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!


  1. I’m so boring. I’ve never had any jobs like that. I’ve pretty much always been in technology.

  2. That’s a great story!! Is it for real? My worst job ever was a job packing veges. You got paid a commission on how much you packed so I got given all the 3-4 item orders while the others packed big boxes! That would have been ok as I was the new person, but the table that I was working on was too low and by the end of the day, I went to get into my car an my back siezed up. I eventually got home but I couldn’t lie down or sit. I spent a heck of a lot more than what I earned at the chiropractor and that was the end of that job. Knowing what I know now, I would have at least hit them for the cost of the chiropractor as it was obviously a workplace health and safety issue.
    jan recently posted..The psychology of weight loss and dietingMy Profile

    • Yes it was a one day nightmare. My mother still had the notes I left and gave them to me, but I couldn’t find them. I wanted to include them. Oooo that packing job sounded just as bad. All the bending putting bottles in a box was painful too. Obviously they weren’t concerned at either one of our jobs about making the job less taxing on the body.

      • Jean - Melinda's Mom Who Read the Scribbled Notes says:

        It was real! The stack of 4″ square note paper contained a really funny description of that job and her totally out of place outfit as she described how everyone else was dressed there. I’m sure I handed that over to Melinda a couple of years ago; sure wish she could have found it.

        • I’m going to take a stab at this and guess this was subtle Mom code for I should clean my room. She’s good. I did clean my room and closet and didn’t find them ;( Why I can’t be trusted with valuable documents of historical value.

  3. Hi Melinda

    I’m trying to picture you in your white jeans and high heels working a machine in a factory lol My Mother had a friend who dressed like that to work in a factory during the war. She had never worked before and went all dressed up and didn’t have a clue!

    Only difference to your story was she loved working even though she could never do her quota and I think my Mum probably helped her out as she was a supervisor. Although Mum was much younger than lots of the women, she is very practical and worked fast so they gave her the job to oversee the rest of the workers.

    I’ve not had a job like yours that I didn’t like for those reasons. I just had one job that I was miserable at not because of the work which was easy to do, but the attitude of the employer who owned the business. Her treatment of staff was appauling and after I left, most of the others left soon after!

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • I probably broke all records that day on producing the least amount of shippable product. They should really warn you to wear work clothes and not call it casual. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. It sounds like you had a Laverne & Shirley type of job there! I can feel your pain.

    One summer after a year of college I got a job working at a huge printing company. As was your experience, when you’re new you get put at the end of the line -not a place you want to be.

    The magazines would go through the binding process, get shrinkwrapped and strapped up in stacks of 20. It was my job to take the bound stacks and pile them on a wooden palette for a forklift operator to come and move.

    Well, what no one told me was that the shrinkwrap would still be HOT when it came off the conveyor belt. It was so hot some of it was still liquid, and it would stick to your fingers and keep burning you until you wiped it off -on your shirt/pants or whatever lol.

    Not only that, but the binding straps were fairly sharp. They wouldn’t cut you open with one slice, but after a day of handling them my hands were cut to ribbons!

    I tried wearing gloves, but if they were thick enough to protect you, they hindered your job performance, and if they were thinner they didn’t provide any protection at all.

    Finally, I didn’t really stack up the piles very good, either. They would make me take the whole thing down and re-stack them in a neater fashion. Meanwhile the forklift driver is staring at me giving me the stink-eye for slowing him down.

    The best thing in the world happened when they took me off the line and made me sweep all day. I think they thought it was a punishment, but all I did was wander around the plant all day, sweeping and essentially just chillin’!

    It was quite a time! I’ll probably have nightmares tonight…
    John recently posted..The Terrible Trouble with PageRank!My Profile

    • LOL Yes these bottles were still warm too. Hot plastic isn’t the most fun to handle. Perhaps they think you will work faster if you want to get it out of your hand ASAP. Ha ha I would have been thrilled to have been sweeping instead. From that experience I gained a new respect for those people who can efficiently keep up with a line. I do remember thinking it reminded me of Laverne & Shirley!

  5. That sounds crazy!!!!

    I think the worst job I had- it wasn’t really about the job itself- but the insane people working there. They all yelled and screamed and slammed doors and threw things. I lasted one day and never went back!
    Shell recently posted..You Know What Rockin’ the Bump Leads to? Find Out What’s Next!My Profile

    • That doesn’t make for a nice work environment. My best job ever was just that because I had such awesome people I worked with. I would go to work early because I loved it there…that is rare!

