I thought a fun thread would be to recollect on the most dastardly, grubby job you've ever had. Sometimes it's fun to look back on where you've been so you can see how far you've come.
My grubbiest, most dastardly, stinkiest job ever was a part-time job in high school. I worked about 15-20 hours per week at a fast food place called "Bull on the Beach". It was one of those places that has huge, spinning chunks of meat on a rotating spindle that hangs over open, gas-powered flame all day. On the bright side, I got free food (and I wasn't a vegetarian then).
But... wow... I had cleanup duty a lot. The open flames were such that I was drenched in sweat every day. I smelled like a charnal house. I was careful to have 2-3 sets of clothes that I only used for work, since the smell of meat and smoke just wouldn't come out of the fabric. I used to have to scrape a whole day's worth of flame-seared beef drippings off of the sides of the flame pit every night and dump the collection resovoirs. Egads! I'm amazed that I didn't become a vegetarian then!
I got my chance to escape when they closed for a month to remodel their shop. I got hired at a pharmacy as a shelf-stocker. It was a lot less stinky!
Nowadays I work in law enforcement as a Case Agent (it's like a Probation Agent, but I supervise people awaiting trial instead of post-conviction.) Much nicer job!
I worked in an office in central administration of the university I attend. I was hired as a computer guy ("IT Gremlin" I liked to call it) but it became all-too-clear that they wanted an "Administrative Bitch" - which I am not.
I actually wrote a piece for a trade publication (they thought it funny, but couldn't take it, as their charge is to help the image of research administration) that outlined just one aspect of the job that was odious beyond compare - meetings.
There are a couple types of meetings, all with their own agenda. The first type of meeting is one in which the principal has a fixed goal in mind and wants to establish a(n artificial) consensus. The second type of meeting is one in which the principal wants to bitch and whine, and wants and audience. The third type of meeting is one in which short-term objectives are set, even though the project scope, type, means, budget, and personnel are all undefined and won't appear until after the deadlines set has passed.
I used to be amazed that it would take fully six meetings to determine that use of a damn-near free ticket tracking and bugfix system ($300US/year) was "not cost-effective." I ran the numbers, but 6 hours of time for 2 IT folks, an IT manager, an administrative assistant, 1 director and 1 assistant VP comes to MUCH more than $300. I can look the numbers up if anyone's interested, but I think it came to ~$3K or so.
As it was an office entirely comprised of women - and me - there was no shortage of bitchy drama. I didn't feel comfortable shutting my office door, as I'm a pretty low power-distance kind of guy, but towards the end I just said screw it and shut the door every day.
I only stayed as long as I did because I wanted to get a couple major projects seen through to completion. I did so, and I left my engineer's notebook (mistake) behind as well as all my files. I even left behind the server (their property, their electricity) upon which - and in my own time - I developed a full documentation system, a CMS, a Subversion system, and Trac (a bugfix/tracking system). I also had quite a few administrative scripts that I wrote to dramatically reduce the "human input" into tasks such as routing forms properly, and fixing our form system. I heard it was powered off after I left, and more recent reports have included the system shitting itself entirely after a change (the guy should have known better; I told him the steps that needed to be taken - it was also fully documented out on the server), and documents are now unable to be attached to the form.
In short, my repeated requests, meetings, emails, and calls to fix the system (I estimated about 80 man-hours of dedicated time) fell on deaf ears. Near the end, I said in a meeting that we were doing a disservice to our customer, had no intention of following our mission statement of supporting research, and should ultimately be held accountable to the taxpayer. The fact that I had to remind everyone that we were paid by taxpayers almost made me vomit.
I saw through a final budget data-mining/forecasting project, completed a huge report on effort assignment by cost center, and fixed the form (on the sly) to be much easier to manipulate on the back end, and then gave my 2 weeks notice.
If I had it to do again, I'd have let them fire me and then sued for wrongful termination. The amount of sexist jokes and comments, working conditions, inequity in the office, shitty pay, not being able to take a vacation, and being pulled out of coursework that I had received approval for, coupled with the multitude of post-9pm work I did, would have made for a nice settlement package and would have shed one hell of a light on the office's ineptitude and incompetence.
I now have no employment and no income. My plan was to live out of my savings, as I was putting 25% of my pre-tax earnings into retirement and other investment accounts. The last quarter of 2008 saw $20K go down the shitter for me (that was the money that I'd planned to live off of for a year) so it's been somewhat more stressful since then. However, the hours are now better, I enjoy the company more (my cat), and I don't have to put up with living in a Dilbert comic strip. This pretty much makes it worth it.
