Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Workin' for a Livin'

Doug:  Busboy, bartender, ladies of the night.  Grease monkey, ex-junky, winner of the fight.  Today we're talking to those of you who don't happen to be independently wealthy.

Doug:  I got fired from the first "real" job that I had back as a junior in high school.  I was working at a Brown's Chicken as one of the stiffs in the back.  Breading, frying, and general clean-up to close the joint.  The latter, however, would be my downfall.  Apparently I lazed my way through a closing, with the regional manager showing up the next morning for a visit.  Yeah, not so good.  As I'd not set the chicken-frying world on fire in my previous three weeks, it was suggested that maybe I take my act elsewhere.  Looking back, they were exactly right.  I did not care for the duties, had a foul attitude, and was probably just generally immature.  I recovered and had another job, at a smorgasbord in town, very shortly.  That time, with lessons learned, things went really well.  I ended up working there through the rest of high school and then off and on through college, and really believe that it could have been a full-time fall back had I needed it after graduation.  Plus, I met the girl who would become my wife.  Fringe benefit.  So, live and learn, prosper, etc.

Doug:  It's of course well-documented in these parts that I now teach at a public high school and do contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum when my schedule allows.  I'm hesitant to say that I still love my teaching job -- my personal jury is out on all of the changes coming to public education.  But I will still say that I do like it.  Time will tell, as will my natural resistance to change (I always need a feeling-out period before I fully embrace something new).

Doug:  So the Forum is Open for you to discuss all-things employment related:  best job, worst job, dream job, what you thought you'd be when you were a kid, left turns on the career path, all of it.  Looking forward to some good stories!


Comicsfan said...

What?? No Bachman-Turner Overdrive and "Takin' Care of Business"? The only song that can make me excited about heading into work. :D

Fred W. Hill said...

My first ever job was at a pizzaria in Sunnyvale, CA. My dad was taking me around to apply at different jobs and at this particular one the owner asked me when I could start. I answered anytime, and he said, "how about right now?" That was at about 2 pm, just after their lunch rush. I spent the next several hours washing dishes, scrubbing pizza pans, bussing tables, etc. Finally, while taking a break around 7:30, Siggy (the owner), remembered I hadn't filled out an application yet! Anyhow I eventually worked myself up to management -- at another restaurant, albeit. After that, and a couple of years working security, I spent seven and a half years in the military and have spent the last 13 years working at the county courthouse, currently the supervisor of the Probate Dept.

Edo Bosnar said...

Since my dad was a self-employed machinist, all of the work I did before turning 18 was helping him out in his shop. My first actual paying job came when the family moved down to California after I graduated from HS - as part of a maintenance/clean-up crew in a pretty large apartment complex in Sunnyvale (hi, Fred!). That was, in fact, probably my favorite summer job. There was a variety of tasks, and sometimes you stumbled on interesting stuff left behind (like books, magazines, even record albums) in vacated apartments that needed to be cleaned and turned over.
Other summer jobs during my college years were usually doing some kind of low-skill, repetitive tasks in tool and dye shops.
My first job out of college was in the shipping/receiving and distribution department of a software design firm in Silicon Valley. Then I ended up coming to Croatia in 1992, where I had a variety of jobs (including work with foreign reporters and TV crews during the war years). Now I work as a translator and I also work part-time for the national radio/TV broadcaster.

dbutler16 said...

Well, my first job was working the overnight shift as a dishwasher at Perkins. That would not be my best job, however. My best job was one summer break during college, when I worked the weekday shift at a marina. Now, I'm not really a sea loving person, so why was thig my best job ever? Because nobody ever goes to a marina (at least not this one) on the weekdeays. So, I mostly got to sit around and read books. I read 23 novels that summer, including the Shannara Trilogy. Plus, I got paid under the table. My current job pays a lot better, but seriously cuts into my pleasure reading time.

Doug said...

dbutler, ain't it the truth about work getting in the way of pleasure!

