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Poll: What Was Your Worst Job?

When I was fourteen or fifteen, I worked at the Trap N Skeet Club outside of Elko, Nevada. My job was to sit underground in this terrible little bunker about the size of a telephone booth.

I sat with a giant greasy machine between my legs. A blade revolved from the base of the machine, zooming in near my chest with each pass.  And each time it passed, I had to put a clay pigeon on the blade, then get my fingers out of the way before someone pushed the button outside.

When a shooter yelled “Pull!” a luckier employee would push a button and they’d all fire their shotguns. The buckshot would scatter against the wall behind my head and I’d wonder just how safe I was.

Drinks and Ammo

It was a strange setup. A woman I’ll call Janice ran the club and sold the shotgun shells. She also tended the bar. So everyone would pour in and drink for two or three hours before loading up on fresh ammunition. After they were all done proposing to Janice they’d stumble outside and wave their loaded shotguns around like lethal baton twirlers.

I did the job because I wanted the money and I was in love with Janice. I figured that if I spent enough time underground for her, she’d totally come down there in the bunker and do me…or something.

She never noticed me. But the shooters did. At least, they did when I wasn’t doing my job fast enough for them.

A Rough Crowd

Most of the men were interchangeable. Few were agreeable. The only one who really stood out was an Arab man who only had one leg. The other one got chopped off by an outboard motor on a boat. We never felt too bad for him because he was very good-natured, liked to joke, and he owned a couple of jets.  I believe he would have resented anyone’s pity.

But again, they were all interchangeable once they were slobbering drunk and armed to the crooked teeth.

Tourette’s In The Bunker

One symptom of my Tourette’s that you haven’t heard about yet is my need to touch hot or sharp things. Show me an open, burning light bulb and I’ll tap it with my fingers, lean my forehead against it, and any other number of foolish activities. Same thing goes with knives. I have a hard time visiting the dentist because I’m always biting down on sharp things when I shouldn’t be.

That blade in the bunker was hell for me.  I couldn’t figure out how to bite it, but I would push on it with my fingers, daring it to go off and break my hand apart. I’d be underground for over an hour. Sometimes closer to two. When I’d get done, someone would knock on the roof–my signal to finally get out.

Sometimes they forgot to knock and I’d sit there with the empty blade whirring around to keep me company.

But I figured it would be worth it. One day the knock on the roof would come, and Janice would grab my hand and take my gangly fourteen year old body inside the bar and really let me have it, fierce-like.

It never happened, and that is one of the reasons that the Trap N Skeet was my worst job.

Now…I know you have had at least one job and I know there are things you didn’t like about it. Tell us about your worst job in the comments section.

Josh


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  • Janette H August 27, 2009, 7:08 am

    During one summer, I worked for a temp agency. I dreaded that 6:45 am phone call about working for some place for a day or two or more. One time I agreed to work for a frozen food company. I reported to an assembly line. I was given a box of frozen fish cutlets and told to put four pieces of fish into every box that came by.
    I hate fish. The smell of fish makes me sick. Then they were frozen and my fingers quickly worked through the cotton gloves I was given.
    Then there was the assembly line…boxes moving past at the speed of light, over and over, and over and over. After three hours I was so motion sick I could hardly stand up straight. I left early.
    That summer was spent in the company of disagreeable people, in filthy rat-infested filing rooms, and the steamy atmosphere of the a hospital laundry.
    Temp work is always an adventure, but unfortunately not a good one.

  • Adham August 27, 2009, 8:11 am

    As a student, I worked for an events company. One of the events was a weekend away for a large medical insurance company. About 200 delegates were hosted in the 5 star royal livingston hotel at the Victoria Falls. There were 2 dedicated photographers, who were equipped with fancy high speed cameras, and limitless supplies of 10gb memory cards.
    As a gift to the delegates, each of them was presented with a photo album on the last day. The album only contained photographs in which they appeared.
    I was part of the three man team, whos’ sad respisibility it was to be the hapless “image identifiers”. We sat from about 8pm to 6am, sifting through thousands of photographs, matching them up with mugshots, and them building the albums. I wish such mindless drudgery on no one!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 8:42 am

      Adham, that’s absolutely horrible. How long were you there for?