  6. OMG that I Love Lucy clip was hilarious! I was laughing loudly the whole time I watched it. Lucy looked so funny with all those candies in her mouth! I can totally picture you with all the bottles and throwing them back when you couldn’t keep up, LOL.

    I think the worst job I had was a one day telemarketing job, which I don’t remember very well (I think I blocked it from my memory, ’cause it was so bad). But the other bad job I had was working in a hair salon as an apprentice. I got treated like CRAP! I might just have to blog about that and link up with you. I do remember some funny stories from working there. I’ll let you know if I do.
    Keshyra recently posted..Whole Foods Parking Lot, Rap VideoMy Profile

  7. Oh, Melinda, this is SO close to the worst job I ever had — and a job I had successfully forgotten all about until now. Gratefully it was a temp job I got through an agency that farmed me out to do whatever needed doing wherever it was needed.

    Mine as an hourโ€™s drive away and started at 7:00 AM. I was not an early riser at that time. It too was a factory but instead of making bottles, they filled bottles. No, now that I think about it, they made the bottles too, then filled them with a boiling hot fruit juice concoction. Fruit Juicers I think they were called. A barely-there plastic bottle that you snipped the top off and squirted the โ€œdeliciousโ€ fruit flavored drink into your mouth. I never tried one. Never even wanted to after this.

    My job was to inspect the bottles as they came out of the filling machine, boiling hot, by squeezing each bottle to make sure it didnโ€™t leak and pack them into boxes. Rejects went into a bin. Someone else picked up the bin occasionally to separate juice and bottle and reprocess both. It was sweltering hot, and every single time I found a leaker, which way did it squirt? Yep, right at me. Boiling hot fruit juice all over my face, and shirt.

    On my second day I brought gloves and a face mask. I can totally relate to your experience! Fortunately, I was needed to help cover for someone out sick. They returned after a few weeks and I got to go elsewhere. And I was ready to go!
    Allan Douglas recently posted..Happy Pappy Day!My Profile

    • Ouch! That’s horrible. Everyone should experience these types of jobs just to appreciate those people that do them every day, year after year. Ok the “reprocessed both the liquid and the container” grossed me out…the reject juice when back into the juice to fill bottles again??.. AAAA!

      • Yep… give you pause about buying that type of product doesn’t it?

        Having this kind of job also helps us to find the good in most ANY other job. Even detassling corn for a summer wasn’t THIS bad. I’m just thankfull that I didn’t show up in white slacks and high heels. Ummm… not that I would – ever!
        Allan Douglas recently posted..Whence Came the Horses?My Profile

  8. I read this the first time in my email subscription and the I Love Lucy clip didn’t appear, but that’s exactly what came to mind. I had this vision of you trying to eat the shampoo bottles to get rid of some of them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I can’t compete with this story. I’ve worked in some crazy places for sure but your experience wins the award for Worst Job Ever.
    Margaret Reyes Dempsey recently posted..I Did It!My Profile

  9. Melinda, I agree with Margaret: you had the worst job ever.
    I claim second-worst, though: wait-staff at University of Virginia’s Darden School.

    First of all, it was like an uppity country club setting. Secondly, there were RULES for setting places. Crap that the Three Stooges used to go through on occasion. Finally, the scenarios called for different types of “service”.

    I lasted for one shift. The night I worked, I got “lucky”, as the guests had an either-or buffet menu. So all I had to do was run into and out of the room with plates of food.
    What broke my back was having to bus the tables and CARRY trays of filthy dishes 200 miles uphill to the kitchen. (Damn college couldn’t afford carts, I guess!) Gawd, I was too old for that [fill in Danny Glover line].

    There’s more. The manager was Dr. Jekyll when I first got there. Mr. Hyde poked his head out when he discovered an improperly set place. For two solid minutes he ranted in my face about the professionalism of the Darden School and how it was threatened because the olive fork was to the left of the teaspoon (or some such nonsense). I let that fool vent at me like I was some high-school kid. When he stopped to take a breath, I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Sir, this is not my table.” He was falling all over himself to apologize.


    Stocking shelves at K-mart was a cakewalk, by comparison. I lasted six months. LOL



    P.S. This plum assignment came on the heels of my Comcast database management gig. How’s that for balancing the universe?
    Mitchell Allen recently posted..Tell a PrompterMy Profile

    • I never was a waitress for fear of dropping something on someone. During college i did my “good experience” jobs that paid nothing and watched my waitress roomate come home with wads of hundreds. I think I would have fun doing it now because it’s not code that won’t work plus I would have no problem chatting up a tip. ๐Ÿ™‚

      That sounds pretty rough. I can’t believe he screamed and yelled and then found out it wasn’t you. You were too young to know that the world revolves around the placement of an olive fork. ;P Comcast! Nice gig!

