Monday, February 20, 2012


I've had a lot of jobs in my lifetime.  I mentioned my cheese-shop experience (at Martinelli's in Boston) in my cheese post and someone, in a comment, asked to hear about other positions.  Here goes...

The reason I've had so many jobs is because my parents were immigrants and believed you should work every waking moment.  Even though I was both a scholar and an athlete in high school, they insisted I squeeze a few hours of working at a clothing-store into my crammed schedule.  I worked at Loehmann's, a women's discount-clothing store that was walking-distance from my school.  It was an easy gig -- mostly picking up clothes women had dropped on the floor and putting them back on racks.  The job had the nice perks of letting me get close to female attire and to socialize with girls my age.  (There were 30 girls and only 3 boys working there.)

Let me tell you about my worst job...

My parents insisted, every time I came home from college for break or vacation, that I get a job.  I never had a real vacation, never went on Spring Break.  I worked every summer and all my time off school.  That is what was expected of me so that's what I did.

When I'd be home for only a week or two, it was impossible to get a full-time job so I'd wake up early and go to the temp agency at 6 a.m. for whatever crap work they had available.  Those jobs were mostly menial labor for minimum wage.  Horrible stuff.  The kind of work where your day drags on forever, you go home exhausted, and have no real money to show for it.  A sinkhole of effort.

I explained to my parents that it was unprofitable and unpleasant for me to fill my only spare time with jobs that paid nothing and sapped my energy.  That argument went nowhere with my parents.  Immigrants often have a work-ethic that's extreme and divorced from reality.  My parents simply wanted me to work every moment and that was my fate.

So, back to my worst job...

I got the job through a temp agency because nobody in their right mind would choose to do this work.  It was in a factory cutting carpet.  The factory reeked of toxic chemicals because huge rolls of treated carpets were soaked in vats of chemicals, then unrolled by machine while humans (me) cut them into five-foot lengths.  (The rolls were about four feet wide.)  Critical point -- the rolls of carpet were MOVING while we cut them.  To increase efficiency, they didn't stop the machine unrolling them while we reached across, used a razor and sliced through four feet of wet, chemically material.  If you weren't fast and exact, the cut wouldn't work, the unrolling would continue, the entire line would back up and shit would hit the fan.  You'd have to hit a button to turn off the machine, an alarm would sound and you'd get yelled at by a supervisor.  You didn't want to get yelled at too often or you'd be out the door.

First negative of the job was the toxic contamination.  The air reeked of a horrible, unnatural chemical odor.  Your hands and clothes got soaked in the wet chemicals of the material you were cutting.  I'm sure my exposure to these chemicals took ten years off my life.

Second negative was the people there.  Obviously nobody would want to work in a place like this.  So it shouldn't have been a surprise (even though it was to me) that every single one of my co-workers was an ex-con.  They'd all served time in prison.  And here am I, a polite young man of 19, among real criminals.

One of my talents is a chameleon-like ability to fit in to almost any crowd.  I was a scholar among scholars, a jock around jocks, and now a pseudo-criminal among ex-cons.  I accepted these people as people, treated them with respect and they ended up liking me.  I became one of them.

A key consequence of this assimilation is how we behaved during break.  All of my co-workers, during our break, would consume a quart of Colt 45 (a malt-beverage like beer but stronger) and smoke a joint.  Every one did this, during every break.

Wanting to fit it, I followed the crowd.  Then I'd be back on a moving assembly-line, with a sharp razor in my hand, trying to cut moving material.  I quickly realized that getting high was inconsistent with workplace safety.  I'm amazed more of us didn't die or seriously injure ourselves.  I eventually got accustomed to functioning stoned.

I learned something in that job.  Our employer treated us like dirt.  We were subjected to toxic materials, we were paid minimum-wage, our working conditions were abysmal, and the risk of physical injury was high.  To compensate for this oppression, we self-medicated with liquor and marijuana.  Of course, that increased the chance of our being injured but -- and here is the lesson -- we didn't care.

When you're treated like dirt, you feel like dirt.  We didn't give a fuck.  Truly.  Excuse the profanity but it's warranted.  If or when we got caught in moving machinery and got maimed for life, it hardly mattered -- our life already sucked.  The prevailing attitude was, life can't get worse.  We were already living in Hell.

This was my first taste of life among the hopeless, the oppressed, the disadvantaged.  My co-workers weren't going back to college at the end of the Summer, they were going to stay there until they got some drug-addled idea for a crime that would land them back in prison.

