Bad Jobs Make Good Stories

The Green Study issued a writing challenge this week, to blog about the worst job you ever had. This is my warm-up.

The problem is, for any bad job I’ve had, I got something good out of it. I got more character, more stamina, more appreciation for the sods who couldn’t work their way out of it, for one reason or another.

I worked the donut shift at the bakery in college, which meant going in at 2 AM while everyone else was just coming home.

I flagged for a construction crew after college, standing on some shit corner while they fixed a traffic light. The next week, I stood on some shit hill in the countryside and got wind-burn.

I sold knock-off perfume because I misunderstood the ad in the paper that sounded like it was something else, then got trapped for a day in the basement of a church, for a sales orientation.

My first “real” job was at a theater that was going out of business. Maybe it’s because I typed well and was good with the office stuff, but they thought I was gay, as they did with the woman I was sleeping with, who helped with the costumes.

I quit the job about six months in, on national secretary’s day, because my boss was a wicked old woman who had me reheat her lunch in the microwave, and spoke to me like a servant. After converting my annual salary into an hourly rate, I realized I could make more temping, and so I did.

I’ll close this with my first temp job. When they issued a temp assignment, you got the hourly rate, the time, the address, the duration of the assignment, and maybe a few details about the job itself. They didn’t really know themselves.

I turned up at a factory in the middle of nowhere, running a couple minutes late because I couldn’t find it. The supervisor ordered me to an adjacent room, said “the temp is here, he’s late.”

It was dark, loud and it stank. The smell was burning plastic: they made those cheap plastic photo frames there, wrapped them in cellophane and boxed them onto pallets.

The job was to stand there at the bottom of a conveyor belt, catch the photo frames as they shot down the belt, and load them into the boxes. It was like a video game, but with no prizes. The corners of the frames jabbed the webbing on the insides of my hands, and I got a headache from the fumes.

We had just changed the time from Daylight Savings, but they hadn’t adjusted the clock on the wall yet. So every time I looked at the clock, I had to move it back by an hour in my head.

That night I had my friend Moira over and rationalized my way out of going back, the next day. I left a message on the machine at the temp agency, cited the film Silkwood, and said they should look into the conditions there, it was unsafe.

They called me back the next day apologizing, and said they had another job that just came in, that was really good: it paid $7 an hour and could go on for three weeks, or more.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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2 Responses to Bad Jobs Make Good Stories

  1. Thanks for referencing my contest. If this post is any indication, I can’t wait to see your entry. I loved your description of your boss as a “wicked old woman” – I think I’ve worked for her and her companion, “dirty old man”. Great post, Bill!

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