  • Beth L. Gainer August 27, 2009, 8:32 am

    How many worst jobs have I had? Let me count the ways.

    The worst job I ever had was working at Arthur Andersen (I did no shredding) as a technical writer. I worked 60-70 hours a week with some really nasty people who insulted me. They abused me by telling me I was “conceptually slow,” and my boss called me “stupid” for staying later to get work done.

    I rarely called in sick, but when I did because of the flu, my boss told me that the only legitimate reason for not coming to work was if I were dead.

    It was a morally reprehensible place, and every job since then has seemed true glory compared to working at that white-collar sweathouse.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 8:43 am

      Beth, I almost got a master’s degree in Technical Writing. I tried to convince myself that it sounded “fun.” I’m glad that didn’t work out:) How long were you there for?

  • Megan Horton August 27, 2009, 8:52 am

    Hole watcher at Newmont Mines. I was paid quite well actually to follow a mining crew around for 13 hours and watch as they went into various holes…such as a pipe, an underground hole etc. They would go in, sometimes for hours and I would sit on the 16th story of a huge steel structure and wait for them to come out. I wasn’t even allowed a book. I just had to wait and make sure they came out of whatever hole they crawled into. I made it for six days. It was too much for my 20 year old sass-filled self at the time. The pay was good, but not good enough to conquer the boredom. I spent a good 12 hours of the hour days alone on the top of that lonely building. So boring. Also, one day the elevator broke so I had to walk up and down 16 flights of stairs about 100 times that day. NO kidding, and I don’t like excercise. That’s no secret. Also, I had to get up about 3am to make the bus out to the mine. The trip was 2 hours there and 2 hours back. I would pull up and it was dark, and the buildings were all lit up with this orange light. I remember that orange light instantly filling me with sorrow at the sight of it. When I left at night it was once again dark and everything was lit by the strange, depressing orange light. That job sucked. Bad

  • Kelly August 27, 2009, 9:05 am

    Worst job ever has got to be working for the DNC right after graduating from college. At first I was excited to be working with the campaign for governor, but it went downhill fast. I had to walk door to door in the boonies of East TX completing surveys. In the dead of summer. Everything about it sucked. I lasted one month.

  • Blaine Moore August 27, 2009, 9:12 am

    Worst job for me is simple – I used to “play” a video game for a living. It sucked (and that’s seriously it sucked, not me being a smart ass it sucked.)

    I started out in Quality Control at Tiburon, a studio in central Florida for Electronic Arts. That studio made the NCAA Football, Madden NFL and Nascar Thunder video games for the major consoles and PC.

    The job was basically to sit around testing every little thing about the games every day and writing up bug reports, which would then get fixed and then have to be tested again.

    My job was working on the 2003 PC version of Madden NFL. I don’t mind playing a video game now and again, but I’m not a hardcore gamer by any means and probably 90% of the people in Q/C there are. Thankfully, they didn’t mind if I concentrated on the networking and menu interface for the game since everybody else would rather work on “testing” the game itself.

    Within a month or so, I was the putting in more bugs and having fewer bugs bounce back to me for further information than anybody else on the team, so I got promoted to database manager. They told me that my production would drop but not to worry about that since managing the database was more important. My production did drop; instead of 3 times more bugs than anybody else I was only putting in a bit under twice as many. I was also reviewing everybody else’s bug write-ups and either rewriting them or bouncing them back for clarification before they got to the developers or closing them as duplicates of ones that were already in the system.

    So, at this point, not a fun or great job but not a horrible job and there were certainly some fun perks. I’d have preferred to be making more money but I was on a 6 month break from college (as part of my degree) and was living cheaply with my brother. My hourly wage (even on overtime) was way less than the job I’d had 9 months earlier that was down the road, but so be it.