It was my worst job, but I don't regret the lessons I learned from it.

What was your worst job?


  1. My worst job is nowhere near your worst job. You win. (Sorry.) I hated my time working at Hallmark. They expected me to be cracked-out, cheerleader-on-speed happy all the time, and the scents in the store gave me migraines. I quit after a month and a half.
    Twitter: @GlamKitten88

    1. Bonnie, you raise a good point. A lot of jobs given to women (e.g., stewardess) require fake friendliness which can be as exhausting as manual labor. Not only will your face hurt from fake smiles but your soul will ache from constant insincerity. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have had two jobs! When I was 15 I got my first job working at a little souvenir store. My sister worked next to it and knew the owner. I took my job seriously and worked very hard, I was mostly scared to get in trouble for doing anything wrong. 15 years later, I was still there and my husband and I bought it from the owner and my husband took over as the manager and I went out on the road selling souvenirs from our biggest vendor. That is where we are now. I love both my jobs. Being on the road can be tough at times. But I like not having to go to the same place every day!

  3. My goodness, that doesn't sound like a fun way to spend the summer... I don't know if I've had a "horrible" job, but I know that I have had jobs that I didn't care for at all. I think one of them was working retail in a department store, during the holidays. People are rude and vicious during the holidays - at least when they are ding their shopping. It's never fun, especially when you have the added pressure of asking them if they want to open a credit card, donate to a charity, etc., etc. They tend to get even grumpier.


  4. Your story reminds me of my husband's job when he was a teen, working in a paper/pulp mill. Ugh.

    My worst job was as the executive assistant to a hotelier - she was extremely erratic. She would yell at staff in front of guests, would focus on one person until she ended up firing him/her. I lived in terror of her eye turning on me. I watched her fire over 40 people in the 3 months that I lasted there. I used to get nosebleeds from the stress.

    I was so happy to get away from that.

  5. Wow! I hope you wore masks, just thinking of the fibres from cutting the carpets!
    I was so lucky to keep the same job through school, college & uni...selling shoes in a shoe shop, I loved it (& bought a lot of shoes!!!!!

  6. Oh my gosh, that's horrible! That's the worst "worst job story" I've ever heard. Thank goodness you weren't hurt (physically at least).

    I like what you said about being treated like dirt so you believed you were dirt. That's so true. How you are treated and how you treat yourself has a tremendous effect on your attitude.

    My worst job was being a survey person in the mall (Excuse me, would you like to take a short survey?). People wouldn't look me in the eye and would scurry away from me. I lasted 2 weeks before I quit.

  7. Oh wow, I had a lot of summer jobs, and worked part time while going to school but nothing like this. It sounds awful. My worst job was working at a bulk food grocery. It was depressing, and hard, and everyone there took their jobs way to seriously. Even though the money was good (for a retail job) I quit after about two months. I just didn't like working there.

  8. I have never had a job i really would consider the worst job, just worst experiences from the job I liked. I am a work a holic, and stayed with jobs long term. I have had really bad bosses (like i can tell you about the alcoholic drug addict who would toss me the keys to the place and shoot up in the bathroom, or I can tell you about the boss who left me alone untrained and treated me like shit) but i liked my jobs..nothing as bad as this.... I guess i lucked out..

    I can talk about funny the time i was doped up at work hallucinating while my boss was confronting me with some issues, or some worst customer stories I have ever had..but never had a job i really hated.

  9. OMG. What a NIGHTMARE!

    My worst job ever was as a personal assistant. He was racist, sexists, a shovanist, and sooo mean. He would say things like "I'm the money, I'm the star - you, you're just the work".

    I quit after three days - but not before I gave that man a piece of my mind (and demanding my money!).


  10. I enjoy hearing these stories about the olden days! Hehehe. I can't picture you as a beer chugging, pot smoking "pseudo-criminal" at all, but it's fun to imagine. I mean, sucks about the job and all. But, like you say, at least you learned something.

    I haven't quite experienced anything as bad as that, but I'll say my last job was the worst job I've ever had. The manager was poo. She was hired on after me, had less experience than me, and came to work drunk and reeking of cigarettes, amongst other things (like pooping on the toilet seat and not cleaning it up. FACT). Everyone in higher management thought she was sooooooooo wonderful, when all she did was sit on the computer all day and play games and let the other lowly employees do everything else. So glad I'm out of there.