That's the one - and only - job so far that I actively have disliked and wanted to hide under the sheets rather than go out and do. I've been a janitor, manager, cashier, gas station attendant, drug-lab IT worker, IT worker, engineer, and student worker, and this job took the cake for "worst job ever."
 Here it is, in "spoiler" tags due to length:
An employee within a Research Administration office would like to take a vacation. We follow the email through the office.
July 23, 2008, 2:34PM:
May I take a vacation on September 25, 2008?
March 14, 2011, 1:13AM:
The “vacation panel” has met and approved the planned vacation time.
We had difficulty assembling this vacation panel until we determined that meetings with unremarkable snacks are ill-attended. We remedied this issue through assembly of an informal group that recommended more appropriate snacks.
However, this meeting left us short-staffed in the office. We submitted a proposal to recruit paid individuals outside the university to serve as objective meeting attendees. This proposal was ultimately denied. As we decided the processes involved may be publishable and patentable, we designed surveys and met with our Research Compliance Office for approval.
We decided against a physical meeting and members of the group met via teleconference to design these surveys. As we didn’t have this equipment on-hand, we had to purchase it from office funds. In a related note, I apologize for the lack of chairs and desks in the office – but it’s better to stand anyway, isn’t it?
The teleconference was a success and it took us only days to agree we had met to submit a proposal for funding to form a panel comprised of members outside the university who will attend a meeting outfitted with appropriate snacks as determined by an informal group to determine if you may take vacation time. We published minutes of our meetings to our web site in 2009. I’m sorry that your “Instructions for Investigators” page was deleted, but we had to make room on the site for our minutes. Phone calls on this matter have slowed to a trickle now, anyway, so it couldn’t have been really important.
At the start of 2010, we had a formal project kick-off meeting to review the minutes and reacquaint ourselves with our goal. To assure accuracy of the minutes, we assembled an informal post-pre-meeting sidebar (the meeting itself not having happened, and the pre-meeting being the assembly of members) and reached a shared understanding of their content.
2010 saw great progress towards fulfilling your vacation request. We asked for – and received – funds to support our project. We did, however, employ an on-campus statistician to analyze our data. Unfortunately, we slightly misjudged the volume and scope of data. It was for the best, really, as the sale of the office’s computers allowed us to complete the data analysis, and writing is so much more personal than email anyway.
In early 2011, we were able to report back to the panel so that they could attend a meeting outfitted with appropriate snacks as determined by an informal group to determine action regarding your request for vacation time. The report was written via a meeting in a venue determined through use of a system administered by an ad-hoc committee and designed by the winner of an open call who presented in a forum resplendent with snacks – these determined by inquiries across campus from another committee.
I apologize for the 18-hour days you had to work since submitting your request, and appreciate your understanding. I understand the doctor says your writing hand might heal, the bone spur on your heel isn’t life-threatening, and that your blood pressure may be normal some day – we’ll have to arrange a meeting to throw a pot-luck in honor of your impending recovery.
Director, Research Administration Office, Large State University
Last edited by h3g3l; 29-Apr-2009 at 17:47.
Reason: Added satirical manuscript text. Heh.
I've only had one official job, where I'm still working, but I've had volunteer, and one day only jobs. I'd say the worst one was volunteering at Pets-Mart. That was incredibly boring. Basically all I did was clean some hamster cages (it was ridiculously hot/humid in there), and then play with the cats for several hours. The only reason I did it was for some "required" community service thing at school
h3g31 - That was the funniest presentation of meetings and the satirical manuscript. ha! I always took 3 walnut shells with me to meetings. When the principal or director started doing the budget dog and pony show, I would put my shells on the table and start doing the shell game - always got laughs and never got fired! Your description of the meetings and your vacation request letter, superb!
Butterfly Mage - I'll think about the topic and come up with a really juice story (there are so many to choose from) to post later.
Probably when I worked at the Holiday Inn as a dishwasher. It's not so bad during the week, but on the weekend they're always having wedding receptions. That means hundreds of salad plates, hors-d'oeuvre playtes, dinner plates, glasses, dessert plates, and then all the pots, pans, trays, etc. used to cook it all. Then there are the buffet trays that have stuff burned onto them because they've been sitting over low heat for hours. And of course, dishwasher gets to clean the entire kitchen at the end (and it was pretty big).
So yeah, it wasn't uncommon for me to put in 11 hours or more on a Saturday. Sometimes we'd have a second dishwasher to help, but a lot of the guys they had weren't that great (a few were). I'd go home stinky, damp, and sometimes chafed, with sore legs from standing all that time .
