By Louise Ure
In today’s climate of high unemployment rates and few job openings, it’s probably not very nice to talk about jobs you hated. But there it is. We’ve all had a few. That office intern job where the boss wanted to guess your bra size. The summer you and your brother decided to make a little extra cash picking cantaloupes, until you realized how truly backbreaking that work was in 110 degree heat.
There are a lot of reasons to hate a job. Sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s the arduous nature of the work and sometimes it’s just a lack of dignity.
I got my very first job at a Dairy Queen when I was thirteen and I was paid twenty-five cents an hour plus all the ice cream I could eat. (That’s the joy of being an intra-state company versus an interstate company. They can start ‘em younger.) Not a bad job, right? Over the years, I’ve often cited that job as the only one where everybody who came in was happy and wanted to see me. (That’s no longer true. I feel the same way about book signings now.)
But then you get to the dignity part. My boss was a one-eyed man named Jack. Yes, he took full advantage of every “one-eyed Jack” reference he could, adding “I’m keeping an eye out for you” or “I’ve got my eye on you.” Then he’d threaten to lift up that black eyepatch like he was a flasher in a raincoat.
And he had the nasty habit of planting a quarter somewhere under the big ice cream machines to see if we’d find it when we were closing up at the end of the day. If you didn’t find it, it meant you hadn’t cleaned well and you were fired. If you did find it but didn’t turn it in, it meant you were a thief and you were fired. I already recognized I wasn’t the best cleaner around so I wound up just handing him a quarter every night.
The next job at Arby’s wasn’t bad until my friend Ellie cut her finger off in the meat slicer. I had to root around trying to figure out what was Ellie and what was rare roast beef so I could give it to the surgeon to try to reattach.
I found the next job just two blocks down the road at Phoebe’s Pie Shoppe. First there was the indignity of the uniforms. A floor length flowered skirt. A poofy-sleeved blouse in Tweetybird yellow. And a little linen cap like Martha Washington wore. That outfit would have been perfectly at home on Sister Wives.
One day a man came in and asked for a piece of banana cream pie. Ten minutes later he called me back over with only half the slice eaten and said there was something hard and crunchy in the pie. I took it back to the kitchen to investigate and found a half a dead cockroach. Half a cockroach, right? You know where the other half was.
“Here’s another piece,” I told him upon my return. “You’re absolutely right. There shouldn’t have been any pecans in that pie.”
And then there was Warner’s Bembridge Holiday Hotel on the Isle of Wight: a downmarket British version of a Catskills resort. The staff was housed in dorm rooms with eight beds to a room and we were expected to serve three meals a day then do all the dishes. And did I fail to mention that we were also the “talent show” in the evening? Ay yi yi. Think Dirty Dancing without the dancing.
I put up with that for all of three weeks until one old codger went down face first in the tomato soup I’d just served him and the guy at the next table only complained that his kippers were cold.
My jobs haven’t all been awful. And most of them were not as bad as they could have been. I remember once race weekend that Bruce and I got to the track early while they were still setting up the paddock. A sunburned young man in his twenties wheeled around the paddock in a big truck with a vacuum hose on it. He’d pull up to each Porta Potty, vacuum out all the shit inside, they wipe down the walls and the seats and the floor with disinfectant. And he whistled the whole time.
“I’m never going to complain about my job again,” I told Bruce.
Compared with the Porta Potty guy, I’ve had some great jobs. One job in Singapore came with a car and full-time chauffeur. Hell, I even got paid for sitting on the banks of the Loch Ness and watching for monsters. But of all of these jobs – forty or more by my count — writing is still the best job I ever had.
What about you, my ‘Rati brethren? What’s the worst job you ever had?