Friday, December 15, 2023

Insight: Reflections on some awful jobs

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I recently read an article about a U.S. Department of Labor report regarding a survey it conducted about the most stressful jobs in America.
According to their polling, at the top of the list for most stressful job is urologist, followed in order by film and video editors, anesthesiologist assistants, judges and magistrates, and telephone operators.
During my lifetime I’ve worked some stressful jobs and none of them were listed in this report. If it were up to me, I’d reclassify some of the jobs I’ve worked at as awful rather than list them as stressful.
In 1973 between my sophomore and junior years of college, I served as an unpaid editorial intern at Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York, writing articles for the company’s monthly magazine. 

To pay for gasoline and other assorted expenses, I also worked two other part-time jobs that summer. 

One was as a cashier at a car wash, and it was easy work, collecting $5 bills from customers and pushing a button to start the automated car wash machinery.

The other job was at a newly opened Carroll’s Hamburgers, a fast-food chain. I liked my co-workers, and all the equipment was brand new, but I despised working certain shifts. The worst shift of all for me was 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday nights. Demand was non-stop at that time and the restaurant’s assistant manager constantly berated the employees about not working fast enough.
He rode me unmercifully because I was nearly 20 and no longer in high school. He expected me to produce milkshakes at superhuman speed and place them by flavor into a cooler where counter employees could grab them quickly to serve customers. He also would inspect the milkshakes I would make and often throw them out for either being too thin or too thick and not meeting his requirements.

One Friday as I was nearing the end of summer vacation and returning to college, he launched into a tirade at me for making milkshakes too thick. I finally had enough and handed him my key and punched my timecard and quit. 

But when I went to pick up my paycheck at the end of that week, there wasn’t one for me. Apparently, the assistant manager had thrown away my timecard. My father called the Bureau of Labor, and I eventually was paid for my work, but I never worked a fast-food job again.
Once when I was in my early 30s, I accepted a part-time job taking dictation from a blind author who wrote children’s books. He would dictate the words and I would type them into a word processor for him for an agreed-upon rate of $10 per hour. When I stopped by his house to receive a paycheck for my 16 hours of work, he said he didn’t have any checks or cash to pay me with. He suggested I go into his garage, open his freezer and to take home packages of meat he had stored inside after purchasing a side of beef as payment for my services.
I helped myself to what I considered to be $160 worth of meat including six steaks, six packages of hamburger, and a roast but the look on my wife’s face when I told her he had paid me by meat instead of a check was priceless. After that experience, during future job interviews I insisted on being paid by check during the job interview.
As I was working on obtaining my college degree, I took a job delivering USA Today newspapers to boxes throughout the county I was living in. The job wasn’t hard, but I never made a profit doing it. Monday through Friday I would pick up the newspaper bundles, put them in my car and deliver them along a route of newspaper boxes on the highway. I would add new newspapers to the boxes and collect the newspapers not sold as returns.
Once a week, I used the key I was issued for retrieving coins in the coin box that the public used to pay for the newspapers. That was always the worst part of the job. Every time I would collect the coins, at least half of what was supposed to be payment in each box was some sort of metal slug in the shape of a quarter. I would have to make up the difference out of my profits at the end of each week. After several months of losing money, I decided to move on to other work.
While I was waiting to be hired by a newspaper when I moved to Florida in 1991, I was hired to place stock on grocery store shelves, and we had to wear a uniform of a white shirt and black pants.

Inevitably, I was assigned to either the flour aisle or the spaghetti sauce aisle and usually my black pants turned white from handling flour bags, or a spaghetti sauce jar would be cracked, and spill all over my white shirt as I placed it on the shelf.
In my opinion, some jobs are just not much fun while others are meaningful and interesting. For me, I prefer my chosen profession of journalism.

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