  11. Ugh, that sounds horrible. I'm glad you got away from it.

    I didn't get a single real job until I was 19. I wasn't really allowed to do much outside the house other than some volunteer work as a teen. I've had two jobs in my entire life other than that volunteer work. I worked for Dollar Tree for 24 hours. I was called in for an interview, explained that at the time I couldn't do much heavy lifting due to an old injury. I figured I'd be put on the register. I was apparently one of two or three other hires that day, but I was put in the back breaking down and hauling boxes, and loading stock onto shelves for 8 hours. It was extremely dirty, extremely physical. And they expected me back in at 7 am the next morning (I left at 10pm the night before). I woke up 30 minutes before my shift and quit. I was so sore and so pissed.

    Later that same day, I had lunch with my mom at the mall and got hired on at NY&Co pretty much on the spot. I worked there fairly happily for 4 weeks. I made really good money for the job and was getting a ton of hours. However my co-workers were jerks, I had no idea how to use the cash register and if I heard one more thing about pushing credit cards on customers I was going to crack.

    So I did. I quit, and I went back to school and I'm nearly finished with my degree. But I still have no idea what I actually want to do with my life.

  12. Wow, you've had a lot of varied experiences! My worst job was the one day I worked at a deli and was ordered to disassemble and clean a meat grinder on my first and last day.

    Courtney ~

  13. My worst job was grading tree seedlings for a nationally known timber company. We stood shivering in cool air as muddy roots came down the assembly line. We graded the seedlings by holding them upright between thumb and forefinger. A fine seedling was balanced between the upper portion and the root system. Most days I would devise a sort of garbage bag rain coat and make a game of trying to keep up with the belt delivering the onslaught of seedlings. After two weeks, I had a case of pneumonia that put me flat on my back for a week. The odd thing is that I remember the camaraderie of that job with great fondness.

    In college, I also worked for temp agencies, although it was always in an office--I counted coupons for Folgers coffee, did filing, and tried to type from dictation in law offices.

  14. You have such a capacity for empathy that it is no surprise you learned so much from this horrific experience. What is so interesting to me is how you live your life as a complete individual - you seem to be fearless in your determination to live openly and honestly - and yet you have the ability to "fit in" to every group from every walk of life.

    I can't think of any jobs that would necessarily qualify as horrible. What stands out in my mind are the jobs in which I was treated poorly or promised something that never came to fruition. I think we can adjust to just about any situation, if we aren't afraid of hard work. It's the poor or unfair treatment we can't - nor ever should - accept.

  15. Wow. That is truly awful. I am so sorry you had such a rough experience. My worst job was a waitress and a hostess at a restaurant. People are rude and to make matters worse so were my co-workers. I can't relate to bitter people.

  16. My worst job was waitressing I am with Kassi on that one.

  17. Wow, that job does sound aweful. I feel like my own worst job ever won't compare but here goes: It was Mc Donald's. I kid you not. It was okay when I was 15 and just taking orders and cleaning the lobby, having to be off by 9pm as by law. It wasn't okay when I was 20 and a manager. I would get stuck working all the shifts that were horrible (Friday nights, etc) and in a busy area of town. I would be left alone in the store with 6 crew members, three whom would not speak English. Don't get me wrong, they were awesome crew members, but I would have to cover each break myself because they could not cover any areas which involved speaking with customers. The younger kids (18-19) would quit in the middle of their shift and I would be stuck closing down the store, mopping, cleaning off giant grills, then counting money, and inventory. Often I would be left alone in the store at 1am finishing up everything, then have to be back to work at 8 am the next morning. The worst part was my friends took jobs there because the economy is in the toilet and being a manager, I would have to yell at them for things they did wrong. I mean, yell. and scream. I could never do that, so in turn I would get yelled at. I tried to step down so I could go back to school, but I always ended up staying on. One day, I handed in my keys and said I would go down to crew, and that is that. My manager yelled at me and told me that I was worthless. I worked the end of my shift and quit. Kyle works at another store by the same owner and the manager who yelled at me was just demoted this month.

  18. That sounds like an awful job- I can't imagine working in such a (literally) toxic environment but it just goes to show you're someone who perseveres and that's a great quality! My worst job was working the drive-thru counter at Harvey's- I lasted all of 6 hrs, called in sick the next day and never returned!

