Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Worst Job Ever

It is hot 'n humid here. This kind of atmospheric torture always reminds me of the worst job I ever had, hitting pieces of steel. It was the summer of '68, peace, love, and power to the people, right on. Somehow I missed that scene by about 2500 miles, so I settled for slave labor at Whirlitronics, a strange little shop devoted to the arcane art of making lawn mower blades. It was August, brutally hot, I took this job to save some money for college, and to get away from my previous job, making bulk ice cream and fruit slurries for a cafe/soda shop. That was actually a pretty good job, but it paid only $1.10 an hour and was on the other side of town. The blade job paid double that, and was only a couple miles away.

We'd start at 6:30 in the morning, to escape most of the heat. I was paired with some alky on the other side of a small hydraulic clamp. The clamp would hold a rotary lawnmower blade, which had been stamped and sharpened and needed to be straightened before it went to the heat treating plant. We each had a large adjustable wrench whose jaws had been welded open about 1/4 inch; this was used to bend the blade up. The top of the wrench had a large knob of steel welded on it; this was used to bend down blades that were too high. Almost all the blades were too high. You really had to smack it a few times to get it to fit the measuring jig. My alky partner, usually hungover, didn't give a rip. Those blades all came back, one side out of tolerance. The alky-man finally fell down drunk one night, broke his wrist, and I was left to work alone. One thousand blades a day, two a minute, for eight hours. By noon the temperature in there was pushing 90. My arms felt like they were going to fall off, and I found myself wondering: "Where are the 'tronics' in this place?" We were working on a stone age level, while astronauts were cavorting in outer space.

At the end of August the regular employees went on strike. I quit to go college, and about six months later I received a check for back pay for the raise the strikers won. That was about the only good thing I got out of that job. What was your worst job?

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work in this photo lab...

no, that wasn't it.

Worst is hard to define. Some were bad for one reason (environment, pay, coworkers etc.) while good for other reasons (environment, pay, coworkers etc.). So the trick is to choose worst overall.

It was the winter of 1988, back when winter was actually cold and snowy. I was fresh out of college and wanted to take on the world. I got a job as a traveling baby photographer on the K-Mart circuit. Each week found me in a new town in the 5 state area of the midwestern United States. I would arrive in town late, find a cheesy hotel and check in. If the town was large enough to have more than one K-mart, the photographers shared rooms to save per diem $, sometimes as many as 5 of us shared a single room, mornings were chaos. After check in, we usually scouted the town to find our respective K-mart. Then crash into long drive exhaustion. Up early the next day to go to the location and set up the studio, usually in the shoe department. Meet the managers of the store, where they tell you all of thier petty rules. Tiny Napoleons they were! They were sort of your boss, but not really and it irked them. Invariably during set up, Mom's would begin showing up, "Are you open yet?" they would ask. "No M'am, not until 10, like the sign says." By the time you were done setting up, and had taken a bathroom break, and gone to the snack bar for a king sized Mountain Dew, the line was 10-20 customers long, and the kids were already getting cranky.
Open the floodgates to 8-10 hours of making googly noises, blowing bubbles, sneezing stuffed animals off your head, conning, chiding, repremanding, explaining, and general buffoonery. The last customer leaves, and you shut down the equipment and get the hell out. First stop: Liquor store. Second Stop: Fast Food. Then on to the Hotel, where if you were lucky you had 1-4 other tired photographers to drink with and swap sordid tales of hell with. Back at the hotel, every night was a party, drink to numbness and pass out. The alarm clocks and wake up calls begin early, and the bathroom rotation begins. It is chaos and madness as all of the K-Marts open at the same time and since it is winter in the great north, there is nothing else to do. Start the day afresh, and usually there is 2-5 moms waiting for you when you get there; "Are you open yet?" "No M'am, not until 10 like the sign says".

5 days of this, then pack up, drive home, see your girlfriend and friends for 1.5 days, check in with the home office to have eqipment repaired or replaced, and off to the next town.

This is a job that creates alcoholics.

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