      • Melinda, since I quit my “Real Job”, I did some temp jobs. The wait-staff thing was in 2009. that’s what made it so bad…I was probably older than the manager!

        Comcast was really fun, though. Pizza parties, company luncheons and the infamous “Michael Scott” Yankee Swap Christmas party…


        Mitchell Allen recently posted..Tell a PrompterMy Profile

        • Lol!!! The Michael Scott Xmas exchange. I’ve suffered with the worst gift at a few of those. No amount of Vanna White showcasing the bad item can lure anyone into taking it. That episode was one of my fav!!

  10. Haha! That is some hilarity! And I even remember that episode you linked. My worst Job is not that entertaining. It was just McDonalds. I quit during the first week after some guy dropped a tray of cooked burger paties on the floor, then scooped them up and put them on buns. I told the manager and he was like, “What? You got a Problem?”
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    • That is seriously scary!! In Australia they did a programme about some of the chains here that sell meals with a salad bar and they had secret cameras installed. There was food dropped on the floor and put back into the dishes, people sneezing and coughing under the “sneeze bar”, people putting fingers in the food – yuk!! It’s a wonder more people don’t get seriously ill.
      jan recently posted..The psychology of weight loss and dietingMy Profile

  11. I have to say I love the turquoise and white ensemble you put together! Super fabulous! The image of you vividly dressed doing a Lucy” imitation is hysterical. I’m so glad those sketch artists are able to capture your every moment. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The worst job I ever had wasn’t great, but it doesn’t come close to as entertaining as your story. After competing in the Miss Illinois pageant, there were people there offering some of us jobs. They called it modeling, but the truth is it was perfume spraying. I stood in malls all over the place in a banana colored dress and sprayed Giorgio perfume on people whether they wanted it or not ๐Ÿ˜‰ By the time I went home I reeked so badly that I’d get migraines just from being in the car with myself. See? Not as exciting as your story ๐Ÿ˜‰
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  12. That is absolutley hilarious! Good for you for dressing smartly and trying to make a good impression! The way you’ve described that makes it sound like something out of a comedy film! I can just picture you throwing all the bottles back into the melter! Hilarious!
    Harriet recently posted..Mobile Phone ExchangeMy Profile

  13. This was so funny! I could just picture you with empty, warm bottles falling all over you. Ha! I love your cartoon, too. I don’t know about my worst job. It was probably at the skating rink where I had to clean out the nacho cheese dispenser. The old cheese when it came out of the dispenser looked like an orange snake. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why did I bring that UP?! Also? You totally surprised me at the end by mentioning my Women of Industry posts. You are so kind and you ROCK!
    Kelley recently posted..Are They Laughing At My Son’s Speech?!?My Profile

  14. Hi Melinda,
    You definitely made my day, I started it with a good laugh! Your story was so “alive” and so much fun to read that I could truly picture you fighting with those bottles in your neat outfit in a noisy and dirty production plant (Willy Wonka probably had tidier environment in his factory..I guess). I loved the edited photo with all the workers and you!
    Nella recently posted..ZahnprotheseMy Profile

  15. Hi Melissa,

    lol Sorry I laughed at your story and the edited photo. It seem to describe your story perfectly. Mine wasn’t really a job at all. During my 3rd year in college, I was an usherette in an advertising camp organized by the 4th yr students. My friend told me to come with her and volunteer to be an usherette. I agreed without knowing what to do. I thought my job was just to guide the guests or attendees. I was at the registration table when some senior students asked for information and I didn’t know the answer. At first, I just asked one of my companions but the problem is, I kept asking him for every question they asked. So they were like looking at me and I think they wanted to say that they should have rather asked my companion instead. ๐Ÿ™ So I felt really useless during that time.

    • Ha ha so you job was really just sitting at the table smiling…but don’t ask anything! I felt that way my first day as a UPS customer service phone person because they could ask anything and you had to know this entire book full of information. They would be on hold for 5 min. while I looked up something simple.

  16. Yep. That sounds crazy! I’ve had my share of horrible jobs, but nothing as funny as your bottle story. I think my WORST (from an emotional standpoint and how much I hated it) was working as an assistant to a very powerful woman. She made me fluff her pillows on the couch in her office. And she drank water out of a crystal glass. She also screamed a lot. She made men cry in meetings. She was the scariest boss ever. Being an assistant to a crazy person is hell.