    Then towards the end of the contract came crunch time. The last 3 months or so (maybe 4) we worked 16-20 hour days 6-7 days per week. If you wanted to skip work, nobody really cared as long as you called in so that your work could be reassigned to somebody else; one guy didn’t come in for 4 days straight w/o calling in and that made things tough since at the end of hte day we’d realize his assignments still needed to be done. (His excuse? “Desert island, no phone.” Real reason? I think that’s when Morrowind or one of those types of games had come out.)

    It wouldn’t be uncommon to go in to work at about 9 or 10 am (sometimes earlier), leave work between 2 and 4 am (sometimes later) and still have the 30 minute drive each way. At least I got to avoid the summer heat and most of the traffic on my way home.

    I’d almost always bring my lunch and dinner to eat there, but on our dinner breaks this was the only job where I didn’t care about getting drunk. A few of us would go to a local bar that had some good imports, have a couple beers, head back to the parking lot, have quite a few more beers, then go back into work for another 6 or 7 hours (I’d be sober before having to drive home.) I’d Q/C my own work the next day and while my production would be down on those nights, the work itself was still good.

    On a side note, I was there when the “letter from a developer’s wife” hit the internet that was an open letter to EA from a game designers wife who complained about the shady employment practices, bad working conditions, and lack of job security to the company.

    So, by the end of that contract, it was a high stress, long hours (80-100 hours/wk), little sleep sort of job that involved sitting in front of the same game every single day for months on end for very little pay even when you did count the time and a half for overtime. (I think EA’s estimates for what to pay people were to take what would be a fair wage, divide that by 2, and then overtime would come out to 75% of what the job is actually worth.)

    For some reason they couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to keep working for them once Madden NFL shipped and instead was going to go back to college. You’d think they’d take that as a sign they should hire more people with actual development experience and that had worked with a real quality control team before rather than sticking to their usual “gamers who need a job” crowd for that position.

    On a side note, after becoming the database manager one of the guys that came onto my team was a former bouncer at a bar in upstate New York that had kicked me out once after my girlfriend of the time got rambunctious. He was a little strange; too many steroids in years past had left his knees so weak that he’d randomly fall over while standing around or walking when his knee gave out.

    If you do have the PC version of Madden NFL 2003, you can see my name in the credits. So I guess that counts for something.

  • aaron p. August 27, 2009, 10:09 am

    I’ve had so many sucky jobs that it’s hard for me to narrow it down to one. I’ve done telemarketing (lasted 5 days), phone tech service (1.5 years) and worked in an arcade (almost got in a fist fight with a parent over yelling at their child).

    After thinking about it for a minute, I think I have narrowed down my worst job ever. It was the summer of my sophomore year of college and I had blown all of my residual financial aid money on booze and eating out. So I went to a Man Power office and the bastards hooked me up with a sweet job working in an aluminum foundry.

    It wasn’t a large operation which meant that I had to learn multiple jobs. This included skimming the vats, popping the trough, setting the hooks, driving a forklift,shaving the aluminum blocks, driving the skid steer, loading the furnace, and taking care of the lye pit. Even better, since they were short-handed when I joined, I had to learn it quickly. So in the course of 2, 12-hour days, I learned all the listed activities. The best part was that I never ate because of the heat. I just drank water and popped electrolyte pills.

    My favorite memory from the job was the way that people kind of crooned over me. Even though the job sucked, the guys who worked there were big on safety and the guys were really worried that my dreadlocks would burst into flames when the molten aluminum popped. So, everyday when I clocked in, one of these grizzled older men would take the time to wrap my ponytail in several of the leather spats we used to protect our shoe laces. I still laugh when I remember one of them saying “Hey man, if your hair catches fire, don’t run. We got a blanket right here and over there and we’ll put you out.”

