Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Workin' 9 to 5, What a Way to Make a Livin'

When someone asks what my job is, I'm always at a bit of a loss. For most of my married life I've been just a wife and mom, but of course all you wives and moms out there know there's nothing "just" about it. Now the kiddies are grown and out, and I jokingly tell the DH that he's my job now.

Sometimes I actually get up the nerve to tell folks I'm a writer. They ask what I write and I tell them. And there's usually a bit of discussion about books and magazine and reading and such. My nextdoor neighbors are actually impressed that I've had short stories published in a magazine. And some other friends have asked me to see copies of the magazines where my stories appear.

Here's a list of the jobs I've held through the years (and this doesn't include any lemonade stands or babysitting):

1. My college was on the quarter system and we didn't get out of school until later in December. By the time I got home my freshman year, there weren't many good jobs available, but I found a position in a local supermarket trying to convince shoppers to buy eggnog. The company didn't want me actually giving samples. I just had to hold up a quart and show it. Talk about boring. And I even hate eggnog. But I earned enough to pay for my part of a trip to NYC with the Interfaith Council, where I saw Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Empire State Building and was in a disco in the East Village when a subversive group planted a pipe bomb.

2. The next Christmas I worked at Sears. It was my first foray into retail sales. After a quick lesson on how to operate the cash register I was turned loose on the floor. No matter what department I was in, the cash register always screwed up. And to make matters worse, one night I was working with a guy who was still in high school and I learned he made more money than I, even though we both had the same level of non-experience. Talk about mad! The next two Christmases I worked in a small wholesale buying club. It was like Service Merchandise, only locally owned. The owner was great. The other employees were great. I actually enjoyed working there, and bless the owner's heart, he did his level best to make sure everyone had some time off on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day so you could be with family.

3. I was a dorm counselor for two years. Mostly I had to tell girls to keep the noise level down, and when they instituted male visitation in the dorms, occasionally I had to run a guy out of the dorm after hours. The worst was when I was told one of the girl's boyfriend had been killed in a hunting accident and they wanted to keep it from her until after final exams. The other two girls who knew asked me to cancel the hall Christmas party because they didn't think we should be celebrating. Of course I had to come up with some reason for canceling. And once they told her, I had to listen to her sob because she was in the room next to mine. Not fun.

4. I went to summer school after my freshman and sophomore years in college. Going after my junior year wouldn't have let me graduate any earlier because I had a required course that was only taught during winter quarter. So I stayed home and worked. I applied again for a retail job and when they didn't call back after a week, I settled for a waitressing job at a national chain restaurant , which shall remain nameless, but it was a good twenty years before I could eat strawberry pie, and I still can't eat hot fudge cake. I started on the counter, which was mostly just serving coffee and desserts, and then moved my way to the bigger tables. The more experienced waitresses amazed me with their ability to carry multiple plates and those huge trays. I barely managed with the small beverage tray. And the lingo -- for two weeks I thought c-burger was a fish sandwich. Sea-burger. Get it? And would you believe the retail store offered me a job AFTER I'd bought the waitressing uniform and a pair of white shoes?

5. After getting married, I had a variety of temp jobs. My husband's job required a lot of travel and I went with him. Sometimes we'd get to stay in a place for several months and I'd register with Kelly Girl (it was called that way back when I worked for them) and work temp jobs. I did mostly office work, but my most interesting job was doing inventory at International Harvester in Atlanta. All day for three days I counted nuts and bolts and doo-dads and other things. We worked in teams of two, and my partner was a Moonie -- you know, a member of Sun Myung Moon's cult.

6. My husband and I have a charity that's close to our hearts because several of his first cousins died from this disease. I've worked on their telethon and was asked to join their fundraising team for pay. For forty hours a week I sat in a basement room with a phone and a reverse phone directory and called people to very politely ask them to canvas their street for donations. Most folks were very nice, even when declining. But a few... May they rot in hell for the awful things they said to me and my co-workers.

7. We owned a retail computer software franchise for a while and I handled all the inventory control for the business. Twice a week I picked up all the invoices along with shipping and receiving documents and entered them into a database on the computer at home. It was a good job for someone with two small kids. As long as I got the work done, it didn't matter when I did it. Sadly, one of our business partners was letting inventory walk out the back door and we had trouble finding help who didn't steal from us. Combine that with a caved in roof after a heavy rain and it was bye-bye franchise.

8. I sold Tupperware for a year and I still remember that it's guaranteed against "chipping, peeling, cracking or splitting for the lifetime of the product under normal, non-commercial use." I hated asking people to do parties and I hate trying to sell things to people, which makes me wonder why I allowed myself to get involved in...