Just yesterday I remarked to Karen that we need to find a way to quit our jobs and get paid to write this blog! Seriously? Writing comic reviews and other musings all day, every day? Sign me up! Shoot -- the way things are for public employees in Illinois, I won't be getting a pension when I'm eligible to retire in 10 years anyway!

Love the stories so far, everyone!


david_b said...

Pensions..? Yes, I'm long overdue in filling out my paperwork to combine both my active army service and my federal time..

Paperwork, paperwork.

Ooooh, I've had a dozen jobs which I've loved, nearly as many I haven't liked, nothing really stands out.

My first job delivering both morning and afternoon papers one summer was a lot of fun, just being out, rain/shine riding my Schwinn Varsity..? It was like heaven.

I actually love my current job the best.. Great pay, only 10min by car from my home, and plenty of backroad access so I can totally bypass the expressways during rush hours. I had to move out of my big office to a 'not-as-big' cube across campus, but it's still got most of my whimsical collectives, a touch of Gonzo-journalism, Marvel/DC comics displayed, patriotic GOP stuff, pics of my dogs, SGT Pepper/psychedelic stuff, my marathon and 10-miler number-tags, some old-school Galactica and Keith Richards to boot..

And my coffee pot.

Humanbelly said...

Great idea for a Get-to-know-our-compatriots-a-bit-better post, Doug. Heck, I liked everyone already, and now I can appreciate the diverse backgrounds we all bring to this forum even more.

First “real” job (beyond the paper route years) was the summer of ’77 (after my sophomore year of high school). Working as an extra, cheap, unskilled grunt for a tiny, family-owned neighborhood construction company in Michigan. The family were staunchly un-assimilated immigrants from a tiny isolated town in the mountains(?) on the border of Austria & Hungary. According to them, their town was never actually taken by the Nazis during WWII, as it was too remote and these villagers were putting up far too much resistance. My guess is that the Nazis decided they didn’t want them because this crowd was too flippin’ mean, belligerent and disagreeable by even Nazi standards.

Then over the intervening high school, college, and grad school years did stints on a pig farm (ended up in the hospital after being savaged by a sow), as hospital janitor (same hospital), a lumber mill, a GNC stock boy, a mitre-saw operator in a factory, Pizza Hut delivery guy, 1 summer in a historic theme park theater (Crossroads Village in Flint, MI), 2 summers in a touring vaudeville tent company (Rosier Players)—and then in grad school started working both in dinner theater and as a regular waiter at a popular tavern in NE D.C. (I was so horribly bad at waiting tables when I started there that at one point I was on daily probation. . . which, unbeknownst to me, became hourly probation on a particularly crucial day—and that was in fact the day I managed to turn the corner. I’d become head waiter and was training to be a manager when I did finally move on. Really loved that place, though.)

Ultimately, I settled into my current status as a theatrical Technical Director (guy who builds and installs the scenery, for the most part) and part-time professional actor. That’s all been balanced with my higher calling of being the primary kid-wrangler (sort of half-stay-at-home-dad) in our family and main cook—as my wife is definitely our primary bread-winner and has a much more high-profile career—she’s truly one of the smartest people I know.ss

Currently, I’m beginning my 10th (!!!) season as the TD at an ambitious and respected small/medium theater in Washington, DC. I have to say that, while it’s a job that can be fraught w/ frustration when dealing w/ designers & directors of wildly varying artistic-vs.-pragmatic aptitudes, it never, ever becomes mundane or soul-destroying. It does provide continuous challenges both artistically and intellectually. I find myself looking back on photos of sets that I created years back, and thinking “wow, that was beautiful—I can’t believe I made that!” To be honest, it takes awhile to gain that objective appreciation, because by the time a set is finally installed and ready to open, one has become INCREDIBLY SICK of it, and one is already under the gun to get the next one underway.

“Sculptures carved in melting ice” is how I’ve heard it described.


