she needed help, and thus I found myself in the muffled world of foam.

Foam is all around you, more than you know. People would bring in their couch cushions, and we would replace the old, squishy, broken-down foam, wrapping the new foam slabs in cotton batting to get a rounded effect. We sold foam bolsters and foam fold-up beds and foam mattresses—foam makes a durable and comfortable mattress, if you buy a higher grade, and we could also special order the all-natural latex kind. I only recently have forgotten the measurements, in inches, of all the standard bed sizes. We did boat upholstery, too; I learned how to use a very fast and somewhat terrifying industrial sewing machine, and I made surprisingly shipshape cushions to go between rich people and their yachts. I thought about the drinks they would drink and the water they would watch while they sat on my work.

More than once, a man brought a gun, or plural guns, into the store. Gun cases are lined with foam. My boss would tell the man firmly that we did not allow guns in the shop—the case, yes, and we would be happy to outfit it. The guns, no.

Outside of work, I thought I was in love with a boy with beautiful long hair that I was, in the current parlance, hooking up with. He had no such illusions about me. We played pool at the Eastlake Zoo and went night-swimming in the Montlake Cut, and I lived with very good friends, and we all had a lot of fun, but my central emotion was halfhearted despair: My life was failing to get properly under way. I wrote a misshapen short story about my feelings. If I could reach back through time to the younger me, I would shake her. Enjoy that longhaired boy, I would say, and night-swimming, and a job where you might sew through your finger or see a gun. Things are going to improve, and far more terrible things are going to happen.

I Was a Brick Maker

By Charles Mudede

In the winter of 1988, I worked in a brick factory in Barking, a neighborhood in East London. It was my first job; it was a terrible and even dangerous job. I'd wake up in the dark (I lived in the Docklands at the time), catch a number of trains to Barking, emerge from the tube, walk across a gothic graveyard, cross ghostly train tracks, enter the industrial district, walk down a mean road, make a left, and enter a factory that came right out of the novels of Charles Dickens. The business was owned by an Irishman, who spoke English with the speed of a drum 'n' bass beat (160 bpm). What the 10 of us did in that black and metal box was cut blocks into bricks, stack the bricks onto crates, cover the stacks in big plastic bags, shrink the plastic bags with a blowtorch, and load the tightly wrapped bricks on a lorry.

The factory was cold and smelled of raw stone. To keep warm in the morning, we burned whatever would burn in a metal barrel. But it seemed nothing but the heat blasting from the blowtorch could unfreeze my fingers. I, like most of the other workers, was always slow and sore. Indeed, the efficiency and speed of the operation entirely depended on one man, a drunkard, who was born to only do two things in life: cut bricks and drink beer. He would stumble into the factory at around 8 a.m., completely wasted, and somehow sober up at the roar of the dangerous saw, cut bricks with the precision and agility of a demon, meet his quota not long after lunch, get an advance from the accountant (a short but prim Pakistani), and return to the bar. I don't think he ever ate (he was thin and most of his teeth were missing), nor had a home (he wore the same worn jeans and army coat every day), nor could read nor talk. Not once in the four months I worked at the factory did I understand a single word that came out of the tooth graveyard that was his mouth.

I Was a Hotel Maid

By Jen Graves

I remember—during the summer I was a hotel maid at the Susse Chalet in East Greenbush, New York—going out to my car parked near the woods behind the hotel and stashing stray, abandoned wine coolers in my trunk before anyone could catch me. They were still in their six-pack boxes, but usually only one or two were left. Nobody drinks a whole pack of wine coolers. I also found condoms in the beds and condoms in the little trash cans, and I unceremoniously picked them up and dumped them into the garbage bag slung onto the end of my cart. They were not that interesting to me, nor that disgusting. Thanks to my mother's zero-tolerance policy for kid whining, and also to the pets we had, there really isn't anything I find disgusting to clean. So even though you'd think being a hotel maid is a horrible job, I didn't think of it that way. There was really nothing horrible about it.

I couldn't fail, for one—I knew exactly how to succeed at my job: Make it clean. If I'd had to do it for a lifetime, I'm sure I would have felt differently, but the way it was, this was an honest job and a quiet job, and I daydreamed the entire time I worked, when I didn't have one eye on a soap opera. I'd knock, go into the room, switch on All My Children, clean the room, leave, knock, go into the next room, switch on All My Children, and so on. My favorite rooms were the ones where somebody was staying for an extended period of time. I was their housekeeper; I knew them. Or I knew how they placed their things. I am slightly obsessive about the placement of things and would notice when something had changed. I missed those people terribly when they left. I would never see it coming. From their arrangements, I'd try to guess how long they would be my clients, but I would never know when I would knock, open the door, and see that everything I'd memorized would have vanished.

The Susse Chalet chain is no more. On Wikipedia, it says they became Fairfield Inns. The 24-hour Howard Johnson's next to my Susse Chalet closed, too. A Cracker Barrel moved in. I hate Cracker Barrel. Only now do I realize that "Susse" probably meant "sweet," as in the German, rather than Swiss. I have no idea, given that I really do pay attention to words, why I thought it was a Swiss chalet. It was, I think, dark brown like a roadside place in the Alps, but that's no excuse.

I'll tell you how much I didn't in fact hate the janitorial job you'd think I would have hated. Once, a few years later, when I had a summer job as a camp counselor in New Hampshire, I was driving to the camp, when my car broke down and I was stranded in White River Junction, Vermont. It is a very small town, small even for Vermont. A mechanic said he would need all day to fix the car. I knew nobody and had several hours to kill. I felt like a runaway. Seeking comfort, I guess, I found myself walking into the local hotel, which looked a lot like my Susse Chalet, riding the elevator down to the basement where I knew the maid station would be, and asking them if they needed volunteer help for the day. They, of course, looked at me like I was bananas. I just wanted to get inside those rooms. I still feel that way about hotels.

My actual horrible jobs came slightly later in life, when as a member of the Stanford synchronized swimming team, my teammates and I had to clean up the football stadium and basketball arena after the men played their games. The floors were sticky and steep, and the trash was boring and public. Not long after that, to raise money for the synchronized swimming team—this was before a handful of women's teams newly achieved varsity status thanks to Title IX—we also had to drive out into the middle of nowhere in Silicon Valley one night for the purpose of performing inside a bar that had a giant fish tank, like the one with the mermaids floating around above the heads of Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This. We synchronized swimmers were the fish for a private party. The partiers ate snacks and I don't think looked directly at us once. It was a little hard to see out from in the water. I thought about the football players and basketball players and wondered what they had to do to sell themselves. recommended

 

Comments (87) RSS

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1
I've had some bad jobs, but I think the worst was data entry, only because it was so mind-numbingly boring. Fortunately, the boss let us wear headphones to play our own music while we worked. That was the only way I could tolerate it!
Posted by Diagoras on July 31, 2013 at 9:24 AM · Report this
2
these are your worst jobs???
I spent a summer working odd jobs at a temp agency. jobs I had included painting the insides of ATM's - actually not painting anything, just masking off parts that weren't supposed to be painted - for 10 hours a day. Then I worked in the freezer of an ice cream factory, stacking pallets of ice cream, in a fucking FREEZER. The only other person working in my area was some meth addict who drank Steel Reserve on his lunch break. Then I finished off that summer hand washing about a hundred RV's at some huge mega dealership.
Posted by phil collins on July 31, 2013 at 9:37 AM · Report this
3
I have *always* tipped my motel/hotel maid. It's a shit job. When I saty a week or less, I usually leave a $20. It's not enough, but it's what I can afford.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on July 31, 2013 at 10:02 AM · Report this
4
I had a minor crush on Aliya too. And I'm a straight woman.
Posted by Kalakalot on July 31, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this
Azraelisa 5
I'm originally from Denver and while I only visited the Citadel mall in the Springs a few times, I do remember it... and I feel really sorry for bunny suit guy.