  19. God! I'm so sorry you had to do this job. And sorry for your parents enforce to do that despite the real reasons.
    I have to admit I didn't the worst job. I"m lucky enough to start working on the lowest level of IT being a tech but I loved it. And still I never refuse to do such a job.
    After your story I can not even say my job conditions ever was even a little worse than very good.
    but here is my job story. This year I quit my current job and went to vacation. I was very tired after not being off for two years (I had tons of advantages there but it was difficult to take a vacation here. I used to have only day or two off the job) so I quit without any other job offer. I had a small trip and then had some fun home(a lot of sleep, walks and such). And then I had to find another job. And pretty soon I did find one. The offer sounded perfect but it turned a lay. I'm a qualified engineer but in day or two it turned out they really needed a girl with a nice voice to talk over the phone! the only thing I was to be doing is writing down a problem and handle it over to the other specialist. plus they wanted me to do all the paper job. I spent less than a week there and left it. I was lucky enough not to have record in my 'book of working' (the official document showing off my working history) as according to the law they made a record on my 5th day. I quit only couple of hours before it. Lucky me indeed. In a week I already have a new job. and I adore it, I have more servers and customers to take care of then I see all of my jobs before all together.
    Thank you for sharing this post. Indeed now I know far more about you

  20. I've never had an awful job like this one, but I've defiantly had some that were really bad for my mental health. Most recently, I worked for a dysfunctional non-profit and Director was basically the meanest person I've ever known. Never knew who was going to get screamed at next. Thanks for sharing!

  21. If most of the young people I work with could read about your worst job they would think they are sitting in the lap of luxury!!! Thanks for sharing this experience with us. I haven't ever had such a bad job but I have had some really bad bosses!!!

  22. I love learning more about you. Thanks for always opening up your life and your heart to us. You are my hero.


  23. that sounds horrible! my worst job was picking and packing fruit when i was a kid. i was really bad at it! haha

    i dont think i have any more family members entering the blogger world. but u never know!

  24. Wow, that sounds awful, sorry you had to do that. At least you learned from it I suppose and it's a good story. I've only ever really had 2 jobs: babysitting (which I love and still do) and working at my father's restaurant (still do as well...don't really love). I used to be a bus person when I was younger, which I hated, and now I'm the cashier/whatever my dad needs at the time! I do things like answer phones, pack and get people's orders, deal with money, make desserts, run the website, make the menus for holidays, handle the books/payroll, etc. Every time I go to work, I remember why I'm in college studying to be a teacher! I love my father and his restaurant (my face may be on the but working in the restaurant business is not for me. I couldn't spend my life doing something that makes me so stressed out and annoyed. I was not meant to deal with angry customers...please do not throw money at me...ha!

    Principessa Gabriella

  25. Wow, what an incredible story. My worst job was nowhere near as bad as yours, but I also got treated like dirt and was exposed to chemicals. I worked in a small photo lab in downtown SF for a heinous, unscrupulous couple who owned a few of these shops. They would employ illegal immigrant Chinese women and pay them less then the minimum wage (I also found out that they were slumlords and kept several of these people crammed into a tiny apartment -- and probably took most of the meager wages they were paying them). They cheated customers and would yell furiously at them if they complained. They were just awful people all around, always looking for a way to manipulate their employees or customers out of a few bucks.

    The only reason they paid me a halfway decent wage is that I was the only one who could run the shop by myself, as I actually had experience and could speak English. I didn't stay long -- barely 6 months -- but that was enough. I left without giving notice, and didn't even call them to tell them I had quit until it was 10 minutes before I was supposed to be there. I called them from the new job I was starting, in fact. That still makes me smile.

    Eventually they screwed up one woman's order twice and then physically threw her out of the store when she demanded her money back. Turned out she was a lawyer. Karma's a bitch. :-)

  26. Wow. You just made me super thankful for my job. lol It is awful that was the reality for so many people, maybe people who didn't think they could ever do anything different. It made me laugh when you cussed. hehe People always laugh or get shocked when I do it too. You seem too refined and ladylike to cuss, and, yet, it makes you seem more down to earth too.

  27. How horrible.
    I think that to encourage a work ethic on the young is positive but it has to be supervised ... so many things could have gone wrong here.
    My worst job was when I was a part time for an engineering office for the Panama Canal. The lady there was evil. EVIL.
    My other wort job was at Clairol. I did not have a life. I would go home after midnight sometimes. It was awful, my body began to show the signs of stress: HAIR LOSS, ACNE, weight gain... i quit.

  28. i dont think I have any job as worse as this!!

  29. Oh wow... I would never imagine you had to go through something like that.
    I could talk about awful jobs for way too long!! I can't even decide which one was the worst! But you're right about the learning part: Tough situations make you grow into a better person. Kisses