Take This Job And Shove It

What was your worst job?  I have a couple that come to mind immediately.  When I was thirteen years old, I got my first job (hear that, kids???) as a hat check girl in a neighborhood restaurant/banquet hall on the South Side of Chicago.  I lied about my age, saying I was fifteen.  I was  just this dumb kid who didn’t know anything, which made it way too easy to be completely taken advantage of.  My hourly pay was a whopping $1.25, but the icing on the cake was that I was allowed to keep ten percent of my tips (and sometimes I had to share that measley amount with another girl, if two of us were working).  That’s right – ten percent of MY TIPS.  This was back in the seventies when the average tip was twenty five cents, so we’re not talking retirement money, but that’s not the point.  My dad was furious when he found out that, at the end of each night, I was expected to bring my little tip bowl into the office for the manager to divvy up (1 for me, 9 for them).  Since this restaurant was in my neighborhood, the guests were often friends of my parents and they would slip a dollar into the bowl for me.  My father told me that when they did that, it was because they thought that money was going to me, not management.  I learned at a very early age the art of pocketing my tips.

The manager’s office was glass enclosed and located directly in front of my station.  Since I was told I could not leave the coats unattended, going to the bathroom was out of the question.  Especially with the boss keeping an eagle eye on me (or, at least, that’s how I felt).  I was told I could fill a plate of food from the restaurant buffet and eat in the coat check room, but was never able to figure out how to do that without leaving.  Then, an unlikely friendship developed while I worked there, which definitely turned into the best part of the job.  The valet drivers surprised me one night with a full plate of food and a Coke, and every night since then, always filled a plate to overflowing for me.  They also would make sure I had bathroom breaks, offering to watch the precious coats and hats.  Now, I know what the cynics out there are thinking right now.  And you know what?  I really didn’t care.  I mean, when ya’ gotta’ go, ya’ gotta’ go, right?  Besides, I think they recognized that I was treated poorly (as they probably were, t00) and were just being kind.  I never heard any complaints about any personal items missing, which I’m sure I would have, so I believe they were just being good guys.   

Also, the nature of a banquet hall lends itself to late night revelers and I was not allowed to leave until the last drunk stumbled out the door.  Then, I would have to call home for a ride (since I was still three years shy of attaining a drivers license), often after midnight.  I came to dread going to work, but didn’t think my folks would just let me quit.  You know – that whole “work ethic”.  So one day, I walked into a local bakery and asked the manager if he was hiring.  Three days later, I showed up for my first day at my new job.  I remember telling my parents that I had quit my hat check job, BUT, not to worry, because I lined up a new job.  And that bakery job was, without a doubt, the best job a kid could ever have.  I stayed there through high school and every college break. 

I’ll spare you the details of my other terrible job, but just to give you a glimpse:  it was one of two jobs I worked one summer during college and I fully expected to get fired every day I went in, but wouldn’t dream of quitting because I got paid big bucks – $3.50 an hour.  I was a telephone solicitor for the Chicago SunTimes and only sold one subscription all summer.  And talk about abusive situations – I learned that people HATE being called by solicitors.  My favorite sound was the beep – beep – beep that preceded the message: “The number your are trying to call has been disconnected.”  Whew!    I think everyone agrees, though,  that these kinds of jobs really make a kid appreciate a college education.

So what was your worst job?  I’d like to hear about it and compile a list.  Gotta’ go now or I’ll be late for work.


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4 responses to “Take This Job And Shove It

  1. Where do I begin? Has anyone really had a job they’ve enjoyed?
    I tell my kids..”you have no idea how good you’ve had it” lol..but I guess it’s all relative. Ok, my list…
    Being a paperboy…having to get up EVERYDAY at 4 a.m. stuff the papers on my front porch in the bitter cold, pack em on the sled, and deliver them in the rain and snow and place them inbetween the doors, not just throw em on the porch. Then after school, having to go out and collect the money and stand on the porches in the cold as the customers took their sweet arse time getting the money…oh and give me my quarter tip, cheap asses.

    Loading trucks at UPS again in the bitter cold, and getting a whole 15 min break.

    Having a political job where ringing doorbells and having petitions signed are required. Ugh…

  2. Brian

    The worst job I ever had would have to be when I worked in a lumberyard one Summer. The majority of the work we would do would be putting together orders of lumber that contractors needed for jobs. These orders were mist commonly for home owners who were looking to build decks on their house. The work was fine on a busy day where we had a ton of orders waiting for us in the morning. However, This was in the summer of 2009 and a lot of people were feeling the effects of economic downturn. As a result there were not a lot of people looking to spend their money on decks. So for almost the entire summer, for 40 hours a week, myself and the other college kids working there would spend out time sweeping the pavement, straightening the lumber so it looked pretty, and occasionally helping a customer who came in looking for one 10 foot 2 by 8 piece of cedar, and if we were really lucky it would be on the top shelf on we would get to use the fork lift. It might sound like a good job, nothing to do. But walking around and sweeping for 8 hours every day in the hot sun when you can’t talk or listen to music is torture.

  3. My first job was washing dishes at my uncle’s restaurant….DiGuido’s. I turned 16 in June and worked the hot summer in the hot kitchen washing dishes. They were clean when I got done with them, but I was told I washed them too slow. I hated it. My dad said it was good that I hated it…it would inspire me to work hard to excel in school and go to college to get a better job. I soon got ‘promoted’ to busboy and liked that a little better.

    I did stay in school and ended up earning an MBA. I progressed in my career and had good professional desk jobs at good companies.

    In 2008 I got laid off and experienced my first unemployment in 18 years. I ended up working at my brother’s church where he was a pastor. It came at a time when I was going through a painful divorce at home. I hurt deeply all the time and things were bad. I felt worthless when I found myself laying on the ground painting baseboards, and felt like garbage when I found myself scrubbing out the bottom of a garbage dumpster with soapy water. I was literally ‘in the dumps’.

    I did get back to a professional job in 2009 after 10 months on unemployment, but got fired from that job after 15 months. I spent another 15 on unemployment.

    I’m back to work now. I’m making less than half I was making in my last two jobs. But, like it or not, any work, is good work…for the soul. So I go, and know, something better will eventually come along.

    • Ed,
      After I wrote this post, it occurred to me that perhaps the timing was inappropriate as I am aware of many people currently out of work who would probably jump at the opportunity to work any job. So, while my intention was to provide a forum for us to laugh about some of the crummy jobs we’ve all had, I also want to say that I understand many people are going through a tough time trying to find work in this terrible economy and to them, I wish the very best of luck that things will turn around soon. In the meantime, we have to laugh, or else we’ll cry. Thanks for your post, and I think your dad was right – every kid needs to work a rotten job.

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