I had a bunch of odd jobs throughout my youth, work ethic didn't hit me until my late 20's - florist, admin, reception, call center, etc. The worst was definitely my first job as super Kmart cashier, nothing but the lowest of society shops at places like that. I was constantly hit on by men MUCH older than me and being the last person the customer see's, I had to hear everyone's complaints. Listen people, if you're going to shop at a place like that, don't expect the teenage cashier to give any shits about your whining.
Posted by Azraelisa on July 31, 2013 at 10:41 AM · Report this
6
High school, we were so excited when Sonic Drive-In came to our little Arizona town. Jobs.

I applied to be a car hop and got the job. Except it was to be a car hop like in Happy Days...with roller skates. I hadn't skated in years and worse, they built the place on an incline which meant car hops had full trays of food, going downhill coming out the door.

They ended that practice pretty quickly and we walked.

I also hated people who threw ketchup and mustard packets out the window and ran over them to see me have to clean them up.
Posted by westello on July 31, 2013 at 10:46 AM · Report this
7
Bethany, that gave me goosebumps. SO good. Thanks.
Posted by gone unregistered on July 31, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
8
White River Junction is actually pretty big for a town in Vermont, the biggest in the area.
Posted by brent.b on July 31, 2013 at 11:13 AM · Report this
9
Telesurveying in Madison, WI. I had moved thither from California, needed a quick job, hit the temp agency, and they sent me to make follow-up calls to Ameritech customers. At first, it wasn't terrible. But the second week was a blur, reading the same script over and over again. The worst was that most of the time when they started answering the questions, it was because they thought I was actually from Ameritech and could help solve whatever problem they were having. I couldn't. On lunch break, I would go outside and listen to this one guy talk about how he'd been there 13 years, that he knew how to get people to not hang up, that he was the best employee there. I had assumed everyone was a temp, making ends meet until something better came along. I had to leave. I landed a factory job, and then ended up at Union Cab a while later. Driving a cab was decent.
Posted by tom006 on July 31, 2013 at 11:42 AM · Report this
marymc 10
I've been a tour guide in a cave, an asshole who confiscated and poured out college students' beer, and a collector of spit from high school juniors. I also had a short-term gig counting out brand new dollar bills into bundles of 100 so they could be glued together.
Posted by marymc on July 31, 2013 at 12:07 PM · Report this
Cracker Jack 11
I worked in a Nordstrom warehouse prepping merchandise for stores -- which mostly meant using a tag gun to put those hangy tags on women's clothes. It was boring, repetitive and meant standing all day, but it was inside and there was little chance of death.

There was also my years at a North Seattle Little Caesar's. The day we had to talk down the co-worker whose room-mate had dosed him with acid before work "as a joke". The illicit manager-hot teenage co-worker sex in the office and the things that went under the cheese if you pissed us off...

And, similar to Paul, the knowledge that you would NEVER not smell like pizza.
Posted by Cracker Jack on July 31, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
12
One summer in high school I worked in a pet store, cleaning the animal cages, including the aquariums. One morning I came in to an entire cage full of dead finches (never any explanation, apparently "it just happens to finches"); another day I was bitten by the resident parrot. I regularly got a mouth full of gross fish-poopy aquarium water because the little suction device I used to clean the tanks required mouth suction to start.
Other worst job: conducting customer surveys for a local hospital group via phone. Not bad for the most part, but at least twice a night I'd hear a horrible tale about a diagnosis or treatment gone wrong that resulted in death, maiming or unnecessarily long recovery. This one wasn't physically demanding, just emotionally scarring.
Posted by alight on July 31, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
13
I worked a lot of crappy jobs when I was young but the worst was the four years at an iron foundry in my home town of Lodi, CA. I was a core maker and it was a boring and dangerous job. God knows what nasty stuff I inhaled during that time. The one good thing about that job was that it gave me the drive and ambition to go back to college. I haven't worked for a living since.
Posted by bobbelieu on July 31, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
14
I grew up on a dairy farm in east King County, so I spent a lot of hours with cow manure. My worst moment was we had a series of 6 inch pipes that pumped liquid manure down the hill and out a nozzle or "gun" that shot the manure 100' in a circle. We would have to move it every few hours to get the manure spread around the field. the nozzle, which was only 1 inch, sometimes became plugged with wood chips from the cow's bedding, which was sawdust and chips. As a lazy teen, I went down to investigate a plugged gun with a long screwdriver with properly bleeding all the back pressure out of the line. I cleared the chip and was knocked backward by a wall of manure that hit my fast and chest. I had manure in my nostrils, ears, mouth and hair.

Other bad jobs that were close runners up:
cleaning tar out of the tar tanks at Pabco roofing with jackhammers and air chisels. I picked tar out of my body hair for days after.

Burger King: When a plastic sack of frozen patties burst at the bottom spilling patties all over the floor my boss told me to pick them up and throw them on the grill. Later I got a 3rd degree burn cleaning the flame grill and he made me continue working. The scar is still visible 24 years later.

Commercial fishing during the Valdez Spill year:
The fisheries all closed, so we had nothing to do and sat alone at a remote cannery for weeks with no human interaction and single radio station that covered every genre with hour slices.
Posted by DJSauvage on July 31, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
15
I really like the quote from Brendan Kiley's story, paraphrasing The P-I editor Glenn Drosendahl:
My job interview mostly consisted of him asking if I was studying journalism, me squirming in my seat before sheepishly admitting I was an anthropology major, and him—to my surprise—beaming. "Good!" he said (more or less—I'm paraphrasing). "No real journalists major in journalism! If you want to be a reporter, major in anything else: history, biology, literature. Study something useful while you have the chance. You can figure out newspapers as you go."
Wonderful advice. Sage.

Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on July 31, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Knat 16
These were all really entertaining, and I vaguely recall The Stranger doing a feature much like this a few years ago. I'd like to read it again as a follow-up, but sadly I don't recall any details or I'd google it myself.

