This Isn’t What I Expected | My Worst Job Ever

During my freshman year of college, I worked at Miller & Rhodes, a department store that shortly after went out of business, but that’s not my fault…I swear! The best thing about working in a department store is you get an employee discount on clothes! The worst thing is that you have to use the department store credit card to get it.

Working over the Christmas season, I netted around negative two hundred dollars.

This, however, was not the worst job I ever had. It just caused it.

Working off debt

Summer vacation arrived, and a credit card debt needed to be paid off. Talking with the local temporary staffing company, I begged for anything they had. Desperate to regain debt-free status, I enthusiastically screamed “I’ll take it!” without asking what “it” was. She tried to explain why I probably didn’t want it, but I wasn’t listening. Just give me the job! I can do anything! Ahh…the naive rantings of the young.

worst job outfit

The actual sweater was even brighter!

Figuring I would be filing papers or answering phones as usual, I borrowed my sister’s EXTREMELY bright, turquoise sweater. (See the outfit in the picture).

Fashionista Reporting For Work

Pulling up to the building, I noticed it was a very plain, brick building with a tiny sign that I almost missed. Grabbing my purse stocked with hairspray, lipstick, and gum, I took a deep breath and ventured in.

“Good Morning!” I peppily announced with a friendly grin.

My chipper voice seemed to startle the girl behind the counter, and she darted into the back.

The small lobby was disturbingly drab without as much as a picture or plaque of any kind on the wall. Strangely there was no furniture to sit on, so I had to guess they don’t get visitors.

Suddenly a stoic-looking, middle-aged lady dressed in jeans and flannel shirt appeared. I identified myself as I curiously glanced around to discover where the filing cabinet or phone system was hidden.

The Adventure Begins

Following her through a system of long hallways lined with safety posters, I suddenly felt like Dorothy in Oz. I wasn’t in Miller & Rhodes anymore.

We stepped through double doors into a cavernous warehouse which was a bustling hive of activity. The sounds of machinery and heavy smell of burning plastic overwhelmed me.

Hmmm…I don’t think there are phones back here.

You know that moment that Dorothy steps out of the house into Oz and the picture turns from black and white into color? That wondrous moment of awe!?! This was the complete opposite.

Leaving the world of color behind in the parking lot, I had entered the grey, dreary heart of a plastic bottle manufacturing plant. Still trailing my guide, I took in the sights while trying to figure out what I was doing here. Dressed in drab clothes with handkerchiefs tied around their heads, busy workers tended to the huge machines that ran the length of the building. It was the Willy Wonka of plastic bottles.

When I saw the workers’ dirty hands, I second guessed my choice of white pants, and my curled, hair spray-set hair swept back into a colorful headband seemed silly. My heels echoed throughout the endless room, and they seemed to say “Look at this girl!! HA! She wore heels!”

I was a foreigner in a distant land, and by the looks of the stares…an unwelcome brightly-colored, misplaced one.

My job

We came to a stop at the end of the metal, steaming creature, and my guide pressed a button.

Warm, empty, plastic shampoo bottles exited out of the molder and filled the assembly line. My job was to grab them off the belt and pack them 100 to a box. It seemed simple enough until I was also instructed to inspect them for defects. Any bottles that didn’t meet standards were to be thrown back into the melter. I would have practiced some basketball shooting if I’d had known because the shoot was a few feet over my head.

My gold bangles were confiscated for safety reasons, and I got right to work.

In the beginning things were fine, and I quickly packed away my first box with only a few defects returned to the melter’s shoot. Shortly after my feet began to ache from the heels I wasn’t used to wearing, and I enviously eyed the tennis shoes of the other workers and caught their snickers when they looked my way.

By box two I realized that the machine gets faster after it is fully warmed up and the bottles came pouring out. I kept losing count, and the bottles were backing up. My solution was to dispose of five bottles, so I tossed them into the melter to catch up.

With each passing minute, I got further and further behind as the machine seemed to spit them out at an ever-increasing rate. After quickly glancing to see if anyone was looking, I tossed 10 bottles for every 10 I packed. I wasn’t doing well at all. Bottles began spilling onto the floor.