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 6:23 pm

      @aaron P. That is awesome. I had a similar reaction to my own white-guy dreadlocks while working at a gold mine. I worked around lots of big gears and wheels and everyone just knew I’d be sucked in sooner or later. Man Power–that’s how I got that job, too.

  • John August 27, 2009, 10:39 am

    Back in college, I once took a summer job as a custodial worker at the school. It was as awful as you’d expect a custodial job to be. So on my second day, when everyone went for a coffee break, I just left without telling anyone and never came back.

    Unfortunately, I still went to school there so every so often I’d run into one of them. It was still a smart move.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 4:41 pm

      John, I was a custodian at a gold mine in Nevada for one summer. I don’t blame you.

  • Bill W. August 27, 2009, 11:01 am

    CATCH the ball!

    I was hired one summer to catch, yes catch, golf balls. When the hoighty-toighty country club we were at found they had too many caddies, they asked me and my friend Brad to head to the driving range the next morning…with our baseball mitts. I brought mine; Brad didn’t because he thought they had mixed their sports up.

    The members, it turned out, didn’t like having their golf balls hit the ground when they practiced their drives. I putt on my mitt, Brad put on a brave face and we (tried to) catch these line drive, banana-curved shots from a bunch of twead-covered codgers all hitting at nearly the same time. “CATCH THE BALL!” they’d roar if one hit the ground (understandably, Brad dropped quite a few). After 90 minutes I hauled a big burlap bag of Titleists to the pro shop, sorted them and was paid by the pro. (Brad had left after he lost all feeling in his hands). The geezers who had tried to kill me with golf balls all laughed and tipped me (25 cents each).

    I accidentally dropped their putters in front of a moving golf cart before putting their bags up for their tee off.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 4:41 pm

      @Bill W. I hope you didn’t spend all of those lofty tips in one place.:)

  • Kathy August 27, 2009, 11:46 am

    My worst job was as a dental assistant and I’d have to clean out the cannister (put my arm in it with a paper towel–it couldn’t be rinsed down the sink) that held all the things that got sucked out of people’s mouths while in the chair! You can only imagine!!

  • Ren August 27, 2009, 1:26 pm

    I worked at a pet shop in a shopping mall for all of 6 days. I blamed my departure on the harsh bleach solution that was used to clean the cages. It was mixed so strong that I used to get dizzy from the fumes and the skin on my hands would resemble that of an albino crocodile with a bad sunburn. I tried to water it down a bit, but was told that the strong concentration was necessary to kill germs and mask odors. As bad as it was, that was only one of the reasons.

    Truth be told, I quit because I couldn’t stand to be the one responsible for the red eyes, running noses and lethargy of the kittens and puppies that were exposed to the bleach fumes. I also couldn’t stand the fact that the puppies came from puppy mills (as much as the signs around the store said to the contrary), or the turtle that nobody could touch because it was slowly dying from some kind of fungus (yet it was still for sale), or the parrots that were so bored and neurotic that they were pulling out their feathers.

    No, it was easier to tell the boss that the bleach solution was just too strong for me to handle. I still feel guilty for not telling him the real reasons.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 4:39 pm

      Ren, you gave him a better reason than some I’ve seen. I once talked my friend Curtis into quitting his job at Kmart so we could go to a movie. He didn’t even give an excuse:)

  • Philippe Til August 27, 2009, 2:00 pm

    Summer 1993. Universal Studios Theme Park parking lot attendant. Stood in the sun for 5 hours, no break, no water, in the heat of the Valley, high noon to “high five”. Pretty sure it was illegal.
    The next day/evening, similar, but inside a parking lot, breathing in all the exhaust fumes. Quit the very next day (lasted a total of 3). My paycheck was $120 and change before taxes, and they took $50 for a freaking “Union” fee out of whatever was left.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 4:38 pm

      Philippe, whenever I’m at an amusement park, two things always strike me: how hot the asphalt is beneath my feet, and how miserable the workers look. That sounds truly miserable.