Doug said...

I come from a family of printers, and some of the interesting "helping out" jobs I've had include throwing type back into the drawers (sorting by font and type size), running a cutter, and saddle-stitching booklets. All of the above can be exacting work, as it's a precise business where the end product has to be as near to perfect as possible, but it was fun in small doses.


david_b said...

All I can say is I'm glad I got my 'finishing school' cert at Patricia Stevens.

It's taken me far in my vocations.

Karen said...

Lots of interesting stories.Isn't it funny the twists and turns our lives take? You have no idea where life is going to take you.

Edo, my father was also a machinist, although he was not self-employed, he worked for a small company that specialized in aircraft. We always had a lot of tools around and I often assisted him when he worked on cars or the house so that background was helpful later on both working in a lab environment and just taking care of things in my own home.

My first job was in a comic shop and I've discussed that before. but the best job I ever had was working as a veterinary assistant when I was in college. That job taught me a lot about people and how they respond to life and death decisions. It convinced me without a doubt in the existence of the soul. I know that might sound ridiculous but you have to understand the nature of the work. I saw a lot of suffering and a lot of death. it might have been animals but when you go from having a living creature in your arms one minute and then a lifeless lump of matter the next, it does affect you -or it should. Anyway, it made me think about things in ways no other job has.

Most of my adult life I worked as a researcher in biotech labs. That had ups and downs like any other job. I met some great people, some of whom became friends for life. I also felt good about what I was doing -trying to find things that would help in the diagnosis of disease.

When I moved to Arizona half a dozen years ago, there was no biotech work to be found really, so I wound up working for a university doing a variety of analytical tasks. it's not as fun but it beats being unemployed.

david_b said...

One fun military duty was once I came off active duty in Germany, I temporarily relocated to the Twin Cities to resume a relationship with a highschool sweetheart..

That didn't last long, suffice to say, but for work I was assigned to this reserve center there and I had to both oversee the final facility touches (phone system, alarms, etc..), plus organize this huge 'opening day', with static displays, the senators speaking, etc..

The best part was coordinating for these two Apache helo's to fly in and land on the grounds.. They were scheduled to fly in at 0600hrs Sunday morning.

Well, I was ready... All alone, I had the loud speakers out on the lawn, dawn was just rising, and I was blasting 'Flight of the Valkyries', right out of 'Apocalypse Now'... Just to think, as a young lieutenant, for a day at least, these were 'my helicopters'.

That was cool. You can't do that when you're slappin' burgers.

Sorry y'all, but "Stories..? I gotta million of 'em."

Humanbelly said...

Karen, what do you suppose is up w/ the apparent dearth of biotech in Arizona? Are there any inherent climate-related factors for that industry?


Karen said...

HB - the fact that biotech did not take off here is a disappointment. There were high hopes that it would grow back in 2005-2007, but a variety of factors have combined to crush that. I think the main reason is that it is firmly entrenched in a few key places -the Bay Area, research triangle in North Carolina, Boston, San Diego - and frankly these places are just more enticing to most people in research careers than Phoenix is. Phoenix has terrible summers, a very limited cultural scene, the pay scale is still lower comparably, and the public schools are ranked lower. We have TGen and a few other biotechs but that's it, not much at all. I worked at TGen, it was a nice place, good people, but the work I was doing was very repetitive. I think unfortunately a lot of science is becoming automated and it's losing the fun aspect -unless you're a biostatistician and can play with numbers all day.

Probably more than you wanted to know...

Doc Savage said...

no "Welcome to the Working Week" by Elvis Costello?

You gotta do it
Till you're through it
So you better get to it

Welcome to the working week
I know it don't thrill you
I hope it don't kill you

Doug said...

I suppose I could have embedded "I Don't Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats...

But I'm generally OK with Mondays. That being said, I wish every weekend were a 3-dayer!!


david_b said...

I would have liked 'Workin' in a Coal Mine', Devo's version.