9. Amway. 'Nuff said.

10. My last "real" job was on a space shuttle support contract. For four years I worked in property management and helped keep up with billions of dollars of computational and telecommunications equipment. I also wrote procedures so if Joe Blow walked in off the street, we could hand him the procedure for receiving property and he would know how to do it. Then the contract was renegotiated, which was the roller coaster ride from hades, and after the new company took over, I was moved to the customer support group, where I tracked work orders and tried to keep tempermental engineers happy even when the network gateway was on a launch lockdown and no changes could be made to anything.

All things considered, my jobs really weren't that bad, especially when compared to some I found online.

How'd you like to work in a chicken processing plant? I just don't want to think about all those chicken guts. And how about the poor guy at the zoo who has to perform vasectomies on the male elephants. One wrong move and he'll be a human pancake.

Then there's roofing. We had two weeks of 100+ degree weather last month. I cannot imagine being on a black shingle roof during that. Heck, getting the mail nearly left me suffering from heatstroke.

Prostitution is also low on the list of desirable jobs. I'm just not sure any little girl ever says to her mother "When I grow up, I want to be a hooker." I'm not sure how many little boys grow up wanting to be a pimp, either. But a school teacher friend of mine had a student tell her he wanted to be a rapist when he grew up. She immediately contacted the school psychologist.

What's the craziest or worst job you ever had? Tell us every zany and/or awful detail. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Bite Me if You Can by Lynsay Sands or The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt or Cross My Heart by Carly Phillips.

P.S. We've started posting totals from Smarty Pants and Problem Child's writing challenge in the sidebar, just under the red contest logo. Tune in daily to watch their progress.


Jen said...

My senior year in college I was an Olan Mills telemarketer. Yep, I was that annoying person who called at 6 p.m. when you just stepped in the door from work and were in the middle of cooking dinner while the baby was screaming and offered you a free 8 X 12 color portrait. I'm shuddering just thinking about it.

PM, it has taken me years to actually say that I'm a writer.

Problem Child said...

Do y'all ever watch Dirty Jobs? Love that show and am so glad those aren't my jobs.

Worst job ever? I sold perfume out of the trunk of my car--accosting people in parking lots, on the sidewalk, going into stores. God, it was horrible.

Kathy said...

Thankfully, I've been blessed with good jobs in the past. However, there were times at the Garden Nursery that I wanted to tear a particular someone's eyes out. (Meow!)

My Mom and Dad sold Amway. LOL.


Angel said...

I've had two jobs as a cashier in grocery stores, then the rest of my jobs have been somewhat writing/reading related: bookstore cashier, college newspaper copy editor, and now a resume writer.

The funniest thing to me has always been the questions people ask cashiers. Sometimes you just want to say, "Duh?" Or the people who come into the store high, but try to pretend they aren't.

The creepiest boss I had was the manager of a Christian bookstore, of all things. I always got this weird vibe off him and he would make these odd comments. Then came the day he told me I was indecently dressed because he could see a bit of cleavage. Since he was standing over me at the time (my 5 feet to his 6 something), I wanted to say, "Back up and you won't be staring down my shirt!"


Instigator said...

I worked as a gift wrapper at an alternative toy store (think educational). Then I was a hostess at a restaurant. I worked as a vet's assistant (my favorite thing to do was help on the c-sections). I was a legal secretary for a criminal defense attorney (you know, murderers and rapists). Then I worked for a bank as a customer service rep for merchant sales (the credit card processing machines) then sold the merchant services and equipment. Now I'm the office manager for a project management consulting firm.

A little eclectic, huh?


Smarty Pants said...

My first job was as a Hallmark sales associate. Very exciting, especially when they made me wear antlers at Christmas. In college, I did a couple different things including working the front desk of my dorm where I got to wear PJs and no shoes if I wanted to. Out of college I started with my current company doing database work, then HR, then tech writing. Aside from lapses of judgement where I sign up to sell make up or romance products (guerrila sales is just not my thing) I'd have to say HR was my least favorite. I'm just not a people person (NO COMMENT PLEASE) and people crying in my office or whatever... I can do without that.

CrystalG said...

I worked in a car parts factory in Detroit between my freshman and sophmore years of college. It was hot, back breaking work and I was thrilled to go back to school that fall.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

I was a lowly GS-3 typist for a few months (if you know the GS system, you know just how lowly that is). Mostly, I've worked retail. I've sold lingerie and jewelry for a major department store chain, then moved into management with a big jewelry chain (which, because I detest them to my core, shall remain nameless). I still get nightmares sometimes when I walk past one of these stores in the mall. I also worked as an office manager for a local jewelry store in Maryland.