Just like this…only with bottles



A whistle signaled the 10:30am break, and I welcomed the chance to catch my breath. The line was shut down, and I followed everyone to the break room. Happy to be off my feet, I sat all by myself at a table drinking a Dr. Pepper while wishing I was anywhere else. No one spoke to me, and my feet throbbed in pain. Happy to end the awkwardness, I returned to my station and looked forward to lunch.

The backup of bottles continued to get worse and worse until I was doing nothing but throwing them into the melter. I don’t remember that I even cared if anyone saw by that point.

bottle packing nightmare

During my lunch hour, I quickly escaped and drove the ten minutes home to change clothes and grab a bite to eat. My tennis shoes and jeans were a welcome comfort. I frantically scribbled a note on several scraps of paper for my mom. Something about this being a nightmare, and if I don’t return then assume I jumped into the melter.

I didn’t want to go back. Even if I didn’t get paid! However, I’m not a quitter; so my conscious drove me back even though my feet and body attempted to resist.

The rest of the day is foggy in my memory, but I do remember being surprised that they asked if I wanted to come back. Come back?!? Do this again?! Mentioning that this probably wasn’t my talent, I politely declined.

Memories best forgotten

If I had a picture from that day, it would have looked something like this:

factory workers and me

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Tell me about it in the comments. If you decide to write about it on your blog, let me know and I’ll add a link here.

If you haven’t seen the Women of Industry series from Kelley’s Break Room check them out.

UPDATE (6-29-11): I’m included in Kelley’s recent Name That Job #5 so see if you can guess the right answer about my past jobs. You already have a hint here…so it is like I gave you a cheat sheet!

Early Entrepreneurship and a Cheap Pad of Paper

piggy bankHaving the five year old watch the last two seasons of “Celebrity Apprentice” was bound to pay off, and she analyzed the teams’ performance along with the rest of the family. Designing hand drawn paper laptops at five, she’s a future entrepreneur.

Her preschool class learned about jobs last month. Fifteen tiny workers proudly wore a sticker stating their job title that they drew from a basket. Earning a penny a day, they anxiously awaited Friday’s shopping spree at the classroom store.

Exciting Job: Bag Helper

They are like this, only with 4 things hanging from each hook and 3 times as many hooks.

When someone’s coat or lunchbox falls off the hook, you get to go hang it back up. Three things fell during the first day, so it was eventful and exciting. Then she was stuck with that dead end job for the rest of the week, and days went by with nothing to do.

 

YOU’RE FIRED
Unfortunately the harsh realities of not doing your job were quickly learned as her friend was fired. I asked if there was a boardroom scene or exit interview. Was Donald Trump there? She just giggled. “Mom, that’s silly.”

Big Sister Marketing Tactics

My early entrepreneurial training began at around eight years old thanks to my sister and her full piggy bank. Mine was in a perpetual state of empty, and the remedy was creating a “store” in my room. Having nothing of real value to sell, I was forced to create stuff from junk around the house.

It was back in the days of punch cards for computers, and my dad would bring them home by the box loads. Seizing the opportunity, I cut them in half, stacked 20 together, and stapled the top. VoilĂ ! A pad of paper worthy of my customer’s admiration and pennies. Occasionally, I colored a design on the top sheet to make it fancier and higher priced. Drawing Snoopy on the front could bring in an extra 4 cents.

What store is complete without fake gum?

wrigleys gumUsing old gum wrappers and some paper, I painstakingly created Wrigley’s gum packs with handwritten labels.

Taping the “Now Open” sign to my door, I was ready for business. Advertising consisted of running to my sister’s room next door and over enthusiastically announcing for her to grab her piggy bank.

She was only five, and arrived with her little plastic egg full. With all the grace of Vanna White I showcased my wares to the unsuspecting victim. After purchasing every item, she left with the goods, and I sat back to count the money which I used to buy real gum.

I’m visiting my sister soon, and out of guilt…I think I owe her some Wrigley’s.