Sorry everyone, I love Mondays, being 'back in the saddle' so to speak.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, I should have clarified: my dad was self-employed for most of my childhood, but around my junior year of HS he started having trouble finding work, which was the reason our family moved from Oregon down to CA. Once there, he worked in turn for several big defense/aerospace companies, so like your father, he also spent some time making parts for aircraft (and sometimes spacecraft).

As for you jokers with your barely on-topic song suggestions, I'll just say the only song that keeps coming to mind is: "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and I work all day..." :P

Rip Jagger said...

I backed into being a teacher. It suits me fine.

But as for jobs, I've done some rough ones over the years. Fresh out of high school I was part of the roadkill clean up crew for the highway department. It was a program for kids headed to college and they had me and others do all sorts of things. One time they didn't have a real job for me, so they left me in the garage and told me to clean up a tool room. I spent a solid morning putting a shine on that place and I never left the cool garage again. They were so impressed with the neatness of the tool room, that I became the standing cleaner, each job taking me about three hours then leaving me all afternoon to read. They were happy stuff was getting straightened up and I read some neat books.

Later as a short order cook, I put in a few months at a truck stop, then tried to get a job at a Jerry's nearer my apartment. The guy doing the interview called the truck stop and told me point blank that the manager there said I wasn't much of a short order cook. But I was the best damn dishwasher he'd ever seen. My talent for cleaning won me a job again.

So it seems clear that I should've become a janitor somewhere. I have natural talents, but teaching is easier on the bones.

Note: My janitors love me and my classroom though, because I keep it pretty spotless making their jobs easier. So what goes around comes around.

Rip Off

J.A. Morris said...

Worked in food service jobs every Summer for a while. Got a job delivering pizza my final year of college. Worked at Toys R Us during one Christmas season, which turned into a 10-month gig.
Only got fired once, and that wasn't a "real" job. I used to push a wheelchair around a hospital for a radiologist, one day he told me his daughter needed the job more.
That "termination" led me to find work in a local library, that's what I've been doing the past 18 years.

Graham said...

In my current job, I am a materials engineer for my state's Dept. of Transportation. I oversee testing of construction materials in a 10-county district, and also do pavement design recommendations on new projects and rehab projects. Hope that didn't put anybody to sleep.

I've worked since I was 12 or 13, mowing lawns and greens and tee bases on a golf course for starters. Later on, I bagged groceries through college.

Worst job I had was right out of college, when I worked at a local chicken grower/hatcher/processing plant as a cost analyst. Not a hard job considering what was going on, but I saw a lot of things that guaranteed that I didn't eat chicken for nearly a year after I left there.

In my spare time, I've review CDs for an online magazine for about 14 years and also have done my own weekly music blog for nearly four years....unfortunately all for free, but I do get to listen to a lot of great music and have met a lot of interesting people.

My dream job would be to host my own radio show. Unfortunately, I have a voice that Gomer Pyle would laugh at, so that probably won't ever happen, so my alternate dream job would be to get paid to write about music.

redartz said...

Thanks for the Huey Lewis link above; great song.
Edo- I must echo your Lumberjack Song; the image remains in my imagination!
As for employment, I started out at McDonald's. One hot August day I had played tennis all afternoon, and like a fool forgot sunscreen. That night I had to work the grill, and got very ill from the heat. My back was sizzling like the burgers; I kept making trips back to sit in the freezer.

One cool job during college was a stint as security in a video arcade. Basically just walked around resetting machines and making change, but after my shift I could play all the games I wanted free. Got pretty good at Galaga!

After college I managed a frame shop affiliated with an art gallery, allowing me to frame up some nice sketches (Hulk by Simonson, Batman by Staton). Nowadays I work for a medical equipment company, and try to do a bit of picture framing on the side.

Am thoroughly enjoying everyone's stories...

B Smith said...

