Yesterday, I waxed nostalgic about my old job at a fish store.
Today, please tell me about an unusual job you once had (or, perhaps, still have).
* Sitting on a street corner, counting traffic
* Archery range instructor
* Pistachio-shell burner
* Babysitter to living computer programs
I once worked for a small consulting company recording voice response system messages for a retailer’s automated merchandise return information line. We were working in a house in south Minneapolis, so every so often a plane flew overhead and we’d have to rerecord it. At one point, our male voice asked the question, “What about music, movies, and video games?” Just then, a plane flew overhead, so our female voice answered, “Return these items when you have a fucking JET flying overhead!”
Needless to say, we didn’t send that take to the client.
I was the only guy on a door to door team to get donations for the Rape Crises Center of Hennipen County (the rest of the team was all young women.) This brief job led to some, interesting, situations…
1) The guy who’s initial reaction was one like I was there to arrest him. No surprise that he didn’t donate. But boy did he look nervous. Gave me the creeps.
2) The very nice mother, who invited me in and then explained to her daughter (age 6 iirc) why I was there, the place I represented, how it pertained to recent talks her daughter had on talking to strangers (and not wanting to be touched, etc.) I was really impressed how the mother used it as a positive teaching moment. (and got a nice donation too.)
3) The very nice looking young man (o.k. we were about the same age at the time) who answered the door in nothing but a towel. Unperturbed I launched into the patter, he stood there with the look of “you’re going to do this.” But as a reward for my chutzpah (?) he stated “obviously I don’t have my checkbook on me.” then went and gave a rather nice donation to the center.
On the flip side I didn’t last long… as the pressure to “perform” everyday and get a minimum amount of money was more stressful than I thought it would be.
The job wasn’t weird, but the work environment was. I was the service bureau/film production department for printing company. They had just built a custom room for the electronic prepress gear. The weirdness was that it was in the basement directly under the web presses, so I could hear the presses spinning up, and periodically they’d drop a quarter-ton roll of paper on the floor overhead. Bonus: there was a plaque on the stairs down to the basement, marking the high water mark for the Delaware River flood of 1955 (43 ft., normal river height 6 ft.). Not the most relaxing place to work.
The job wasn’t weird, but the work environment was. I was the service bureau/film production department for a printing company in Easton, PA. They had just built a custom room for the electronic prepress gear. The weirdness was that it was in the basement directly under the web presses, so I could hear the presses spinning up, and periodically they’d drop a quarter-ton roll of paper on the floor overhead. Bonus: there was a plaque on the stairs down to the basement, marking the high water mark for the Delaware River flood of 1955 (43 ft., normal river height 6 ft.). Not the most relaxing place to work.
Shoe-shine girl, for about a year.
Weirdest job: making devices of dental torture. I worked for an orthodontist making braces wires with a different cross section across the front than along the sides. He sold most of what I made to other orthodontists.
Weirdest business: The Academy of Cultivated Learning. They were in the business of mail-order diplomas and mortar boards for cabbage patch kid dolls. I did calligraphy on the diplomas.
Weirdest desk: the respirator collection at Willson Safety Products. I was an office assistant in the customer service department. The permanent staff kept samples of all the breathing gear in my desk drawers. Down the hall was a fabulous safety products museum including of all the gas masks they had manufactured for the military.
I had a summer job in high school working as a janitor in a strip club. Well… technically it was a motel but the bar featured strippers. Well… stripper. I spent a lot of time cleaning up after adults who spent their weekends intentionally poisoning their brains to avoid thinking about where their lives had taken them (i.e. a squalid bar on the outskirts of a small town in rural Ontario).
I also worked as a “runner” at a horse track. A runner stands behind the ticket cashiers with wads of small bills. Every so often, a cashier would yell “CHANGE!” and the runner would swap out the cashier’s fives, tens and twenties. Occasionally there’d be a fifty or hundred to break up the monotony.
I eventually got promoted to running the tote board. This is the display (actually a small, narrow building) in the middle of the track that shows the odds on each horse and, after the race is finished, the payoffs. The odds were electric displays and controlled remotely, so I didn’t really have to do anything there except occasionally fix a loose connection.
The payoffs were done by hand, though. I sat inside the board with a stack of wooden cards with numbers painted on them. I’d get the payoffs recited to me over a headset, slide the numbers into panels, recite them back to verify, and flip the panels around for the stands to view.
The panels could only be flipped around properly if there were 4 digits or fewer in the payoff (up to $99.99). In order to do 5 digits, you’d have to slot in 4, turn the panel part way, walk around to the front of the tote board and slot in the 5th digit. Whenever I left the perfecta or daily double turned part way, there’d be an audible gasp from the crowd. This is the sort of thing that passed for excitement in my home town.
Eventually, I got a job working at a TV repair shop – this was waaay back when TVs actually had replaceable parts. Job duties included fixing things and not getting electrocuted, which I managed to succeed at most of the time.
Thinking back, I’d have to say my youth was a lot like “Napoleon Dynamite”, but with a slightly different accent and less dancing to Jamiroquai.
I was a camp counselor for preschool kids (4-6) at the Miami Seaquarium. Part of our job was taking kids down to feed lettuce to manatees. Another was ‘interactive enrichment’ with the dolphins. Basically the trainer would throw a bunch of beach balls into the dolphin tank and the dolphins would throw them out. The kids would throw them back in. Both the kids and the dolphins would happily do this for hours. I and couple of the other counselors got in trouble for making a joke that we throw any disobedient kids in the shark tank. Parents have no sense of humor.
For several years I worked as a professional face painter for festivals and parties. It was far more lucrative than you might think.
I worked for a university library, and one of my jobs was to help out with a guy who curated a collection of first world war stuff. He had an amazing treasure trove – letters, official documents, uniforms, and others.
My job was to go through the day’s newspapers and look through the obituary column for people who would have been around in the war. I then had to use my research skills to track down the undertaker or solicitors handling the estate and send them a letter expressing our deepest condolences, and informing them of the (very presitigious) collection, and would they consider allowing us to look after any items they may have which related to the war?
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