For the record, my worst is still my first: a screen printing shop. It was a summer job that took place around a 500-degree oven that baked the ink onto the shirts. The boss, when he chose to show up, seemed to do so for the sole purpose of leering at any female customers we had. Typically this was done right at the front desk, while smoking cigars that smelled very similar to the dog turds his ever-present Spaniel supplied for me to clean up.
Posted by Knat on July 31, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
17
"...it was inside and there was little chance of death."

#11 - very good qualities in a job, indeed.
Posted by westello on July 31, 2013 at 12:34 PM · Report this
thene 18
I once worked for a street-corner laundry, ironing shirts and delivering flyers. We used ancient industrial irons that were too old to safely function - they spat a lot and the store owner had replaced their safety fuses with bits of wire to keep them working. At least the flyering part wasn't dangerous and got me both exercise and an intimate knowledge of certain residential neighbourhoods in West London. I did so much thinking about the whys and wherefores of front gardens. I also bunked off and sat on street corners to read a lot.
Posted by thene http://thene.dreamwidth.org on July 31, 2013 at 12:34 PM · Report this
19
I spent 4 summers from 12-16 detassling corn in IL. That was pretty bad, but the only legit work you could get that young living out in the country. It's cold and wet in the morning, as you're either walking or being dragged through the corn, complete with bugs and big spider webs. By noon it was 115 degrees with no shade.
One summer home from college, I worked at a temp agency and was placed at a plastics factory. My job was to watch dental toothpicks drop out of a machine 6 at a time and inspect for defects. The machine did not stop for lunch or breaks, so there would be a huge pile when I got back. That was the worst.
Posted by Bohica on July 31, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
20
OK, so what's so bad about the Foam Sales job? Seriously, it doesn't sound like a bad job at all. Boring? Perhaps. Bad? Go clean toilets.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on July 31, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
21
Since I started working when I was 14 and am 50 now I've had many horrible jobs.

One was making commercials for a small TV station. Terrible, you say? It became a living nightmare because one client owned a toy store. "Toy store? That's awesome!" you say. No. Because along with schlepping all the camera, lights, and props all over I had to ACT in these commercials. And the toy store had a "mascot." A giant teddy bear. They desperately wanted this bear in their ads. So my boss found the most grotesque flea riddled giant stuffed bear costume for me to wear with gigantic twenty pound stuffed head. This was in August. During a heat wave. And we shot in a non air conditioned warehouse or worse outside in a play ground.

The store owner hired a couple dozen little kids - gave them Wiffle ball bats and bad mitten rackets - and would have them chase me around. Oh. And we had to simulate fast motion - this was long before easy digital effects editing - so I had to run around like a lunatic in the suit getting beaten mercilessly by a dozen children for about 12 hours two or three days a week. At first the padded suit would protect me from them. But eventually as the stuffing soaked with sweat their little blows started to ad up. I'd be screaming at them but they could hear me through the huge head piece.

I can not describe the unrelenting dread of getting up at 4am to prep for those shoots knowing what horror lay ahead for you. So I started drinking the night before just so I could sleep. Heavily.

Then one morning I woke up sick as a dog. A combination of anxiety, flue and hangover. I tried to call in sick but my boss freaked out at me.

So I show up at about 5am. Set up the gear, go get coffee and snacks for the shooter, and then drive the van to pick up a bunch of kids. Then I go slowly don my bear suit crying like a death row inmate having to strap himself down to the chair. It was like the metaphorical opposite of the "gear up" scene you'd see in a Stallone action move. My guts literally churning.

So the day was proceeded like some demented level in Dante's hell. I am dying of heat stroke. Running around in fast motion. Getting beaten by children. And. AND. This is no exaggeration - SHITTING MY PANTS and choking down my own vomit inside a sweat soaked stinking bear suit for eight hours until I pass out - shit running down my legs.

To this day I am struck blind with PTSD when I see children in play grounds.
More...
Posted by tkc on July 31, 2013 at 12:44 PM · Report this
22
I think my worst job ever had to be the summer I spent as a traffic flagger for road construction. I would stand in the direct sunlight for 4-12 hours per day. I spent most of the time being bored out of my mind, interrupted by bouts of being harrassed by traffic, being harrassed by the male construction workers, almost getting run over by crazy & impatient drivers. And I can't forget how impossible it was on long days to get 10 minutes to run to the bathroom, and how when someone did come to give me 5 minutes to pee how it came with some degrading comment about being a woman. I would go back to working the graveyard shift with a 2 hour bus commute or cleaning hotel rooms before I ever worked road construction again.
Posted by KittyHampton on July 31, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Report this
23
@Cracker Jack -

I was with you until this:
The illicit manager-hot teenage co-worker sex in the office and the things that went under the cheese if you pissed us off...
There is never an excuse to fuck with people's food this way. You are scum.
Posted by Arthur Zifferelli on July 31, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 24
It was either scraping asbestos from ceilings in Beverly Hills for the summer or working as a janitor. The janitor job was o.k. for a while. I don't drink, so that gave me an edge. But I came in one day and my boss accused me of stealing a water cooler from one of the offices I cleaned. A water cooler!?! I was stunned. I'm not a thief and nobody ever accused me of it before. How could I prove I didn't steal something? So I resigned. When I came for my last check they told me the water cooler had been moved by somebody to another office. But I thought to myself I'd be accused again sure as hell if I stuck around.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 31, 2013 at 12:53 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 25
Loved Charles Mudede's story.

My worst job: repairing the inside of wing tanks.

For a few years, I was an aircraft mechanic in the military. Early 1980s. I was young and rail-thin, probably about 110 pounds at the time. I was the skinniest guy in the squadron. So, whenever a leak developed in a wing fuel tank, I was sent in to repair it, primarily because I was one of the only guys small enough to squeeze inside of a wing tank.

They would drain the tank, but some fuel still remained, trapped between framing ribs. Even with a breather mask, the fuel vapors would almost cause me to pass out. There was only a few inches of clearance, so I had to crawl on my belly, soaking my clothes in the residual aviation fuel. It was completely dark, except for a (hopefully) spark-proof flashlight. And hot; there was no ventilation. I had to carefully use only custom-made plastic and brass hand tools; one spark and the whole tank would have exploded with me trapped on my belly inside.

Not a job for the claustrophobic. Thankfully, fuel tank leaks were fairly rare, and I only had to do this about five times over the course of several years. Even 30 years later, the experience is seared into my brain, hopefully never to be repeated.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on July 31, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Dougsf 26
Not my worst job—my worst job was cold calling people that entered (or didn't) into a sweepstakes, which was really a ruse to get people into a timeshare seminar thinking they've won a prize. I still remember part of the script, and probably will forever. Some days I'd just let the machine dial, hang up when the person answered, let it dial someone else, hang up, repeat, for hours—but my most difficult job was working at a laminate counterpart factory in Georgetown.

It was an entry level position in shipping, but it was something like $9 or $11 per hour, which was a good prospect at the time. My job was to build shipping crates, wipe the marker and glue off the countertops that came off the line, load them into crates and onto trucks. The pneumatic guns were fun to use, the industrial table saw made me nervous (I’ll spare the details), but the lacquer thinner—practically bathing in the stuff, that was the real bummer.