Because of the jewelry business, I have far too much of the stuff. And I never wear it anymore. I used to have rings for every finger, and at least 3 rings on one finger. Loads of dangly, jingly gold bracelets. Getting ready in the morning took forever because I had to put on all this darned jewelry.

Oh, and I did briefly, for 3 whole days, work for a lobby group on the Hill in DC. I thought it would be so cool, going up to the Hill every day, seeing the Capitol from the windows, hobnobbing with Ralph Nader (yep, he stopped by one day), and being in the midst of the moving and shaking that makes the Western world go round.

Uh, no. My job was to get in a van with several other people, drive out to the suburbs of Virginia, and go door to door begging for money (they called it a grass roots canvassing movement -- snort). I HATED it. HATED it.

We did this alone, in the dark, btw. No cell phones. Once, I stood in this couple's foyer while they sat on the couch and whispered back and forth to each other. It was kind of creepy, and I remember that I couldn't make myself move away from the door. Eventually, the wife came and let me out. I got no money out of them, and I didn't go back the next day. The boss called and left messages, then gave up and sent me a check. It wasn't my most graceful exit from a job, but I was very young and didn't know better. All I knew was that I couldn't tramp through the burbs in the dark, begging for money, ever again.

ForstRose said...

Worst Jobs have been "outbound Call Centers" One was surveys the other was for sales presentations. The surveys claimed they weren't telemarketing but I beg to differ. Anyway I'm with PM on the sales and still don't know why I said yes to the second OCC gig???!!!! What was I thinking?!?!?! Like SP I am not a people person - maybe I need a big old marquee with INTROVERT!!!!! posted somewhere to remind me 8hrs a day calling people to try and sell them something is a very bad idea for me. lol! The worst part of it was these two OCC's were business to business calls so I was having ot call people at work and to my knowledge there is no B2B nocall list like for our home and cell numbers. I got some pretty unpleasant responses from people who did not want to be bothered at work and lots of voicemails. Luckily or is that Unluckily - the allergy attack of the decade hit me at the beginning of what would have been the first full week at OCC 2. After calling in sick out of necessity they told me they couldn't wait for me to get over the allergies. So they saved me in a sense though it was exchanging one misery for another.


Maureen said...

During high school and college I was a waitress which paid well but was a tough job.

Playground Monitor said...

Gee, Instigator, maybe your boss represented my friend's student, the wannabe rapist.

And yes, Lynn, I know just how lowly a GS-3 is. My hubby started as a GS-7 and finally worked his way up to a high-step 14 before he retired.


Cherie J said...

My least favorite job was the one where I worked as a cashier and was fired by my inconsiderate boss on my birthday. This after he asked me to work until closing at about 10:00 PM to cover the shift of another person who had not shown up to work.

Sue A. said...

I once got a summer job working at a seafood packing company. I did various jobs like vacuum sealing and packing. The worst day involved quality control when a bad batch of geoduck came through. The company was not one to waste anything salvageable, so they had us all doing a smell test to determine whether it was good or bad. The place already reeked, since processing geoduck meant putting in through boiling water to enable the skin to be peeled off. So having to take a close up whiff was at the very least unpleasant. And if you don't know what a geoduck looks like, imagine a giant clam with a large appendage protruding out of it. Its commonly referred to as "elephant trunk clam". Even The Discovery Channel thinks it is a dirty job since the program Dirty Jobs did an episode on geoduck farming, harvesting and cooking.

KimW said...

I struggle to write. It doesn't come easy. I think you should tell everyone and be proud about that. It's a talent many of us don't have.

I suppose I'd have to say my worst job was working at McDonalds. lol There were some good things about it like bringing home food all the time. The downside was that I use to have grease caked on my shoes each night and my uniform would smell like the grease, too.

Problem Child said...

I saw that episode of Dirty Jobs.
Strange looking things...

robynl said...

While in high school I worked as a car hop at the A&W(many yrs. ago). I've been a sales clerk, a cashier,worked in Merchandise Control in the office, drug store clerk/stockroom pricing, executive secretary to the Labour Relations Manager at a hospital, managed a 2 lane bowling alley, worked in a Flea Market, convenience store clerk.

Nini said...

I was a camp counselor in the summer for three years running. I worked in a hospital lab, running results up to the floor nurses. I've been a legal secretary, regular secretary, administrative assistant to a Veep, a CEO. I worked for US Customs in NY. In high school i was a short order cook in McCrory's, a five and dime. I also worked for Pathmark food stores while my son was in school.

Now........i'm a teacher. I love it.