  17. Oh, I’ve never had a fun job like that! I’ve had a crapload of jobs, but I think you win w/ this one.
    MommaKiss recently posted..WW 6.29My Profile

  18. Wow – that sounds like a nightmare! I’ve had un-enjoyable jobs, but certainly nothing like that!

  19. You could not totally make things happen according to your plan. Of course, there will be flaws on everything. But whatโ€™s beautiful about it is that you can always try again and do better. Never give up easily.
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  20. I don’t think I have ever had a horrible job like that. My first job is the closest I have ever been to a bad job.

    I worked at a small cafe inside a grocery store so I have to wear the store uniform with a hairnet, hat and apron. The hairnet was really attractive. I smelled like coffee grounds and sour milk at the end of the day because milk always spilled. I started to get paranoid thinking my hands smelled like old cream so I would wash them in a crazy obsessive way.

    It wasn’t too bad but as close as I have.
    Saber recently posted..Summer Activities โ€“ for the tanning impairedMy Profile

  21. I’ve never had one of those production line jobs, because I would have handled it about as well as you did. (Have you ever played Tetris? I get chest pains just from thinking about that game.) My worst job involved filling in for somebody in the meat department at a local supermarket. I had to reach my hand into frozen turkeys and pull out a little bag of internal organs. Or maybe I had to put the bag into the turkeys. I can’t remember, because I’ve repressed most of the experience. All I know is, it was disgusting and cold and my hands got really scratched up.

    By the way, I know you’d never go back to the bottle plant, but don’t you miss the days when two hundred dollars was considered major credit card debt?
    Charles Gulotta recently posted..Thatโ€™s a Different StoryMy Profile

    • LOL I know…$200 and I thought it was the end of the world. If only…

      I love Tetris and couldn’t get enough of that addictive game when it first came out.

      I wouldn’t have made it 5 minutes dealing with turkeys.

  22. Hi Melinda,
    The part โ€œWilly Wonka of Plastic Bottlesโ€ really made me laugh here! ๐Ÿ˜€ I also had that same experience, although yours is funnier and weirder than mine. I accepted a job I thought was going to be desk work โ€“ I wore heels and a fancy dress on my first day, to impress my boss. Much to my surprise, I ended up doing field work โ€“ everyone was wearing rubber shoes, jeans and cotton shirts โ€“ I was like โ€œThe Princess and the PEAsantsโ€..
    Felicia recently posted..Phil Hellmuth – a living legendMy Profile

  23. Wow that sounds like a nightmare.

  24. Oh, could we talk jobs.

    Could we talk.

    I was the milk shake maker at a local burger place.

    Every time you went to make a shake, you’d get a shock.

    We’d all try to scatter when we’d hear a customer at the window order, “a chocolate SHAKE…”
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  25. That job sounds horrible.
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  26. hahaha this is so funny! I was really fascinated to know that you have been to this kind of job. All mine is boring just a typical office working girl! yay
    Leigh recently posted..What to Expect On a Property Tour Part 1My Profile

  27. Hey! Where did you go? I want a new post from you. Waaaa!!! I loved this one when I read it but I want to read what you got going on inside your head now. You always crack me up!
    Kelley recently posted..10 Things NOT TO DO When A Vacuum Cleaner Salesperson Comes To Your HouseMy Profile

  28. I enjoyed reading your post. I laughed while I read.

    My worst job ever was when I got a memo due to my colleague’s mistake. Being a department head, I am responsible for my subordinates work. Considering that it was my first, i felt like it was a nightmare. Answering memorandum from the Branch manager is such a pain. But because of the need to earned, I lasted in that company for a year and 2 month until I got a new and better job.
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  29. Oh my god, that sounds AWFUL! At least it makes for a great story now, though, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. I wouldn’t have lasted more than a day there, either.. And I probably would’ve shown up in a similar outfit, so don’t feel bad. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve never done a temp agency, but now I know that if I ever do I’ll make sure to listen to any advice they might have about the jobs they’re offering!


  31. Worst job ever had was stocking books at a book store. NORMALLY, I would say that working at Border’s would have been a great job. I love to read and I love to learn. Problem was as a stocker, I was not allowed read the book. Well I could read on breaks. And they didn’t want me to interact with customers. That would slow down shelving.

    So for 8 hours a day I was told not to talk to people and preform a mind numbing task. Oh yeah, did I say that I was working as a bartender before that and loved almost every minute of it?

    @Melinda – Disney was a fun place to work. Just they don’t pay very much ๐Ÿ™