You couldn’t wear gloves because your hands would rot from the sweat, so just dunking and gripping the soaked rags I used to wipe down the tops with, my kidneys must have taken a beating. One day the bosses knew OSHA was coming, and everyone’s job on the floor were hilariously different. Pretty much nothing got done until they left.

But none of that is the worst part, neither was getting up before 5am to take two buses (Greenwood to Georgetown, not impossible, but not quick), and neither was the time I ended up on a local news hidden camera segment proving whether or not people in Seattle were assholes, covered in glue and box cutter cuts in my factory clothes, half asleep after a shift transferring at Westlake from the #74 to the #5, and apparently opting for the “yes, they are assholes” option—the worst part was the isolation, or, sense of isolation. I’ll explain…

Face masks were optional, and not at all practical, but goggles and earplugs, those stiff ones you buy in boxes of 1,000 pairs, were mandatory and a no-brainer. Although there was 30 other guys within sight (viewed through goggle with foggy spots from where lacquer thinner melted them), it was absolute silence with those Nerf pellets showed into my head. I’ve got a pretty damn active imagination, I’m almost NEVER bored—typing this from a very quiet office somewhat removed from the bustling cubicle area of my floor now, and I love it—but there was days that noon, or 1pm—sometimes I’d make it longer—would roll around and it’d hit me hard that I’d already thought of just about everything I could possible think of. I’ve already played games with myself, worked out all the shit I’d ever wondered about… and there I was still, building crates and wiping off Formica countertops, the low hum of a factory in the background, and not a single goddamn thing to think about. I might have well been in a pitch black room, or like that scene in THX1138, just walking and walking and walking… nothingness. It’s not a feeling I’ve had since, I if I play my cards right, never will again.

I did that for 9 months, but I’m realizing now I’ve probably got about 12 more paragraphs of stories about my brief employment there.
More...
Posted by Dougsf on July 31, 2013 at 1:01 PM · Report this
27
"Phil Collins" isn't *the* Phil Collins, he's obviously an American fake. English people call ATMs "cash points", and they don't have RVs as such, they have caravans. Fake.
Posted by originalcinner on July 31, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
28
Dishwasher. Yeah, probably lots of people washed dishes "professionally" as a teenager. But what made this one special was the location: a bad Indian restaurant in the U District. So as I walked home at 1:30 AM, on top of the grease, sweat, detergent, and bleach smells coating every crevice of my body, was the unwash-off-able stench of bad curry.

Surprisingly, twenty years later, I love me some good (good!) chicken tandoori or masoor dal or even curry.
Posted by Moag on July 31, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
29
It's a toss up between the telemarketing gig I got the summer after graduating high school-- trying to sell $400+ vitamin sets, shampoo crap, etc., with the big selling point that the customer may have won some great vacation or jewelry or something. One time I showed up at work and they passed out all the lead cards we were to call, only to collect all of them 5 minutes later. They then announce that we're changing locations- NOW - and they do roll call. One of the other telemarketers wasn't there and the bosses told the guy's friends to tell him he didn't need to bother coming to work anymore. Then they give us the new address and we had to switch to that location immediately. Nothing shady there. A couple years later article came out that they were affiliated with the mafia and had been shut down.

Wish I could say that was it but the most recent job I had was sales for a crappy startup software company. Talked to one retailer who asked me in earnest if the product would hold up, because if not, she would lose her job. A part of me died as I told her that the software was great which I knew was a lie. Alas, selling my soul so I could have a paycheck and survive vs being virtuous. I'll never take for granted having a decent product to sell again..
Posted by freshnycman on July 31, 2013 at 1:03 PM · Report this
30
I've had my share of pretty bad jobs, most of them in sales of some sort, which I'm awful at. The job which will sound the worst to most people, though, was a lot of fun for the 17-year-old nerd that was me.

I got a summer job as a technician at a vibration and shock testing laboratory for the aerospace industry, government contracts, mostly. Large test platforms were hooked up to electromagnetic "shakers" that were pretty much just a giant industrial version of the coil and magnet of a speaker. They ran on audio amplifiers that pumped out a quarter million watts of power. When the tests were in progress, you couldn't go into the test chambers. Even with ear protection. The control rooms were almost too loud to converse in, and they were seriously soundproofed from the test chambers.

The giant amplifiers ran on giant tubes, half the size of me, it seemed. They had to be changed regularly, which involved going inside the amplifier, carrying these big, fragile things with their heavy copper cooling fins and trying to manipulate yourself and it in a very cramped space, after making sure the power was well and truly off. The senior technicians loved telling the story of the guy who got seriously burned, and somehow lived.

The weekend of Woodstock, there I was, pulling double shifts both days, minding a piece of Saturn 5 rocket that was being tested, while my bosses were away at the festival.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on July 31, 2013 at 1:10 PM · Report this
31
I have had every terrible job known to man.

In high school, while everyone else was working fun jobs at DQ or McDonalds I was digging ditches. Literally digging ditches, trenches, and short tunnels, with a shovel. I would work 5-7am, go to school filthy and smelly, then go back to the work site at 3pm and work another couple hours.

I was also the Midnight to 8am clerk at a hardcore, booths and viewing rooms type porn shop. Do you know what kind of weirdos show up at a porn shop at 4 in the morning? Not the fun kind. I would get off work and go straight to class, which is a hard shift to make, in terms of dealing with people.
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on July 31, 2013 at 1:17 PM · Report this
32
Worst job is a dead heat for me: I moved irrigation pipe in a wheat field at 5AM in hip waders filled with gross fertilizer and said water. I also worked as a late night clerk at a porn store on Sprague in Spokane in the 90's.
Posted by Bandit King on July 31, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
Cracker Jack 33
@23: The worst I did was anchovies. Others were not as tame. I am not proud of the poor choices I made as a teen working a minimum wage job, but if you think these events are uncommon, you'd better not eat out anymore.
Posted by Cracker Jack on July 31, 2013 at 1:31 PM · Report this
Jessica 34
Door-to-door for the environment for WashPIRG. Puget Sound area (and Bellingham), I am so, so sorry. I'd work 6-hour shifts in strange neighborhoods with no bathroom breaks, was offered a job stripping, treated as a hooker, and threatened by a man in a Hummer that he would run me down for "taking food from [his] family's mouths". Every time I reported this stuff, managers told me it wasn't that bad. After ten weeks I just stopped showing up. A month later I realized they were paying below minimum wage and dangling the unreachable carrot of commission in front of all of us, and I hope they all burn.
Posted by Jessica on July 31, 2013 at 1:36 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 35
Door to door sales for cheap shit marketed to businesses. Like, convince them to let me place a sample and order forms in their cafeteria, then I come back and fill the orders. The merchandise was Dollar Store level crap; cheap knife sets and junk like that. $5 gets you one, $10 gets you three. I got like 33% flat, paid as an independent contractor. I did that for about a summer when I was 18. When I found out it was entry level for some multi-level marketing crap, I was outta there.

