Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Jobs I have known

Happy belated Thanksgiving! Did you all eat an inhuman amount of food, too? Here is a breakdown of what I gorged myself on, as prepared by my wonderful mother (with very limited help from my sister, my stepdad, and me): goat cheese crisps with mushroom ragout, turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turnip fluff, coleslaw, beet salad, holuptsi (cabbage rolls, for you non-Ukrainians), glazed carrots, cranberry sauce, dill pickles, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie with a gingersnap crust, and whipped cream. Each and every item on the list was entirely homemade, up to and including the dill pickles, and it was all absolutely delicious. Scrumptious, even.

In addition to stuffing my face, I got to play a goodly amount of crib (I won exactly 50% of the games - not really a stellar record), did some good-natured family-bashing, washed a whack of dishes, and watched a few episodes of season one of The Office (the American version). It was a delightful long weekend that allowed me to forget how dissatisfied I am with my work situation. However, as I rolled myself out of bed and into the shower this morning (sadly, almost literally), all of that work crap came flooding back. The intense boredom. The isolation and loneliness. The unknown and possibly scary changes a-comin'.

In an effort to show myself that it could always be worse, I present to you Crappy Jobs I Have Known:

1. Cleaner
I was about 12 years old and this was my very first job. My then-step-dad paid me to go into his store on Sundays (after he dragged me to church) and clean. He sold bedroom furniture and closet organizers and things like that, so it was mostly like doing housework. It actually was kind of fun - I got to listen to the radio the whole time because the store was closed, and there's something really satisfying about housecleaning. There are defined tasks to complete, there are small victories (yes! the vacuuming is done! on to the dusting...), and there's always an end in sight. Plus I got paid to do this! Mom never paid me to clean at home! So why was this job crappy (besides the fact that I was a kid and what kid wants to work)? Firstly, I had to spend the entire day with my then-step-dad. Not fun. There was a reason my mom chose to raise two children on her own rather than stay with him. And secondly, I was paid $5 a week! Even for a 12-year-old in 1987, that wasn't much. Interesting side note: I think this job got me used to being paid to clean. No one's giving me a dime to clean my apartment? Not gonna do it then. So there.

2. Private flute lesson teacher
As mentioned previously, I used to play the flute in a community band. There were four differnt bands you could be in, and as the years went by you would audition to move up a level. Once you reached the highest level you earned the right to provide private lessons to kids in the lower bands. When I was 14, I graduated into the highest level band and was super excited to teach flute lessons. I sure didn't know what I was in for. I had visions of young pupils staring up at me, all awestruck and admiring. They would write down my words of wisdom word for word and practice feverishly all week just so they could impress me with their progress the following weekend. Apparently I failed to remember back to when I was a pupil and would scrawl down cryptic notes in my lesson book, forget to look at anything again until an hour before my next lesson, and practice madly right before I had to leave because I thought that would fool my teacher. (Hmm...looking back, I see that not much has changed.) Anyway, my students were awful. They didn't want to be there, the didn't respect me, and they never practiced. Oh, also? One of my students was my little sister! Talk about impossible! She never listened to me or believed that what I said was true in non-lesson life. Why would she listen to me as her tutor? Well, the answer to that was she didn't. Mom quickly saw that this arrangement would only lead to disaster and quickly found another teacher for her.

3. Canvasser
I was so super stoked for this job when I started it the summer after grade 12. Why on earth would anyone be excited to go door to door, begging for money? Because it was for Greenpeace! And I was a treehugger! What could be more perfect? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Let me tell you what could have been more perfect: ANYTHING! Their, ahem, office was a tiny, possibly-condemned downtown bachelor apartment. "They" were a bunch of miserable, anemic-looking, chain-smoking twenty-something-year-old hipocrites. My training consisted of a pamphlet thrust at me the second I entered the room. I was quickly introduced to the other canvassers and assigned a buddy. Lexie was friendly enough but when we received our assigned section of the city, she told me the best way to learn is to plunge right in. She made me do the first house we went to by myself. I struggled and stammered through a half-hearted pitch only to have the man laugh and tell me he wouldn't give money to Greenpeace even if the planet was on its last legs. As I walked dejectedly back down the driveway Lexie popped out from behind a tree, laughing her ass off at me. She pointed out all the things I had done wrong and offered no pointers on how to improve. After five more hours of this, I had enough. I worked for Greenpeace for one day.