  • Jessica Marie August 27, 2009, 3:26 pm

    Wow, my worst job seems like nothing compared to everyone else.
    I would say my worst was working up at a resort by West Yellowstone during the summer. I worked 6 and a half days a week (minimum of 15 hours a day) and lived in a one room cabin with no running water. Because it got so cold at night, I used a chamber pot instead of running the 100 yards to the nearest bathroom. A few days before my last day I collapsed from exhaustion. I was, however, paid pretty well.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 4:37 pm

      @Jessica Marie. “Worst” is relative. So far nobody else has collapsed from exhaustion in this thread.

  • Ryan Carty August 27, 2009, 3:55 pm

    When I was 15 I wanted some spending money and my parents were not going to oblige. At 15 its hard to get to a job, even if you can find one and I really did not want to work at McDonald or some other fast food place. One lovely summer evening, a van was dropping kids off on my street and they were going door to door selling subscriptions to the local newspaper. They talked me into coming to meet with the driver of the van who offered me a job selling papers. My parents agreed and I went out the next night.

    It was without doubt, the creepiest two nights of my life. Selling papers was easy but boring and I felt sort of ridiculous doing it. It was the time in the van that was the most creepy. The boss, cant remember his name, would always make these overtly sexual jokes about masturbation and group sex. The others laughed like it was the funniest stuff ever but it weirded me out in the worst way. I told my parents I did not want to do the job anymore and they told me I at least had to tell the guy I was quitting, though I just wanted to not show up at the usual meeting place and let him figure it out. I called him and he basically told me I was a quitter…which I guess was technically true, but I couldn’t face another night in the back of that van.

    The best actual selling experience happened the first night when I was with a “trainer”. Some middle aged lady offered us a sandwich and a beer, which my partner took, and had us come sit at the table while she pondered purchasing a paper.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 4:36 pm

      @Ryan Carty. That does sound weird. I’m glad you quit. If you hadn’t, maybe today you’d own that van.

  • Stephane August 27, 2009, 4:17 pm

    When I was 14 years old, I applied at a local coop for youth employment. Basically, they acted like an agency, finding odd jobs around town, then matching the youth on their list with the employer.

    My first “assignment”, lucky me, was with a local farmer to pick green beans in his “field”.

    Now, the terms of the coop were, regardless of job, the pay was $6 an hour. The farmer negotiated a deal with the coop team leader, stating that one can fill a bushel of green beans easily in one hour, therefore he could pay $6 per bushel filled. The coop agreed.

    My first day, 12 of us showed up that morning at 7am sharp. The farmer’s field was probably no bigger than a football field. Nice.

    We started picking… and picking… I think by lunch hour, I had about a bushel and a half… by the end of the day, I got 2 bushels. I remember having to go back through my rows to see if I could find any remaining beans, so I could fill my bushel. I think one guy got 3 or 4 bushels… all that for 12 hours of work.

    I still remember it to this day… farmer sittin’ in his truck, each guy loading his bushels on the flatbed, and him calling out the pay rate… “Stephane… 2 bushels, that’ll be $12.”

    Needless to say, but my mother called the coop that evening, and gave them heck, and they gladly paid me a full day’s wage.

    Never went back… my next gig was babysitting… at least they got the pay right, but still wasn’t enough but watching a baby and 2 toddlers for 11 hours per day!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 6:21 pm

      Stephane, I don’t think any babysitters make enough. We always try to pay ours well above the going rate. 12 hours of work for $12 sounds even worse.

  • TheWordWire August 27, 2009, 4:48 pm

    This sure doesn’t top your story, but for a time in college I used to survey farmers by telephone on behalf of a fertilizer company. I was paid .50 above my hourly wage for each survey I could get someone to complete, so I was glad to have figured out a little secret: It didn’t matter where in the country I called… the thicker I put on a Southern accent, the more likely someone was to participate. I didn’t then, and still don’t, know a thing about farming.

