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    • CommentTimeApr 18th 2011
    Random summer jobs...

    1979: Food prep at a suburban restaurant/club called The Lighthouse. The job itself was uneventful, but the place got closed down because a prostitution ring was being run out of there (that explained the barflies, anyway).

    1983: Telephone surveys. We called up farmers and asked them what acreage they farmed, crops, pesticides and make and model of tractors. I suspect it was on behalf of Monsanto, because Roundup (a pesticide) and soybeans figured heavily in the questions. (Both would earn Monsanto infamy, because Roundup is some nasty shit and Monsanto gene-tailored a soybean strong enough to survive it but unable to produce seed, IIRC). The hard part was listening to farmers' tales of woe, because that was not only when US heavy industry became the rust belt, but when lots of small and medium-sized farms went under and were replaced by the likes of Monsanto.

    1985: "Car porter" at a dealership, which nominally meant moving cars brought in for repairs to and fro between the garage and the front and back lots. It also meant cleaning the cars, washing vacuuming ("sucking the farts out of car seats"), etc. Again, nothing remarkable here except learning how the dealership screwed the mechanics. The latter were treated as independent contractors hired at a fixed rate ($38/hr, then). They worked out of a shop manual that allocated a certain amount of time to each job--changing the oil, carburetor cleanup, replacing a blown head gasket, etc. The times reflected reality more or less. But when a customer brought in a car that was under warranty, the dealership nominally had to eat the cost...except they didn't, entirely. They couldn't pay the mechanics less, but for repairs under warranty, they worked out of a shop manual that was identical to the original one, except that the hours given for each job were half of those in the original manual. According to one of the mechanics, this was common practice.
    • CommentTimeApr 18th 2011
    I had two shit jobs. Literally. Shit jobs.

    One was driving a shit wagon on a chicken ranch. The wagon was the bastard child of a gocart and a front-loading earth mover, and the runt of the litter to boot. You laid down in it, drove under the chicken cages, and scooped up shit in the front loader. You steered by looking in a mirror and out to the sides. For obvious reasons, there was an opaque partition between you and the chickens as you drove underneath the cages.

    The other was working for the "Little Stinker" septic tank pumping company. We had two trucks. Both had the logo, a skunk, on the sides. One was the pump truck, a big black tanker style truck with two white stripes painted down the back. The other was a white pickup with two black stripes. My job was to go out to the customer site, find the septic tank, and dig it out until the tank hatches were exposed. About then the owner would show up in this disgusting tanker and actually pump out the tanks. I'd leave as soon as he showed up and start getting the next site ready. But every once in a while I'd get lucky and have to help pump a particularly obnoxious tank.

    Oddly enough, both jobs were much better than they sound. Once I got used to the smell, that little go-cart front-loader was a lot of fun to drive. And uncovering tanks for Little Stinker mostly meant driving that pickup all over San Diego country. An hour of driving, 30 minutes of frantic work, an hour of driving, lather, rinse, repeat. Once I stopped getting blisters on my blisters, it wasn't too bad.
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2011 edited
    I did a short stint as a patient assistant in a psychogeriatric ward in mid-90's. The job didn't really horrify me that much, or at least not because of all the shit, pus and blood we had to deal with (pretty standard hospital fare), but it's bit of a conversation stopper when told to people who haven't spent their formative years watching splatter and reading horror fiction.

    In any case, psychogeriatric ward is pretty much how it sounds: a place where crazy old people get stored. This includes schizophrenia and such, but mostly dementia, Alzheimer's and all that. There was no resuscitating equipment in there - whenever someone died, you pretty much just bagged them and sent them on their way. The thing that horrified me somewhat was the way people had to deal with the patients: the ward was understaffed and underpaid, and it kind of showed. I don't mean that anyone was mishandled or neglected, but there just was no time to talk to the patients or engage them in any way, and they regressed pretty fast into a total zombie mode. I took some time (and got yelled about it) to talk to some of the patients, who were first baffled and then seemed to enjoy having the only proper conversation of the week. That was bloody sad, but I'm laying no blame on the hospital staff over that - there simply was no time for such things.

    There were several quite wonderful gross out moments during that job. Like people trying to flush their adult diapers, carrying around underwear with a steady stream of diarrhea pouring out, finding a huge, yellow half a centimeter thick big toe nail in a patient's sock, or washing octogenarian grandmothers who casually tossed their tits over their shoulders. There was also this unassuming freezer on a hallway, and it was closed with a big padlock - this was where all the "recognizable human biomatter" was stored before disposed of. There were two patients who had certain severe forms of hospital bacteria, who were held in private rooms. One of them was kind of obvious, she had been living for five years wearing rubber boots day and night, and didn't have any skin on her legs below her knees. You were supposed to wear double gloves and disinfect your hands etc pretty thoroughly after dealing with them, and their catheter bags got slapped with a "biohazard" tag and shipped over to a center for dangerous waste. The other patient wasn't obvious at all, and I didn't realize the same precautions applied to her before one day I saw the nurses tending to her. She had these two euro coin sized pieces of skin missing from her back, and what was under there looked like pizza. There were these pus filled canals under the skin which the nurses just casually squeezed empty and mopped up.

    I guess the most winceworthy story is the one that involves a Foley catheter. It's basically this tube that's inserted in the urethra and it stays place by inflating this globe inside your bladder. This one grandpa decided to get a bit restless and go out for a walk. With his catheter fastened to his wheelchair. He was pretty out of it, and full of all kinds of medication, so he didn't notice that he basically pulled out that globe out of his bladder and through his penis, which split in half.

    All that aside, what really bummed me about that job is that I was horrified imagining myself in a ward like that. It's such a stacking place of old people, who mostly get food put in and shit taken out, and that's it. Made me take the nurses' demands of a bigger salary and more funding for staff a bit more seriously.
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2011
    "Recognizable human biomatter" is a good phrase, I need to use that in a sentence sometime.

    Vornaskotti, it's a good thing to do that kind of job. So thanks for that. It's terrible that often those people don't have a lot of social contact anymore. Here institutions generally rely on volunteers to make sure psychogeriatric patients have some sort of interaction with other people...but volunteers for that job aren't that easy to come by
  1.  (9699.105)
    I just learned a new word today. A chilling, depressing, horrible word. Psychogeriatric. That is a difficult job.
    Hmm, is there such a thing as Psychopediatric?
    • CommentAuthormunin218
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2011
    My *very first* job was at a telephone answering service.

    My *very first* solo call?

    It was a OB/GYN's office. A woman calls.

    "Um, I need the on call doctor to call me back."

    "Ok, what can I tell them is the problem?"

    "Well, I put in a tampon, but when I went to take it out, I couldn't find it. So I just put in another one."

    At this point, I'm trying very hard not to laugh, and doing admirably.

    "Ok," I encourage her to continue.

    " I cant find that one either."

    I assure her I will let the doctor know. I took the message, laughed hysterically with the person co-sitting with me, and paged the doc. When the doc called back, I got that call. Not surprising, we only had maybe 8 staff. I relayed the message, again quite proud of how straight faced I did it.

    The doctor broke down in hysterical laughing.

    A lot of my telephone jobs have gone that way, with my first call being quite possibly the weirdest or worst I end up taking.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2011

    Heh, I worked at an answering service, I feel your pain.

    We took a lot of calls for psychiatrist and psychologist offices in our city and we used to have a frequent caller, who I will refer to as C.

    C used to call her doctor. A lot. I think the record was over fifty messages left in one day and most of these messages weren't about anything in particular, mostly about how her husband A wasn't letting her do something or updates about how she was feeling.

    C had a common line she used in nearly every call, which was "All of the beautiful children are on my side." Not her husband's side, she'd reassure you sometimes, but on hers, and she would make you include that in any message left during the call."Tell Dr X that all the beautiful children are on my side," she'd say at least three times until your assurance that you had sunk in. Sometimes there were variations on her catchphrase, sometimes she'd tell us what all the beautiful children thought, but the beautiful children were almost always present in her calls. The fact that she spoke in a high-pitched, sing-song like voice made it creepier.

    What did her doctor do? Mostly ignored her messages. He'd call in every morning to get his messages from us and he'd only want the ones read to him from people other than C; C's messages he'd just take down the number she'd left in the last twenty-four hours and go from there. He explained to me that the number of calls was often indicative of how much or little of her medications she was taking; fewer calls equaled more medication.

    As for her husband, we were all convinced he was imaginary because of the way she talked about things until one day he called in. It took every ounce of effort I had to not blurt out, "You're real?!"
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2011 edited
    I wonder if this thread has room for "the crap parts of my current job." You know, the stuff that we bitch about during our smoke breaks - or what we would if we still smoked (I do, know what I mean).

    Technically I'm not employed so my job is making myself employable as well as occasionally soliciting work in the field I used to be a part of - copy writing & online marketing. It's a bitch because I don't have enough advertising/agency experience to really sell my copy writing abilities - this in the traditional world of writing in hard copy form. Agencies aren't impressed by over six years of writing online ads. But if I had been writing brochures for even half that time they would be all over my applications. As far as online marketing goes, I don't have enough of a tech background to impress them.

    I keep talking to pseudo-programmers who sniff at my writing background when I say I don't know the details to any given search algorithm, but I do know the priorities of content that gets ranked well and more over, and more importantly, attracts eyeballs and retains attention. (At least as far as marketing goes. On my own time I don't mind being tuned out while I ramble on at length.)

    But the biggest killer is that I haven't had a real day job in nearly four years. I've done a little freelance here and there, but it's been *really* little. That has been the crappiest part not just because it makes finding work harder but because it affects my attitude. Over the past few months I've been quite busy so it hasn't been bad but a year ago, and for about the previous two years) I was having serious depression issues as no one wanted me for anything and I was helpless in my debts.

    Still having financial difficulties but between Japanese classes, voice over classes and stage managing a play I'm so insanely busy all the bad thoughts from depression are shoved to the periphery. Right now this making-myself-more-employable routine is materially bad because I don't have the time to deal with regular maintenance like working out, taking care of my truck, cleaning my room, eating healthy... but I mostly like what I'm doing. I mean stage managing has its downsides but it's largely dealing with actors and their egos, interpreting a director who's very emotive about his vision but not particularly detailed, and juggling a zillion details. And VO is interesting if quite a challenge because the hardest parts are directly against who and what I am, namely that successfully getting into the VO world requires networking & being outgoing when I'm really, really good at being insular and living internally.

    So it's not terrible, I guess, when I get to pick my hell. The last job interview I went on, I knew I just had to perform because I totally need the money. But just walking through the office made me want to hide. The cubicles...the overhead lighting...the desperate tchotchkes littering the offices to give them some personality... That's hell. Or maybe it's just purgatory. It would just make me itch inside my skin. But as long as I get enough smoke breaks no one need know.

    ETA Oh I forgot - I may have mentioned I'm bad at this - Please, oh please, oh please vote for me on the American Gods audition contest. My submission is here. You'll have to register or link your facebook account and then search for my entry. But please vote and then tell your friends! Yeah, this whole begging for attention...that might be related to being without full time work for four years.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeApr 20th 2011
    I think the worst job I had was working for a large medical insurance provider based in California, the one that does a lot of thriving.

    During the two years I worked there I was a TSR, teleservices representative, basically a glorified operator in a call center. Our job was to take incoming calls from patients and members. Using scripts developed by doctors, we would inquire about symptoms and, using said scripts, follow the outcome to either book an appointment with their doctor, transfer them to an advice nurse, or send a message.

    Everyone who has worked in a call-center environment knows that they are typically located in Hell, somewhere just north of Malbolgia and this one wasn't any better. Many people who call into call centers are pissed and these people were pissed and sick. Many times they were dealing with doctors who weren't in regularly or who were booked up, the slowness to get a referral to a specialist department, screw-ups with prescriptions or lack of response to messages sent and we were the lucky ones who got to take the brunt of their frustration and try to calm them down.

    I lost track of the number of times I got cursed out by the callers, how often they made me feel like absolute shit. Yes, I know they were sick and I had some sympathy and cut them some slack (I'm no bowl of sunshine myself when ill) but oftentimes I left there hating life. The worst were parents of pre-school and kindergarten-aged children. Schools in California require you to have a well-child/physical appointment within a few months before the start of the school year before the child can attend and most parents would book the appointments well in advance, but there were always some who'd wait a month, weeks, or even days until the start of the year and then get pissed off when all the appointments were booked.

    Beyond the callers there was the environment of the call center. Add to the shitty nature of the work management who lied to your face, nurses who were dismissive or outright insulting to us, and a contentious management-labor relationship (we were union employees) and no one wanted to work there. We once caught a nurse eating an employee's lunch in front of the employee; when the employee told the nurse that it was her lunch, the nurse had the audacity to reply, "Really? It's quite good." Despite the zero tolerance policy, she wasn't fired because getting nurses to work there was like pulling the teeth out of a rabid bear sans tranquilizers, i.e. painful, brutal, and typically unsuccessful. One of the three second-tier managers was made some rather racist remarks to the face of one of the union stewards (who was black); she wasn't fired either. The stewards, as a whole, weren't much better.

    My girlfriend-now-wife used all of her skills as a recruiter to help get me out of that hellhole and I've never looked back.

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