Second worst was a weekend security guard at a suburban office complex in Connecticut, which I pulled as a second job for about a year plus. Lovely and scenic, but oh Lord was it boring for the majority of that first year. 8am-6pm, Sunday and Saturday. Easiest job in the world, but brain numbing. Walk the building every hour. Walk the building perimeter every other hour. Walk the grounds every third hour. I walked a lot. You'd think; that's not bad, for about 25% over minimum wage. But do that again and again and again. You're walking laps, and there is no contact with others. At all. No one came. No one went. Once in a while a deer might walk by my window. Once a sparrow flew face first into a window and exploded. I had to hose sparrow chunks off into the bushes.

Although, that latter job in a very loopy and weird set of circumstances (including my being a fake Mormon ringer for a Mormon temple basketball league) led to my current very happy coming up on 15 years professional IT career.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on July 31, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Griffin 36
A buddy of mine in college was the mop guy for the booths at a porn shop. He always won these story contests.
Posted by Griffin on July 31, 2013 at 2:16 PM · Report this
37
Shoveling human shit was the worst job I ever had.

As a teenager I worked in the summers at a wilderness camp, the sort of place where there were only outhouse-style pit toilets. State law required that pit toilets be lined in concrete and have separate vaults for men and women (never figured that one out). Ours did not have these but our camp was grandfathered in *for the ones we already had*. So when one was filling up, we had to dig a large hole reasonably nearby, then make a trench to the current location, then dig into the side of a giant hole containing vast amounts of human shit. If you did it right you could get everything to flow downhill into the new pit, but frequently not, and even if you did it was necessary to get it started.

So. Much. Shit.
Posted by Tyler Pierce on July 31, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
38
I sold cemetery plots over the phone, cold-calling, when I was still in high school, from a list a recently-widowed or -widowered persons provided by mortuaries. Minimum wage.
Posted by Gigi Grice on July 31, 2013 at 2:37 PM · Report this
Fnarf 39
One St. Patrick's Day in the coffee shop a customer we called "The Leprechaun" (5 feet tall, 250 lb, bright red hair and full beard) was drunk and bothering other customers, and when I tapped him on the shoulder and started to say "excuse me, sir, I'm sorry, but I have to ask you to leave" he turned and vomited several gallons of green beer and corned beef all down my front, from my nipples to my shoes. I was wearing all white that day, and we were short-handed so I had to run into the kitchen and quickly wash my shirt and pants as best as I could in the dishwasher, wring them out, and work the rest of the shift in wet clothes. But I get to tell people truthfully that a leprechaun vomited on me on St. Patrick's Day.

A different day in the same coffee shop a junkie coworker snuck up behind me while I was tallying the day's receipts and bashed my head with one of those foot-long pepper grinders. Unfortunately for him my skull is four inches thick and he got nothing but jail time. A few years ago he murdered his grandfather and got sent away for life.

Also a bad job: digging up an old septic tank and sewer line. Or dragging a hundred million 100-pound packs of asphalt tiles up to a roof on the hottest week of summer.

When I lived in New York my bosses were three mental but very, very rich Venezuelan brothers who ate at "21" every night and squired Miss Venezuela around the clubs, but treated their employees like dirt. Especially the brother who never did any work except smoking cigarettes and cutting the occasional article out of the newspaper. I ended up sharing an apartment with him, out of desperation, wherein I spent most nights cowering in my 6x10 foot room listening to him watch war documentaries on his giant TV with the volume up full blast, and spank the crap out of his submissive Japanese girlfriend. MMMMMRRRRRROOOOOOWWWWWWW the B-47s screamed low over Dresden BOOOOM BOOOOM BOOOOM SMACK SMACK SMACK OH SERGIO NO NO SMACK SMACK OH SERGIO OOOHHH. Or he'd corner me in the apartment and whisper that he was going to kill me if I ever told his brothers he was back on cocaine.

But the worst was probably the Nazi house restorer who kept his crew working 18-20 hours a day, fed us cocaine to keep our speed up, and paid us cash out of a briefcase with guns in it. He demanded that we call him "the Ram Rod". One day he accused me of ruining the paint job in the kitchen with my incompetent prep work. After a good hour of throbbing neck-vein screaming he fired me. The next day he called and casually mentioned that it turned out it was the other guy's fault, and asked if I'd like to come back to work. I said no.
More...
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on July 31, 2013 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Anne18 40
Jen Graves - I do not understand you.

For me, the worst may have been the thrift store where the manager - who stole charity donations for kids to give to his own offsquirts for Christmas (and was the owner's son) - always had the radio dial set to the worst rock-country music EXCEPT when he'd put on the macarana (during the 90's craze) and require workers to dance (dance!) around while marking customer purchases off 50%. I didn't do this. I hid in the changing rooms.

OR was it working at a drug treatment center and having to collect UAs? Watching people pee at least 2x every shift and occasionally witnessing horrendous things or hear clients say "s'cuse me, I have the scoots" while stuck in a small room together?

Naw. The forced-macarana march wins hands down.
Posted by Anne18 on July 31, 2013 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Fnarf 41
Oh, yeah, and I forgot to mention the job doing telephone market research for a jewelry store. Turns out people are just a little suspicious of people calling them out of the blue and asking them detailed questions about their jewelry-buying habits. Makes getting sworn at on Slog a breeze in comparison.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on July 31, 2013 at 3:24 PM · Report this
Ryandroid 42
I worked as a research assistant at an unnamed hospital for an unnamed doctor who was investigating the effects of certain drugs on migraines. I worked 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm, sometimes 7 pm, and recieved a $5 an hour stipend. Typically I just did paperwork drudgery; I spent hours organizing massive boxes of billing forms and contact information after which the doctors and nurses rummaged through in an effort to locate a SPECIFIC document (despite me telling them I had implemented a simple and intuitive organizational system), leaving me to reorganize what I had just organized the next day on top of the other boxes that would be dropped off requiring organization.

Other times they would use me to calibrate their equipment they used to measure the intensity of their patients migraines. The device worked in this way: a sort of plastic wand with a ring at its tip would be lightly rested against the base of a patient's skull. At random intervals, it would send a short electromagnetic pulse through the brain while a series of electrodes would monitor brain activity and other vital signs. Imagine a piece of yarn, pulled taut and then energetically plucked. Every time that wand went off, I would feel this plucking sensation inside my skull, following a pathway that began at the base of my skull and ended just above my left temple.

The lead doctor was neurotic about ensuring that the machine was functioning properly and so they had me serve as a subject for calibrating this machine about 3 times a week. Each calibrating session consisted of 100 pulses, more or less. Eventually I actually DEVELOPED migraines that lasted long into the afternoons of calibration days.
Posted by Ryandroid on July 31, 2013 at 3:27 PM · Report this
Texas10R 43
Emily Nokes: per your revelation of your summer job.