  • Daisy August 27, 2009, 7:20 pm

    This is a tough one. Was it substitute teaching, or was it the summer job in food service with no A/C and the dirty-old-man cook? “You want the storeroom keys? Reach inside my pocket, dearie, they’re down there.” Blech.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 7:55 pm

      Daisy, that’s one more comment involving a deviant co-worker. I think I might prefer that guy’s hand in my pocket to substitute teaching. Maybe.

  • Casey August 27, 2009, 7:23 pm

    I worked as a pizza delivery guy for Little Ceaser’s. That by itself might be hellish enough, but my boss made it all the more worse.

    He was this middle aged arab man, who just happened to be the biggest pervert I’ve ever come across. His favorite thing to to do when I was loading up to go on a run was talk (to no one in particular) of his varying acts of depravity.

    After about a month of abuse I told him I was leaving for a few weeks to go backpacking. When he told me that I hadn’t given enough warning and that I couldn’t go, I responded that I wasn’t asking to go, I was telling.

    About a month later, a few weeks after back packing I was driving past the pizza place and wondered if I still had my job. Sense I was never technically told I was fired.

    I went in and spoke with the assistant manager, who besides being slightly air-headed was quite nice. She was surprised to see me, and when I asked honestly didn’t know if I still worked there.

    Who knows… To this day, I may technically still be an employee of Little Ceaser’s!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 27, 2009, 7:54 pm

      Casey, you should drop by and try to collect a paycheck.

  • Mike CJ August 28, 2009, 3:35 am

    What a great post, and what a fantastic series of comments!

    I kind of feel guilty here, but I’ve never had a job I don’t like! Even feeding the pigs at my local farm during the school holidays was quite fun, despite the back breaking nature of the work.

    Not sure if I should feel deprived or envious?!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 28, 2009, 7:08 am

      @Mike CJ. I’m happy for you. What’s your secret?

  • Beth L. Gainer August 28, 2009, 1:00 pm

    Josh,

    I was there for five long years. I sent resumes out after 15-hour days, which was a feat. I don’t have a master’s in Technical Writing, but one in Eng. Literature. Anybody who can write can be a tech writer.

    You did the right thing by not getting a masters in tech writing. Too specific to be helpful, I think.

    Oh, and get this, I wrote user documentation for federal and state tax software. DOUBLE YUCK!!

  • Pete | The Tango Notebook August 29, 2009, 8:30 am

    I go back and forth between always working at my family bakery and working several jobs elsewhere. Although the family bakery is comfortable, I hate working there.

    Last year, I had a breakdown and quit for a week. I went down the street to another Greek restaurant and got my first job as a waiter.

    The boss seemed flexible and patient with me, especially considering she hired me because I’m Greek (I walked in off the street, and asked for the job and got it!).

    Day 2 of the job (it only lasted 3 days total), the boss blatantly yelled at me in front of all the customers:

    “You’re going to work when I need you to work and that’s final. If you wanna be lazy, then get out of here!”

    I politely took off my apron and handed in my honorary diner pad and paper. I’ve never quit anything so fast in my life before.

    Don’t work for Greeks 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne August 29, 2009, 8:41 am

      Pete, thanks for the advice. I’m going to go withdraw my application at Yanni’s Gyro house:)

  • Pete | The Tango Notebook August 29, 2009, 8:44 am

    You have chosen…

    WISELY!

  • Pamela Wilson August 29, 2009, 5:22 pm

    Cleaning toilets at a fun park that I worked at. That was the worst part of the job. The best part was getting to slide down the slides on a regular basis on a hot day – all in the name of work, of course …. having to check for razor blades on the slides.

  • madz September 8, 2009, 8:07 pm

    If I were to choose, that woud be being a Business Analyst and Quality Analyst at the same time at a telecom company that would require me to work 24/7 *argh*

    • Josh Hanagarne September 8, 2009, 8:11 pm

      Madz: They both sound indescribably awful. How long were you at them both?