4. Professional grease-squisher-outer
Unlike most people, I was in university (rather than high school) when I got the ubiquitous fast food job. Apparently, those few years make a huge difference because a lot of people I know who worked there in high school rather enjoyed their time there. I hated it. First of all, I really wanted to be out front serving customers but but they stuck me in the kitchen. I can do things well or I can do them quickly. I cannot do both. As you may guess, that didn't go over well during the suppertime rush. I apologize to anyone who, back in the summer of 1994, received cold hamburgers topped with ketchup, onions, and syrup. Also, most of the people there were a lot younger than I was and had been working there for a number of years. This odd mix of immaturity and seniority resulted in rude jokes and pranks at my expense and a feeling of me against all of them. AND one of my tasks was to squish grease out of the hamburger patties as they came through the grilling machine. Really!

5. Hostile Hostel worker
Nostalgia allows me to turn this job I had in my early twenties into the Best! Job! Ever! But when I look at those five years with cold reason, I admit it had it share of awfulness, too. The Good: I got to meet really interesting people from all over the world. Most of my co-workers were fun, young people who loved to travel. One of my co-workers eventually became my girlfriend of 6 years. I was rarely bored - when there was no one to deal with at the front desk, I could clean; when the cleaning was done, I could do yardwork; when everything was done, I would visit with the guests. I liked the mix of physical work (the cleaning, the yardwork) and office work. The Bad: I had to work split shifs: 7 a.m. to 10 a.m and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. My sleep schedule was completely wonky. I always stayed up far too late and ended up napping for most of my time off in between shifts. I only received one raise the entire five years I was there, and that was because minimum wage went up. I had zero benefits. I had to work bingos. I received a month of vacation every year when the hostel was closed...in JANUARY! Who wants time off in fucking January? The Ugly: The manager was awful. She hated travelling and didn't like young people. The guy she got to live in the small apartment in the back so that someone was there at all times in case of emergency was awful. He was an alcoholic who was friendly enough on sober days and super icky every other day. Even though he was supposed to stay in his apartment, when he was drunk he was always lurking around the hostel. He was in his seventies but hit on all the young female guests. He wore a loosely fastened, threadbare bathrobe all hours of the day. Most of the time he forgot to put in his teeth. He got weepy and depressed. He invited prostitutes into his tiny apartment. Some of the guests were awful, too. There was the former businessman who had been sent to jail for embezzlement who always said your name and asked permission for everything. "Hey Nat. I'm going to go to the bathroom, okay Nat? And then, Nat, I'm going to go to church, k?" There was the weirdo who was supposedly biking across Canada but stayed with us for over a month and ate Burger King every day. There was the woman who kept placing packages of raw meat addressed to various Canadian celebrities into the coin lockers in the basement. I spent my last day at the hostel out on the deck, sipping tequila from a coffee cup, and visiting with two awesome guests from the U.S.

So you see? It could always be worse! Things can only get better! A job is what you make of it! Yadda, yadda, yadda. Tell me, what are the awful jobs that you've had to endure over the years? The crappier, the better.

(As if to prove how lucky I am, the universe offered up this guy on my way to work this morning. Perhaps my little city can't afford those big, expensive street sweeping machines and have hired him to do the job. Good luck, buddy!)


  1. hmm crappy jobs - the list is endless my friend - especially compared to my job now, but the 1st one - almost the worst - delivering the Port Aurthur Times in Fort Frances Ontario. the papers were delivered to my house between 1 and 3 in the am, from the day before. I got up and delivered them so that people could read them with coffee over breakfast. which menat get my but out of bed before 6 so that i coud get back home inhale brekky and get to school. i started the route in October - not so smart. Ontario winters in the lake district are bitter wet cold - like Saskatchewan cold with water. i was paid 10 cents a week for each subscription (2 cents a day) but there were something like 35 or 40 on my route which worked out to 7 or 8 bucks every 2 weeks. That was ALOT of cash, cigarettes were 65 cents a package and penny candy menat you got more than one candy for a penny.1971

  2. Ooh, I delivered papers as an adult and yes, it sucks. I think I must have blocked that from my memory when I was writing this up!

  3. Your Thanksgiving weekend sounds fan-fucking-tastic. I love your mom already and I've never even met her.

    Wow. Your hostel job makes me cringe. I'm glad you met a nice gal out of the deal but, holy crikey.

    You already know my worst job. Some of the other ones were Micky D's (when I was in my early 20s, no less - how much fun is it to have 16-year-old managers tell you what to do??) oh, and the night shift at the meat packing plant.