"Irresponsible" hardly begins to describe your sixteen-year-old idiocy. People like you create needless barriers for other kids, who ARE NOT assholes, to get those rare summer jobs.

What an insufferable C**T!
Posted by Texas10R on July 31, 2013 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Fnarf 44
@43, I guess we know what your worst job is: being a dick on the internet. Reviewing your comment history, I see that telling women what they're doing wrong is sorta a hobby of yours. Is that a Texas thing? A tenor thing? Or just a garden variety asswipe thing?
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on July 31, 2013 at 4:04 PM · Report this
45
Working at Barnes & Noble was a great job, actually, until the day I had to pick up a turd from the bathroom floor. The LADIES' ROOM floor.

Mind-numbingly boring, and carpal-tunnel-inducing, was working at the Green Giant plant, breaking frozen ears of corn in half for 12-hour shifts, not being able to talk to anyone because of the loud machinery. But that paid $6.75 an hour way back 20 years ago, so that seemed pretty good to me as a young'un.

But really, the worst job ever was working the circulation desk at a small newspaper. The old people would start calling the second their paper wasn't there on time -- and I mean 7:00:01 am. And they were mean, so mean.
Posted by Escapee from S. Idaho on July 31, 2013 at 4:19 PM · Report this
Ginnnny 46
There is a job called "shakerboarder." I did this job for about a month in the winter of 2006, shaking a "$5 Hot & Ready!" sign outside a Little Caesar's by the freeway in North Portland, for hours in the rain and occasionally snow. Got paid cash under the table and free food sometimes, but I had to quit when I came down with a cold that wouldn't go away.
Posted by Ginnnny on July 31, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Fnarf 47
@45, the floor? You were lucky. At the coffee shop I mentioned above, I once had to clean human shit off the WALLS, where it had been smeared. Forgot about that one. The worst thing I ever had to clean out of the men's was broken glass out of the urinals (nearly every weekend, that). We shared toilets with San Jose's crustiest meat market disco.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on July 31, 2013 at 4:54 PM · Report this
48
@47, Yes, it not was that bad. But I always wondered ... how do you explain one little lonely turd on the ladies' room floor? Did someone stand up too fast? Someone's toddler took an adult-size crap and mommy didn't want to deal with it? It's a mystery.
Posted by Escapee from S. Idaho on July 31, 2013 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Deimos 49
@34 Oh man, I worked for them too. For like 2 days. My first day was "training", walking around with another guy who had been there a while. It was boring and kind of lame, but I thought I could deal with it. Day 2 I was on my own and had the cops called on me, a dog sicced on me, then to top it all off an old man opened up his front door with a rifle pointed at me and threatened to shoot me if I didn't get off of his property. I just never came back.
Posted by Deimos on July 31, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 50
Doing collections for leased telephones.

All the "customers" I dealt with were dead (with their kids paying the bills), dying (sometimes literally as we spoke and they thought I was the ambulance), or were addled with had nobody to take care of them, to tell them to stop paying $20 dollars a month and buy a phone for $5.

Those rackets were sleazy as fuck. When I was eventually let go (and oh so happy) they were still opening new "rental stores" in extremely poor areas that Best Buys wouldn't touch and that wouldn't be able to afford computers to order online.
Posted by undead ayn rand on July 31, 2013 at 6:52 PM · Report this
51
West of Dutch Harbor on a pollock processing barge, tied to another barge making fish fertilizer. 6hrs on, 6hrs off, 24/7, non stop...the pace of work was brutal. The stench from the fertilizer barge was unimaginable. Not even close to worth the money.
Posted by Hajushtysgtf on July 31, 2013 at 8:09 PM · Report this
52
I've had this conversation with every former bathroom cleaner. Did you find that the women's bathroom was always way grosser than the men's room? Like seriously every shift finding shit on the walls, used tampons stuck to the door, totally fucked up shit?

weird
Posted by Chris Jury http://www.thebismarck.net on July 31, 2013 at 10:29 PM · Report this
53
@52-- NO. Not even. Working retail is when I first started to realize that men were totally disgusting. When I was delegated to cleaning the bathrooms at Barnes & Noble, I always sighed and put on a mask before entering the men's room. I mean, WHAT THE FUCK!???? Even in a nice bookstore in a mid-size Idaho town, in a town without homeless people, the men's room still always smelled like urine. Always!! And other than that one turd, the women's bathroom was always fine. I don't know who you've talked to, but sorry --- men's restrooms always smell way, WAAAAAAY worse than the women's.
Posted by Escapee from S. Idaho on August 1, 2013 at 12:28 AM · Report this
54
#16 / Knat,

was it this one?

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/we-li…

("We Lived to Serve, We Served to Live")
Posted by ArdenC on August 1, 2013 at 6:30 AM · Report this
55
Lots of weird jobs in college, but the worst was the waitress at the Pancake restaurant. Mostly because, really, who wants to deal with a bunch of whiney kids who can't make up their minds on Sunday morning after partying Saturday night :)
Posted by lucyboots on August 1, 2013 at 9:55 AM · Report this
56
My worst job was at the student union at UCLA. I was assigned to work the door at the room where students were signing up for classes to make sure they were registered for that semester. An older gentleman, to my eyes obviously UCLA staff member, asked if he could speak to a lady working at the computers, and I let him in. The guy in charge came out and chewed me out, asking what if the guy had a gun. If you want a security guard, hire a security guard and not a student!
Posted by Lemon Laws on August 1, 2013 at 12:34 PM · Report this
57
I sold Tickets at the now defunct Fun Forest Amusement Park at the Seattle Center. It was a relic of the 1962 World's Fair and everything since then.
My first day of training I was told the customer is not always right, "the customer is always wrong, we have to make them right." We had to work without cash registers and got really quick with the math. That helped us figure out how to skim from the till too.
I would hear stories about how the ride supervisors expected a kick-back to give the operators overtime. The tickets seller got it whether we liked it or not.
We would start at 11:30am and work until about 8pm or 11pm to close. Weekends were until midnite and festivals started us an hour earlier.
It was like torture much of the time to be locked in a box waiting for something to do or daunted by the never-ending line.
I saw the film Adventureland to see if they got working in an amusement park right and amazingly they did get a lot right. Especially the supervisors preying on the cute teenage girls.
Posted by Lost in the forest on August 1, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Report this
58
I had a temp job where I sat at a computer and literally clicked a mouse button for 8 hours straight.
Posted by cb on August 1, 2013 at 1:00 PM · Report this
Knat 59
@54

Yes, I think that's it! Thank you, ArdenC!
Posted by Knat on August 1, 2013 at 2:51 PM · Report this
Big Matt G 60
Chopping cotton. 'Nuff said.
Posted by Big Matt G on August 1, 2013 at 3:01 PM · Report this
61
Katie Allison that was some funny stuff! Laughed so hard. Yeah, horses and women be tripping.
Posted by rayray on August 1, 2013 at 3:59 PM · Report this
62 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
63
marijuana share cropping or process serving. Tied. only uniting thread is i got a gun pulled on me in each setting.
Posted by Randy Beaver on August 1, 2013 at 4:26 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 64
@34,

Your story is why I won't donate through canvassers. The way those orgs treat them is shameful, and I'm not going to feed that beast.
Posted by keshmeshi on August 1, 2013 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Sweeney Agonistes 65
In high school I worked as a cashier at Kroger (the parent company of QFC). The area is on the border of suburb and exurb of Atlanta, and even today is a place where nice country folks, mostly blue-collar and not rich, live warily around the SUV-wielding, McMansion subdivision-dwelling imports. My coworkers were mostly high schoolers; they weren't bad. Store management, however, told us in no uncertain terms that if we didn't join the union, they'd find other high schoolers to take our place. An all-union shop was, and is, a rare thing in Georgia, and it soured me on unions for a long time (I would have joined voluntarily but balked at being told I had to if I wanted the job). I still don't think very kindly of the particular union that I joined.

When Bob Barr was trying to find a new seat in the U.S. House after he got gerrymandered out of one, back in the early 2000s, he was one of the SUV-driving horde, buying a McMansion near the Kroger in order to establish residency so he could run again. He came through my line, bought $300 worth of groceries, wrote a check -- and yelled at me for not running the check through the machine fast enough. His wife then yelled at him for yelling at me. I vote progressive and always have (which in exurban Atlanta was difficult); when I got to clock out for my break I went out to my car and called my mom so we could cackle together.

The politest customers were always the construction workers who came in to buy cases of Natty Light. My least favorite customers -- other than Bob Barr -- were the SUV drivers. Two that stand out: the man who yelled at me for not being able to intuit that he was red-green colorblind and thus I was supposed to run the card reader for him (he didn't ask me to do this, just yelled at me), and the man who came through my line right after a woman with a baby paid for milk and eggs with WIC vouchers who saw fit to spend a good five minutes telling me how welfare was evil and if he ran things women like her wouldn't be able to shop in places like this. At the time I was making ten cents over minimum wage.
More...
Posted by Sweeney Agonistes on August 1, 2013 at 6:46 PM · Report this
Arkham 66
@45 "But really, the worst job ever was working the circulation desk at a small newspaper. The old people would start calling the second their paper wasn't there on time -- and I mean 7:00:01 am. And they were mean, so mean."

Yep. The meanest ones are always insane over the tiniest things.
Posted by Arkham http://amaranta20.deviantart.com/gallery/ on August 1, 2013 at 8:28 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 67
Animal control: reaching into a trough of liquid dog shit to clear a drain, which was clogged with a dead puppy. And then there were the times when the walk-in Death Cooler didn't work. You think barrels of dead cats and dogs couldn't be worse, and then they get HOT... not to mention the normal shit-and-euthanasia aspects of the job. And the dumbshit guys who fight with you about neutering their escaped pitbulls. The inevitable, generalized misanthropy creeping into your soul. Etc.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder http://www.imeem.com/jukeboxmusic51/music/y1malqpG/prince-the-new-power-generation-featuring-eric-leeds-on-f/ on August 1, 2013 at 8:43 PM · Report this
seandr 68
I've had some shitty jobs - paper route at age 11 (up at 5:30 every morning), washed dishes at age 13 (in violation of child labor laws), washed cars at age 15, and wasted two of my best summers doing hard labor for a landscaping business.

The best job was a tie between weed dealer and sperm donor.

The worst, however, was working at Microsoft.
Posted by seandr on August 1, 2013 at 11:02 PM · Report this
69
Six months out of college in 2009 (not a good economic year, as all y'all may remember), my grace period ended and my $550/mo student loan payments kicked in. I got the highest paying retail job I could find: the diamond/engagement counter at a small, high end jewelry store.

I am a shit salesperson, and I don't like jewelry, and the diamond industry is evil, and I was in a lesbian relationship in a state where I couldn't get married, so watching rich-ass straight people come in and argue about "the fire of diamonds" before condescending to me about every which thing was torture. To make matters worse, I had to wear business dress (long-sleeve sweater or jacket) in a store that had literally hundreds of lightbulbs in it to illuminate the fucking "fiery" diamonds. It was like 85 degrees and I was in a wool sweater convincing rich people in t-shirts to spend thousands of dollars on an evil monopoly for 13 hours a day, for up 13 consecutive days without a break. To give you a sense of the wealth, I once saw a 16-year-old buy $4000 diamond hoops with cash.

I have a million more specific stories if you want 'em, but I think you can imagine what it was like.
Posted by torrentofbabies on August 1, 2013 at 11:25 PM · Report this
seandr 70
@45: The old people would start calling the second their paper wasn't there on time

Or if the paper was simply left on their step as opposed to inside the screen door, or with a particular side up inside the screen door, or in a special hollow in a bush, or folded, or not folded. Some demanded their paper at 6:00 even though the delivery deadline was 7:00. Sometimes they'd be waiting at the window to make sure their demands were met, or so they could come out and yell at you if you had done it wrong the previous day.

Yet they never seemed to be around when it was time to collect their monthly subscription fee. The supervisor would call you and ask why you hadn't turned in their payment, so you'd make special trips - after dinner or leaving all your friends on the playground - and finally they'd answer, annoyed as all hell, acting as though they were doing you a huge favor by paying their overdue bill, and shorting you a nickel.
Posted by seandr on August 1, 2013 at 11:35 PM · Report this
71

Jen, I too, once worked at a Susse Chalet motel, in Woburn, Massachusetts (just outside Boston) back in '88, albeit as the first shift desk clerk. (First shift is the worst, not only because it starts at 7am, but because, unlike 2nd shift, you both check people out - and hence, hear their complaints, and also have to check them in - twice the work that 2nd shift does.)

Anyway, Susse Chalet was a loser chain all the way around, and actually used to be called "Swiss Chalet", but they were sued by I believe a chicken restaurant chain who had the name already, so were forced to change the first word to this weird, nobody-knew-how-to-pronounce it name.

The place employed the biggest collection of bad news low down trash I've ever encountered. Liars and petty thieves and back stabbers and ex or soon to be cons. Our night auditor was a part time prostitute - scary, skanky, chain-smoking older broad with both an 18 yr old, and a nightmare, ridiculously out of control 4 year old who I'm positive had to have been the product of her mother hitting up the guests, which she did as routinely and unsubtle-ly as possible. You just wanted to bathe after leaving the place.

Posted by Velvetbabe on August 2, 2013 at 2:16 AM · Report this
72
Holy shit, my aunt owned that foam store! The location, the boat upholstery, everything.

Just, holy crap. I never thought i'd hear about that place again.
Posted by Thinkythought on August 2, 2013 at 4:32 AM · Report this
Most Peeps Are Assholes 73
Well, Emily, in all fairness, you were a thief. Let's hope you're no longer a thief now.
Posted by Most Peeps Are Assholes on August 2, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
74
@20: You're right, selling foam wasn't that bad. The job I had stamping the fabric content onto the inside collars of mountains of T-shirts in a dark warehouse for an importer was much worse. The foam job was odd, though, and it was at an odd juncture in my life.

