Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Worst job meme

There's a meme started at fivecentnickel.com about bad jobs. I've been pretty lucky, and I'm sure my worst jobs pale in comparison to others', but I do have a couple bad stories-- luckily, only from short-lived summer jobs as a teenager. Actually, they both date from the same summer, when I was 18.

To set the scene, there was about a month left of summer when I was flooded out of a job (no, seriously, a heavy rain broke a dam and a man-made lake did some serious damage to the little podunk water park). That's a pretty inconvenient length of time-- too long to say "forget it," but too short to find many job options open. I came up with two.

The first was at the local newspaper. It was an overnight shift doing newspaper assembly. I had to lift piles of newspaper that were too heavy for my 90-pound-weakling arms, the place was steaming hot, and the machines were so loud that I thought I was going insane. That would have been bad enough on its own, but in my sleep-deprived 3am state, it brought me to the edge of tears, and I seriously considered walking off the job in the middle of the night. I managed to hang on through my scheduled shift, but I couldn't imagine coming back. I still shudder a little thinking back on that one long night.

So then I signed up for a temp agency, and they hooked me up with an inventory gig at a BMW plant: 8 hours straight of counting. Now, I don't know if other people have done work like this, but I found it excruciating. Partially because it was mindnumbingly boring, but I've had other jobs that were that boring and didn't mind them much. But the problem with inventory is that you're constantly counting, so you absolutely can not let your mind wander or you'll lose your place and have to start over. My mind wanders at the best of times, and when I'm bored it's a crucial escape. The problem with the inventory was that there was no escape from the boredom. It was a three day job, but on the morning of the third day they gave a call and told us they wouldn't need a full crew to finish up, so that day would be optional. "No thanks!" I said eagerly.

I am really lucky that, as a middle-class teenager supported by her parents, I had the freedom to flee those lousy jobs without looking back. I didn't think much of it at the time, but at both of these jobs, I was working aside mostly adults. (Most of my teen-dominated jobs were actually pretty fun.) I don't know if my adult coworkers hated the jobs as much as I did, but they couldn't've enjoyed them, and I'm sure they couldn't just leave as casually as I did. And it's sad to think that while I get to do fun work that I love now, many of those same people are probably still at miserable jobs like those-- and I'm the one making more money...


frugal said...

Time or youth are one of the most precious thing in life. You can afford to make mistake, piss off boss, etc. I wish I can be younger again and make less costly mistakes.

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