Labor Day edition: tell me your weirdest or most memorable job
In the U.S., Monday is Labor Day–a chance to celebrate the contributions of workers. And even though a lot of what I cover on this blog is geared toward helping you quit your day job, as consultants we definitely still work. Over the course of our lives, we’ve all held lots of jobs–some good, some bad, and some ugly. A common theme is that spending your days at a job you hate can be great motivation to change your situation. I’d like you to share your weirdest or most memorable jobs.
Here’s a quick chronology of my weirdest and most memorable jobs. These aren’t all the jobs I’ve had, but just the interesting ones.
- Weed pulling: This was my very first job. The pay was $1.00 per hour, my “commute” was a 1-mile walk down the scenic, forested train railroad tracks near my house, and the old lady who hired me gave me free Cokes.
- Dishwasher: This wasn’t necessarily a strange job, but it was notable since I worked at an Elks Lodge which later got raided for gambling by the police. Every time I smell a dumpster, I think of this job.
- Garbage collector: This was at an outdoor music venue, where I picked up the garbage from the previous night’s concertgoers. Notable for finding lots of lost items, like binoculars, drug paraphenalia, and a discarded wedding ring.
- Soil grinder: My god, this was boring. In college, I worked at the university’s soil science lab, where I ground soil samples for 4 hours at a stretch, while wearing a dust mask, lab coat, and goggles. It helped pay for college though.
- Computer tape library tech: Another job from college. Made obsolete by the gargantuan machine in the photo for this article. Extremely tedious, but it had lots of down time for reading.
- Construction house framer: Noteworthy for having a nail-puller dropped on my head, resulting in a bloody gash, and getting called “college boy”. This was a summer job, doing hard labor in the hot sun. I drank a gallon–literally–of iced tea every day. After working that job, I wanted to sit my ass down in a cushy, air-conditioned office job in the worst way.
- Family therapy intern in rural Appalachia: Most interesting lesson: marijuana farming is a mainstream income source for many families in that region.
- Caseworker for foster kids in inner-city Chicago: Depressing and burnout-prone, but never dull. I:
- had the someone try to kidnap a baby (running out of the building and down the street) while I was removing the kids from the mother’s home,
- was called “Mylanta” (a not-so-Freudian mis-pronounciation of my last name) by a foster parent who, shall we say, wasn’t so fond of me,
- walked up 10 flights of stairs in the unlit stairwell of a gang-infested housing project that smelled of urine, vomit, and straw (this was actually one of the few times I’ve truly been scared in my life–like, stomach-churning, I’m-going-to-get-knifed kind of scared), and
- took the foster kids I worked with out for ice cream, to the Lake Michigan lakefront, to the observation deck of the Sears Tower, and to the art and science museums–most of which these kids had never done before.
- Park ranger: Notable because it was so much fun taking kids outdoors and teaching them about nature and ecology.
- Software company factotum: Notable for being my last official job, and having a boss who, during a team meeting, accused me of taking excessive sick time–when I had actually been attending my father-in-law’s funeral. Yes, a bad job/boss CAN be good for you if it motivates you to make a change–like starting a business.