@72: She was great! A bit brusque (which I don't consider a bad thing at all) and quite kind. She taught me the foam business with a lot of patience, much more than someone with an English degree trying to sew boat upholstery probably deserved. Give her my regards?
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on August 2, 2013 at 10:03 AM · Report this
75
@70 - I have to agree with a paper route being the worst job. Not because the job was so hard - the worst part of the actual job was probably being chased by various dogs, but that the paperboys had to pay for the papers and then collect from the subscribers. So, if I remember correctly, we paid 15 cents or so for the paper and we were supposed to collect 25 cents. However, despite spending probably twice as much time attempting to collect as spent actually delivering, I think I typically made $5/week for what amounted to approximately 20 hours of work. And that was only because some nice people would tip. If everyone paid, if I remember correctly, it should have worked out to around $30-40/week which was still crap.
Posted by randoma on August 2, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
shearwaves 76
@Emily Nokes, Tan family still owns the Higgins DQ. I got food poisoning there after the Pearl Jam show at Adams Center last fall...
Posted by shearwaves on August 2, 2013 at 2:42 PM · Report this
77 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
78
Oh, #73, how fucking righteous you are! Jeez, she was sixteen! Yeah, it was stealing but I'm sure she didn't realize that. It's not as if she was giving entire boxes away to cute boys. Granted, I did find it disturbing that she and her co-workers had a big food fight and then just left the mess for someone else. That's a sixteen year old for you, though.

Didn't YOU ever do something semi-criminal/amazingly stupid/obnoxious/childish at that age or have you always been so incredibly without fault?
Posted by DrummerGrrl on August 2, 2013 at 9:44 PM · Report this
79
I am a Nurse and owner of Nit Nurses a natural head lice removal service in Virginia, talk about a weird gig. I cannot complain because I absolutely love my job, but I do not like the looks that I get when I tell people what I do. They immediately get this look on their face as if they do not know what to say, and sometimes I even get their sincere condolences lol. It's certainly a weird "dirty job" but someone has to do it!!!
Posted by NitNurse on August 3, 2013 at 6:44 AM · Report this
80
I'd moved back in with my folks after a hitch in the Army, mostly spent in the former West Germany.
After several unsatisfying jobs, in the beginning of a horrible NE Ohio Winter,I accepted a position as driver/guard with an armored car company. 80% of my coworkers were reserve cops, ex-cops or wannabe cops and (not meaning to paint all police-types with them)one of the largest collectives of assholes I've ever encountered. At one time I'd considered looking into law-enforcement but they cured me of that delusion.
Posted by phranq on August 3, 2013 at 1:57 PM · Report this
81
Emily Nokes wasn't taught how to make change by her boss? Playing hooky in 4th grade when making change was taught?
Posted by billwald on August 3, 2013 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Most Peeps Are Assholes 82
@78 - Not fucking righteous - just not a thief like Emily was and like you support. According to you it's ok to steal a little, just not a lot. Where does that line occur? Perhaps the Enron guys thought they were just stealing a little.

I worked at a movie theater during my high school years, from 15 to 18. I was constantly asked by my classmates to let them in for free or give them free snacks from the concession stand. I always declined to do so and as one of my true friends pointed out - Real friends don't ask you to steal for them, only moochers do that.
Posted by Most Peeps Are Assholes on August 4, 2013 at 1:43 PM · Report this
83
"I suppose it wasn't the food fight as much as it was the decision not to clean it up. I mean, summer-only DQ was CLOSING, and there would be a deep, professional clean before the dormancy anyway."

Yeah, and you know who will do that deep, professional clean? Someone else with a shit job. A whole other person whose shitty workday you just made 100x worse. Oh, you were just sixteen? Maybe I'm some kind of fucking anomaly, but I'm pretty sure most of us learn by the time we're SIX that it's not okay to leave a mess for underpaid strangers. Oh, wait, never mind. That's not true. Messes. Messes everywhere, all the time, because people suck. Ugh. Glad you got your whimsical, coming-of-age story out of it...

--A Former Cleaning Lady
Posted by Tomahawk on August 4, 2013 at 4:13 PM · Report this
84
Language testing 5 and 6 year olds... I had to ask stupid questions in English and Spanish over and over and over again to squirrely little kids, and then read this dumb story in Spain-Spanish, while the kids I was reading it to were mostly farm-workers' children from Mexico. I didn't know the kids, and would never see them in the classroom. I had to give them a placement grade, based on their knowledge of Spanish-Spanish, rather than the language they knew. Plus, it was in little, hot rooms, during the summer. I would start to fall asleep mid-afternoon, and it was effing torture to stay awake and do exactly the same routine again and again. Adding to the boredom, the faster I got through the tests, the less work would be left to do, so I was motivated to do the test somewhat slowly as an hourly worker. The last thing that made it horrible was that I was counting calories and was super-hungry all the time. I remember eating bag after bag of sugar-free hard candy, and just being soooo tired, hungry and bored.
Posted by lalilolly on August 4, 2013 at 10:58 PM · Report this
85
@82 As an adult and a law-abiding citizen, if I had a friend who worked at a movie theater that didn't offer to let me in for free, that person would no longer be my friend. De minimis non curat lex.
Posted by pemulis on August 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM · Report this
superhyrulean 86
OK,get ready,I am going to kick all of your asses at your jobs...First up is the easter bunny:have you ever talked to the furry community at anthrocon in Pittsburgh every year about how it sucks? Next,the house painter:use a shower cap for your hair and go downwards on the ladder and raise you hand like the statue of liberty,then wave it,brushing the wall,it works better...
Security guard:take a walk and exercise and lay off the coffee,it makes your body more tired,I've done the "graveyard shift" before myself,don't just sit on your fat ass all night...
DQ cone maker:your family and boss is treating you like dog shit on a cone...they think it is a treat and want you to have some,grow two scoops between that cone of yours and say FUCK YOU ALL to them!
Sports reporter:you need to learn math,go back to school...no one is going to save your ass,next time...
Farmhand:try chickens instead...or pigs and cows...:-)
Foam maker:try selling other foam products like shipping peanuts or mattresses or hire the security guard that is in the article...
Brick maker:I know all about stone,use mudbricks or cement instead,it is easer then figuring out if you made the right kind of brick that is strong and not claylike and less stressful...
Hotel maid:need lemon pledge? Mister superman,no,he no home.. Lol..seriously,maid work is not THAT bad once you get into that mindset of carelessness...
SEE? I CAN DO ALL YOUR FUCKING PATHETIC JOBS AND STILL DO MY OWN...you guys at the stranger are weak...I can eat a can of alphabet soup and shit out on paper a better paper than this...

Posted by superhyrulean on August 7, 2013 at 2:11 AM · Report this
87
I was a janitor.

At my own high school.

While I was a student.
Posted by CycloneKit on August 9, 2013 at 2:35 PM · Report this

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