Oh, and the pay I got ($6.50/hr) is now below minimum wage, and this was only a few years ago .
I learned to use InDesign in high school, on the school paper.
I love publication design and typography.
At a volunteer match-up place, I listed those skills, wanting to be useful and hoping to do something I enjoyed over the summer.
They matched me with a guy in his late 70s who wanted help getting his book ready for self-publication. He was channeling the material--New Age stuff about how we are love, we are beauty, we are God, we are . . . .this and that. OK with me; I could design his book and make it look good.
We'd meet and he'd start talking about all the "Jew-jobs" he'd had, how the Jews run Hollywood, what Rush Limbaugh had to say that morning, and on and on in a vein of vitriol. Sort of a disconnect, you would say, from what his book was about. But I wanted to do the project, so I ignored it.
He'd promise to have something for me "by Friday," and I'd set aside time, and I wouldn't hear from him for two weeks. He never had the courtesy to apologize.
When I did get part of his manuscript and set it in type, he'd then insist on going back and changing things, re-writing, moving things--totally destroying the work I'd done.
I finally told him that I would work only on a finished manuscript, not something still in process. He agreed, and in time produced a totally goofed-up, contradictory product that I--good guy that I am--took and ironed out and made to look good. I sent him a PDF of my work each day, for proofreading and minor changes. He began to insist that I underline things, slant type down a page and all sorts of other really bush-league typesetting devices--things I would not want my name on and that ruined the fun of the project for me. When I tried to resist it, he began to swear at me.
I finally told him to go fuck himself. He completely wasted about 60 hours of my time.
Now, I'm housesitting a couple doors down from where I grew up. Two cats and seven bedrooms. A much nicer situation.
Some of the volunteer work I did for rank advancement was miserable. I cannot tell you how many days I spent cleaning out the grimy storage room of the Salvation Army. I found things you'd never expect to see in a donation box. Cigarettes, knives, lighters, empty liquor bottles. You name it! Pulling old clothes out of crates (some of them smelled like stale urine) was bad. I sorted thousands of donations and broke down scrap metal.
Sweeping up the pantry was kind of boring, but there was always candy somewhere. I cleaned the bathrooms everyday. I distributed food baskets for Christmas. On collection days, I was assigned to sorting duties. It wasn't that bad. I like the people at our local branch. So it made it all worth while. The only part I truly hated was working with the kids on parole. Everyday at 5:00, an officer would drop them off to do community service. They were always giving me trouble.
That part sucked.
Last edited by Falkio; 29-Apr-2009 at 19:05.
Reason: added something
I got hired to make various computer networking components work together in an automated cabinet. The company owner had already ordered all the components before he hired me. I got stuck trying to make various garbage components work together that were never designed to interface together and should never, ever, be used in an automated cabinet; it just crashed too often.
I got fired after 3 weeks because I couldn't make it work. The boss didn't understand why I spent so much time trying to get the wireless node working when I "could be working on other things", or why I made a special trip to Home Depot to buy a piece of hardware I needed RIGHT NOW (work stoppage situation). Well, the answer was that if the wireless node didn't work, nothing would work, and I needed time to decipher and troubleshoot the piece of trash, and figure out why every piece of equipment or computer that talked to the wireless node completely locked up within 30 minutes and had to be hard reset.
The kicker was when one of the voltage adapters my boss had special ordered overheated and burned up as soon as he tried to use it. He'd been the one who soldered it and hooked it up, so there was no way he could blame me; it just wasn't capable of handling the current. I burst out laughing at that point, because the whole project was just so entirely screwed up, and I knew I was going to get fired. They never did get the damn thing working. Gee, I wonder why, considering there were at least 3 or 4 points of failure that I knew they could never fix, that I'd been warning them about for the whole 3 weeks.
So yeah: hostile work environment, impossible goals, garbage equipment, and an idiot boss.
What have we learned here: when the person hiring you has already ordered the equipment before hiring you and without consulting an IT professional, run for the hills! Run for the freaking hills!
It's a tie between cleaning machinery that uses fiberglass to produce stuff and unloading trucks with heavy rolls of cloth in the middle of the night. I only did the first job once, but the second one for a few months.
Or maybe my worst jobs were the cleaning of messy diapers...except I never got paid for that
For me, it was probably the year I did some office cleaning work on the side, around 1974/75. Oddly enough, it wasn't cleaning bathrooms that got to me the worse, it was cleaning ashtrays out on the office desks. The smell of stale cigarette ashes was enough to make me gag. The only thing that comes close to it these days is having someone talking to me who just smoked, and also has coffee on their breath.The combination almost knocks me over! :yucky: