An Example Of How Lucky We Have It

The worst job they could come up with:

I’ve held my silence for long enough, but my true identity (for about 2 months) was the bird at Red Robin – Red, he really has a name. It was horrible, you could only be out in the restaurant getting poked and stepped on by little kids for 15-20 minutes at a time- at which point you would overheat and the staff would waddle you back to the huge meat freezer to cool off and start all over again. Perk: free steak fries and soda.

Boo. Hoo.

I don’t want to get into a Monty Python “we had to live in a cardboard box and get killed by our father every morning, and be grateful that we had the luxury of a box” sort of thing, but I’ve had worse jobs.

But I’m not going to bother to talk about them, because I know that at the worst, I lived in a paradise compared to many millions in the world. For example, consider the people who have to work in real sweat shops, where you don’t get a break every 15-20 minutes.

But even there, I don’t think it compares to a “job” in North Korea, where your job is to go out and find something to eat that will be worth the energy that it took you to find it — forget about whether or not it will feed your family.

These people have no conception of what bad jobs are. And the frightening thing is that they may find out before the reign of The One, who many of them voted for, is over, because he seems to think that state planning, as occurs in the extreme there, should reign over the market.

30 thoughts on “An Example Of How Lucky We Have It

  1. Assistant Village Idiot

    Here’s how quickly we adapt to wealth. My third and fourth sons were shepherds in a peasant village in Romania when they were six and seven years old. Both have had six-day-a-week, twelve-hours-a-day jobs harvesting before they were 10 as their “summer job.” But they’ve been in America eight years now, and there are jobs they can’t imagine themselves taking. They themselves say that those older experiences seem to have happened to someone else.

  2. AST

    Amen! My mother was the 7th of 8 children raised by their widowed mother during the depression. She didn’t talk much about her worst jobs, but I remember her saying that she and her sister were sent out with gunny sacks to pick up lumps of coal from along the railroad tracks. No allowances in that home, but the kids got through college somehow.

    The argument that there are too many jobs Americans won’t do, says a lot more about the decline of our work ethic than the need for more immigrants.

    One of those jobs that is declining is that of parent. Pets are preferred over children.

  3. Kelly

    My worst job was detasseling corn, even worse than basic training and substitute teaching. I had a rash, corn poisening it was called, up and down both my arms despite wearing long sleeved shirts and gloves in 90+ degree weather. The bugs were terrible. Some days we rode on a machine as we detasseled, other days we walked acres upon acres. The pay was pretty good for a high school student at that time, it was something like $5.25 an hour, time and a half on Sundays. This was about 28 years ago.

  4. MarkJ

    I’ll tell you what the worst job imaginable will be in 2010:

    Democratic congressman.

    Imagine facing several hundred angry constituents (many of them newly unemployed) while concurrently trying to explain why you voted for legislation that raised their taxes and destroyed their livelihoods, but didn’t bother to read the damn bills before you pulled the trigger.

    Bad news in 2010: The unemployment rate will likely hit 12%.

    Good news in 2010: A major growth industry in the coming year will be…personal security for congressmen.

  5. Thomass

    You know, they worded the question as worst you ever had… not WORST EVER.

    When I read the question I thought of a few fast food jobs… that I also sorta liked…

  6. Ogre

    I’ve had some pretty crappy jobs. Tearing down old buildings in 110 degree heat was not fun and the pay wasn’t great. However, it doesn’t compare to a recent job I left. I was hired because of my extensive background in the field (Senior Linux System Administrator). From the very first day my manager treated me like I was a moron, ignored every suggestion I made, micromanaged me constantly, bitched that I took to long, the list goes on. I’ve worked for some of the biggest names in the tech industry (Google, for example). I’m not a f**** intern! The tear down job in the summer heat was better because the boss was a nice guy.

    I’m happy in my current job. They respect my expertise.

  7. Q

    It’s pretty unsporting to call these people out for their ‘worst job’ stories and then dodge the issue by not explaining how your jobs were, in fact, worse. Or were they? I hope you’re not just preening for your readers.

    As to your larger point: Of course there are worse jobs in the world than what these people came up with. The point of the post was not to talk about The Worst Job in The World — this guy simply asked the people he worked with to come up with their worst jobs. It may shock you that among a group of college-educated, middle-class Americans there were not many tales of North Korean refugees or immigrant laborer woes, but then most normal people don’t react to such lists with sneering self-righteousness coupled with unhinged remarks about the president.

  8. Rand Simberg Post author

    It may shock you that among a group of college-educated, middle-class Americans there were not many tales of North Korean refugees or immigrant laborer woes, but then most normal people don’t react to such lists with sneering self-righteousness coupled with unhinged remarks about the president.

    I’ve never considered myself a “normal” person, but I’m not sure what your point is, other than that the truth about the president hurts.

  9. Donna B.

    The worst job I ever had was in a clothing factory. I was paid by the piece, not time, even though I had to punch a time clock. There was one 10 minute break in the morning, one in the afternoon, and 30 minutes for lunch.

    By the second week, I crying on my way home. During the third week, I sewed my finger to the garment… and that’s when my supervisor said I might not be cut out (pun intended, I’m sure) for that job.

    It was the closest thing to a sweat shop that existed in this country in the early 70s. I hope!

    The worst thing was the lack of dignity. We were herded. If we had to pee between lunch or breaks, we had to get permission to leave our workstations. Supervisors continually walked the aisles wielding a verbal whip. The atmosphere was humiliating.

    I remember it every time I buy ready-made clothing.

  10. Q

    I’ve never considered myself a “normal” person, but I’m not sure what your point is, other than that the truth about the president hurts.

    Kids these days. Shouldn’t we all just be grateful that we live in a country with a leader like Obama and not Kim Jong-Il? Or do you lack the proper perspective to recognize that we live in the greatest place in the history of the Cosmos?

  11. Douglas

    My worst job.

    The job itself was easy, the people were nice, and the managers were very pleasant in how they handled situations, but working on an assembly line for 2 years was nothing but a negative in the long run.

    I was a low level electronics tech, and I didn’t like being low level, and basically making the same as an assembly line worker per hour because of the drives I had to take, that cost me money, and the variable hours that were required inhibited my personal life.

    So I decided to quite and sign on with a line, I went from working 60-80 hours a week, doing something that was less than my training, but in line with my training, to working 60-80 hours a week doing something that was FAR less than my training.

    I went from getting called at all hours of the night because I was one of the few people who understood the gear (it wasn’t complicated, or at least not very complicated, I could train the dumbest person on the planet how to fix the gear in about 6 weeks, I said it was low level) To getting a call 4-6 hours before my shift started so I could cover for someone else, or being told I had to cover 4-6 hours after my shift ended because someone screwed up.

    I basically made the same amount of money net in those two jobs, one of them (the low level tech job, and yes it was tech, I was the go to guy for most of chicago cuz I was good with electronics) about 40K in my first year, I made about 30K in the line job, but the “tech” job cost me a lot of money to make it into work.

    The reason the line job was the worst job ever, is that, I took about 8 years of training (all practical) and threw it away, I destroyed my resume’ “looking for myself” while working on the line.

    That is also why I don’t like unions and line work in general.

    Working the line does NOT build value, in an adult with a skill, it actually destroys it. Rather than working to better yourself buy learning more skills, and gaining experience, you are slowly destroyed by the rules of work in these environments.

    I often reference the Marine Corps when I talk about work, and there is a reason for that. I didn’t just have a Job in the Marine Corps, I had several jobs in the Marine Corps, and whether that job was my MOS or not, I was expected to learn it and do it well. The Marine Corps made me better, with each new task. The Line never allowed, let alone gave, me a single task other than sitting in one place and doing maybe 3 things in sequence each time.

    If we got rid of unions, cars would be much cheaper, kids would have decent work experiences at a younger age, and we wouldn’t be lagging in general production. We would have people with a foundation upon which they can build, rather than people who can progress financially by sitting still.

  12. T J Sawyer

    Worst job? In the early 1960s I spent summers about thirty miles west of Portland, OR, picking strawberries. This counts as piecework. We were paid a nickle per hallock. The first time through a field, you could make about a dollar an hour if you just kept your head down and picked like hell. After that it fell off to maybe $0.50 an hour.

    On your knees, bent over in the dirt. With hot sun if you were lucky, rain if you weren’t.

    I’ve never complained about a job since.

    Did I feel sorry for myself? No, I felt sorry for the 7, 8, 9 year-olds that were in the field beside me as part of a migrant worker family all picking together. No, they were not Mexican. In those days, migrant workers came from Oklahoma, Arkansas and other locations in the south. They worked their way across the country to California, then north following the crops. I won’t go into their housing situation.

  13. Douglas

    The tear down job in the summer heat was better because the boss was a nice guy

    Ogre, When I was 17, I did a “rip out” (we called it that) with a friend of the family. He was a contractor and trained as an architect, but since he moved to the US in the 60’s from iran, he made his living as a contractor.

    He bought one of those municipal auction houses, from a drug raid or something. At the time the property, if properly maintained, should have been worth about 60K, he bought it for 17K I think, with money lent to him by his brother.

    He needed labor, and was willing to pay for a pro, but he used me and one of my friends instead. We ripped out all of the lathe plaster, all the electrical, we completely gutted that house, even a couple of support columns that my friend and I thought were sure to make the building collapse on us. We put in 10 hours a day, only geting about 5 bucks an hour and a few small scars, my buddy quit pretty quickly but we already had most of the work done for the rip out.

    Very long story made only kinda long, this filthy job (and it was filthy, there was literally human waste on some of the walls) turned from doing a bunch of disgusting and filthy work, requiring a great deal of labor for a small amount of money was wonderfully rewarding, because once I got done doing the rip out, I took part in the build.

    The guy I was working for, like I said, was an architect who made his living in the US as a contractor, turned this borderline crackhouse into a work of art, and I was a part of it. Something that was hideous and hateful, became something beautiful, and was written up a number of times in the local paper. 2 guys did it. The guy who knew what he was doing (my boss) and one stupid tired kid who really only served the purpose of picking up heavy stuff, with an assist from my friend, I’m rather proud of that.

    Of course, the purpose for this work didn’t work out, it was supposed to be a photograph of before and after, with a pricetag to get the guy more work localy, but it didn’t work that way, but just because something is cheap or a failure in purpose, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.

  14. Andrew

    Substitute teaching is pretty awful. You get woken up by the phone every morning, have no idea when you show up whether you’ll get co-operative kids or little monsters, and you’re basically ignored by the other adults in the building. All this for $12 an hour, no benefits, no summer salary.

    The only upside is you get to go home at the end of the school day. Real teachers rarely get to pull that off.

  15. Fred K

    Ogre:

    Been there, done that. Still doing that. Why is it that Sys Admin are not verbally rewarded and valued? 50% of my divisions customers (and their ongoing contracts) depend directly on my work — but the best outcome of my day is not to get crapped on.

  16. MG

    My worst job? Moving irrigation lines by hand on 13 acres of pasture — for room and board. The “farm” was a financial drain — t’would have been better to let it be fallow, and let me have a life.

    Polling (as in, “cutting off horns”) cattle with inadequate squeeze chutes was no fun.

    Neither was cutting asparagus, though the pay was better.

    Did I mention raking muck from calf stalls? And having my calf be the only one (of 5) to survive? And “sharing” the sale returns with my siblings?

    I think I’ll go take my blood pressure medicine now ;)

  17. Big D

    MG: You shoulda raised goats along with the cows. Cows can be stupid at times, but goats are the dumbest creatures on four legs, and yet the most ingenious at finding ways to commit suicide.

    Working 60-80 hours a week from my living room is soooo much easier than working 80+ outside–and I get paid, now, too! :)

  18. Marian

    Worst job ever held by me? Cleaning the crematory furnaces from remains of human ashes. Ostrava, the Czech republic, Central Europe, 1996.

    Hey, it was well paid. But you had black grease in your hair every evening.

  19. Jim

    Marian wins. My own worst job: a tie between detasseling corn, and working the ‘close’ shift at a McDonalds.

    Both are better, of course, than what most people in Zimbabwe are doing today.

  20. McGehee

    Hmmm. My worst job? There was the one where I couldn’t even work unless I was able to get into an unstaffed office (to which only selected employees had the key) at a time when someone was there, but the only way to know when somebody was there was to have already gotten into the unstaffed office… I might have kept that job if I were willing to risk having to explain to the cops why I was breaking in.

    But I’m still not sure that was my worst job. There was this other one where one day helping to clean up in a house that had had a fire, left me smelling soot and smoke on myself for weeks.

    But I’m still not sure even that was my worst job. There was this other one where I was given mats of fiberglass to cut into pieces, without gloves or a breathing mask. I only did that for a couple of hours and wound up blowing pink snot into Kleenex for several days in between scratching at my hands and arms and neck. (And I’m not even mentioning that at the end of that day I had to call a friend to come and get me because my car refused to start; t5his isn’t a “my worst car” thread after all.)

    But I’m still not sure even that was my worst job. After all, I’m a taxpayer in 2009 America…

  21. David Gillies

    I’m surprised no-one’s brought up the old Derek and Clive sketch about Jayne Mansfield and the lobsters.

    My worst job was working split shifts in a fish and chip shop(12-4, 6-midnight). Pay was lousy (£2 an hour in 1989), it was hot, sweaty, smelly work, I had to carry hundredweight buckets of uncooked chips down two flights of stairs, I smelt so badly of grease I had dogs following me home, and a sizeable proportion of the customers (especially French exchange students, of which there were many) deserved to be boiled alive in chip fat.

    Of course I recognize by the standards of much of the world’s population, it was a sinecure.

  22. MG

    Big D,

    Here is a riddle for you:

    We had a small pet goat named Billy (breed unknown).
    I would play with Billy Billy had little nubs for horns. Our play? I would get on all fours, and push the top of my head against the top of Billy’s head. Billy would push back. Billy would win. I would play the same game again.

    Now… who was dumber, the goat or the human?

  23. Andrea Harris

    My worst job was working at McDonalds when I was eighteen or so. I’d already worked for Publix and other grocery stores so I thought, how bad could it be? Well — it wasn’t the job itself, which was easy, but the way the manager was always coming up to me and telling me to “Smile!” There’s nothing guaranteed to put a frown on my face faster than that. It wasn’t enough that I was a mild-mannered, easy-going teen and I don’t have a naturally “frowny” face but rather the opposite (in fact, my problem has always been that I look too friendly, so they think I’ll be nice to them), but I had to be grinning like a damn fool at all times. Bleh.

  24. GaryS

    One of my clients in the Northern Virginia are was looking for a summer intern. A college kid to work in the stockroom, sort paper, run errands and generally help out. So he put an ad on Craigslist.

    In two days he received more than 200 applications. More than 95 % had college degrees, six or eight had a masters degree, several had double degrees in different technical fields, one had worked on the Hubble telescope team, and so forth.

    All these people were looking for a $12 per hour menial job working for relatively uneducated people themselves doing menial work.

    Given the direction of the economyand the continuing economic damage being done by the Democrats in Washington, I would surmise that there will be hundreds of thousands of new entries in “worse jobs” in two or three years.

    Oh, and as for myself. At age 14, 84 hours per week at minimum wage ($1.25 at the time) picking fruit, carrying an 80 pound ladder in 100+ degree heat and 90 % plus humidity. And climbing up and down all day. No better incentive to get an education.

  25. Leland

    I’m with Andrea, worst and first paying job was McDonald’s. I quit after the night shift manager held me on drive through cash register 3 hours after my shift ended (and technically voilating child labor laws). I found out a few weeks later what he was doing, and I was at least smart enough not to abandon my register to him. He was arrested for embezzling. He got caught skimming money off the registers and blaming the employees.

  26. Rich Rostrom

    I think you underestimated how bad the “Robin’s” job was. He didn’t get a break every 15-20 minutes – he _had_ to stop every 15-20 minutes or he would have physically collapsed from heatstroke.

    That’s about as bad as it gets.

  27. Crimso

    “because once I got done doing the rip out, I took part in the build.”

    My experience has been that deconstruction is usually simpler, easier, and MUCH faster than construction. Either way, it’s not much fun when being done in 95 degree weather (and you’re a 40-something out-of-shape professor looking to make some extra summer money since you only have an academic year appointment and your wife won’t let you relax the two months you have off). Actually, being married is the second worst job I’ve had. The worst was building fences on a thoroughbred horse farm for minimum wage (in 1982).

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