Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More bad jobs I remember

Job From Hell One.
When I was in high school I worked for an answering service. The whole board terrified me and I never knew what to plug in where or who I was talking to, even though there were little name tags above each connection, and the owner was a loud, brassy woman who wore laced-up striped pants and teased her hair and kept yelling at me, "What are you, stupid?" The worst was when we had to page someone because the microphone you were supposed to use always shocked you. At one point, my boss picked it up and yelled, "Paging Mr. --got shocked-- Jesus Goddamned Christ --" And how did I get fired? There were two doctors named Dr. Foot. One was a podiatrist and the other was an obstetrician. A woman called frantic, having her baby and guess which doctor I called up?

Job From Hell Two.
I was hired to type for a small company run by a woman who was 500 pounds. Really. She could barely walk but she was very vain and she had lots of boyfriends who came to see her, all of them swooning over this special bath tub she had built for her house. I walked her poodles for her and gave them the Valium she insisted they needed. I got her lunch every day --three cheeseburgers, a piece of cake and a diet Coke. The first time I had to write a letter for someone on special letterhead, I made so many mistakes, that when I had to give it to the client, I lied and said, Oh, it's a new girl. I'm sure we'll fire her. The guy shook his head. "I would like to fire her myself," he said. I then went into my boss, hung my head and admitted my screw up. She said, "Well, you can paint glitter on the stars for the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner conventions. Just don't wear those little halter tops anymore and don't flirt with the salesmen because their wives won't like it."

So that was my new career. Painting glitter on paper stars and talking to the salesmen who taught me their spiel. "Madame, what's the dirtiest room in your home? That's right, the bedroom!" Then you stride, with confidence, into the bedroom and tug down the blankets while the housewife looks at you askance. "See that? Looks clean but it isn't!" Then you vacuum and empty the bag and show them the dirt. Everybody likes that.

Job From Hell Three.
A dirty puzzle factory. They made Bridgett in The Buff puzzles-Bridgett being nude and about 5o pounds. Very scary machines. On my first day, there was screaming. A girl got her hair caught in the glue press and her head was bleeding. While I was shaking, the foreman strode out and began yelling at all the women. "You have GOT to put your hair back in a ponytail!" he ordered. "Or cut it all off!" The girl came out with her hair tied back in a bandana and a sheepish look on her face. I looked at the woman next to me. She was missing a finger. I quit within the next hour.

Job From Hell Four.
Pittsburgh. Job Corps. Me in a sea of 15 to 17 year old boys, many of them married with kids, half on parole, some sent here rather than jail, to learn a trade, to live together, to stay out of trouble. On special searches, you could hear the clanking of the knives and razor blades they hid a mile away. But they were polite around me, even protective and chivalrous. They spoke softly, even as they told me how they were planning to smuggle dangerous goods from state to state so they could buy their 16 year old wives the horse the wives wanted. One handed me a poem he had written (I was supposed to get them writing a newspaper). I thought it was so good, I wanted to enter it into a contest, but he refused. I could not understand why until one day I was at the Giant Eagle supermarket and I heard the same lines piped in on a Frank Sinatra song. Word for word. I wasn't fired, but I left when they decided to make the program co-ed. All the boys I worked with--many of parole--warned me to quit because they said the girls were really tough. They would throw acid in my face or beat me up. "Please," one boy said, taking my arms. "Don't make me make you leave." But the powers that be were mad at me anyway because I allowed the boys to have a gripe page in the newspaper--the only writing they were enthusiastic about. What I learned? That you can give yourself a tattoo using a sewing needle, thread and some ink from a fountain pen, but it is very hard not to get it infected.

Job I loved
I taught at a private high school, one on one. I had to teach grammar, so I made it Bizarro grammar. Please tell those/them ants not to wear so much lipstick. I like them/those vampires over there wearing the pink shoes.

I am so so happy I am a writer. Remember your awful jobs? I'd love to hear about them.


Unknown said...

Oh, man, those are some bad jobs! (Although I love what your boss screamed over the pager!)

I feel your pain on the puzzle factory. I worked in a factory making window locks one summer during college. 110 degrees, fingers duct-taped so they wouldn't get chewed up, shoulder-to-shoulder with smelly people and dangerous machines. You were smart to quit the factory when you did!

Caroline said...

Isn't factory work the worst, Lisa? Did you get to take any window locks home? Not that I wanted any, but they would not let anyone take any of the puzzles!

Jeff Lyons said...


The American Telegrah Company. Poor mans version of Western Union on Pico and Brand near Beverley Hills. I took telegram orders over the phone.

There were five of us crammed in a stinking little room with no windows taking phone calls from all over the country. My manager was the much older brother of Chips star Erik Estrada. He was a flaming Queen who pinched my ass and kept inviting me over to his one-room studio apartment for dinner. I never accepted.

The owners were two shifty-eyed NY orthodox Jews who were always battling the phone company, running scams, and had a telemarketing operation in another airless, windowless room down the hall from me filled with ex-beauty pageant queens and aspiring models. I'm sure they were doing phone sex on the side.

I got fired when I mixing up two phone orders and sent a congratulations bouquet of flowers to a funeral in Wisconsin and a funeral reeth to a 90-year-old woman's birthday in Alabama. I swear the real reason for losing the job was I wounld't sleep with Erik Estrada's brother.


Caroline Leavitt said...

Jeff, that is so hilariously awful! And it made me laugh so much. Just think, if you had slept with him you might have been part owner in such a great company!

Jeff Lyons said...


UGHHHH.... I'm shuddering ....

Unknown said...

Re: your comment above, I am pretty sure taking the window locks home was frowned upon, but I did wind up taking away quite a collection of the marred or otherwise rejected ones. I have no idea why. It's not like I wanted a collection of window locks. Just seemed like a small way of sticking it to the man, I guess, although in retrospect, I fail to see how! Ha.

Caroline Leavitt said...

Lisa, I know this is perverse in some way, but I really want to see a picture of the locks. Once at Macy's, I found an old Chuckie doll but they quickly confiscated it from me.

Unknown said...

Ha! I think my precious window lock collection is somewhere back home in Iowa. I'll look for it next time I'm there and document it photographically. I warn you, though, window locks are boring. A Chuckie doll would have been a better find, had you gotten to keep it.