First job out of art school was in the ad department of a commodity futures company. It was owned by a Coke addict (I mean the cola) who had a deathly fear of the colour green, and admired Margaret Thatcher to the point of hanging a dozen large framed photographs of her around the premises "to inspire the workers."

The place was open 24 hours a day, and I noticed that the kitchen area was stocked (along with Coke which was available to all) with large quantities of dried foods; it was explained that the owner, convinced that an invasion from one of our south-east Asian neighbours was imminent, kept a high-powered boat moored at the local marina ready to whisk him away to his hideaway on a nearby island...and that the food was all from his island supplies that was about to go off.

We also had an American "consultant" who eventually announced he was off on a European holiday - two weeks later we discovered he was wanted by the FBI, Interpol and various other agencies for being part of a major international drug smuggling ring.

A couple of months later the owner announced that he was off to Scotland for a while....a couple of months later, on a Thursday morning, the company was subject to a nationwide bust by the Australian Federal Police for illegal stock market activity, whereupon it was discovered the owner had made off with a coupe of zillion embezzled dollars.

It went into liquidation the following Monday - the most interesting 13 months work I've had :-)

WardHillTerry said...

I've tried for most of my adult life to make a living as an actor. This has led to my current (part-time at two institutions) work as a science educator. If you're in Boston visit me at the Museum of Science or the Aquarium. But that's not what will interest BAB readers. As an actor, I have had the singular delight of being a super-hero! I have worked for Marvel Live Entertainment on several occasions as Spider-Man, The Hulk, Wolverine, and Iron Man. The reactions I got were so amazing. Some little kids were genuinely frightened, but some were genuinely convinced that I was "real!" I was in the Bristol, RI Independence Day parade twice. Once as Wolvie and once as Spidey. The Wolverine costume, blue and yellow version, is padded. I was sweating like an extra in Cool Hand Luke. People were running into the street to pose for pictures with me! The next year I was Spider-Man. As long as I kept moving, I could keep cool, but I had to pose for a lot of pictures along the parade route. At least Wolverine's mask allows the wearer to take a drink. Not Spider-Man's. The costume looks great, but the head covering is connected to the shoulder and snaps together along the scapulae. I couldn't drink anything until I had completed the parade! Cool job, though.

Anonymous said...

" A lot of fellows nowadays have a B.A., M.D., or Ph.D. Unfortunately, they don’t have a J.O.B.
" – Fats Domino

Hmm, so many cool jobs!

Most of my adult life I worked in my family's retail business. The first real job I had outside of that was a few months at two local banks. While most people in Trinidad like that kind of stable environment, I personally found it was super boring. I don't have any cool anecdotes about working. I guess the most interesting thing was the zany and colourful characters I met when I was working. You don't expect to meet such crazy people in the corporate world when you're fresh out of college, but boy did I meet some real headcases! If you're not sure what I'm talking about, let's just say that my work experience closely mirrored that of the comic strip 'Dilbert'.

- Mike 'working stiff' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

I am loving the diversity that we represent here. And yet some surprising commonality, too. A goodly amount of food service-related jobs-- I forgot to include a couple of part-time McDonalds stints, as well (which, truly, I didn't hate-!), and a summer working in an ice cream parlour as a third job (redartz, on the hotter days I would go and lay down INSIDE the chest freezer. . . on top of the 3-gallon containers. Basically an ice cream coffin.)

What crosses my mind is that sometimes we define ourselves by our jobs or careers, which helps to anchor us with a ready identity; other times, we bring our own innate "self-ness" to whatever job that life eventually steers us into, and discover that we're still able to find fulfillment and happiness, even when we might not have expected it.

I find that I am a person wholly w/out regrets, regardless of what roads I might have taken. The more important thing is simply TAKING a road, any road.


Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Edo! I lived in or near San Jose from June'81 through February '90, when I moved to Florida. After leaving my first job, a joint called The Brothers Pizza Galley, I worked at and was promoted to management at Bob's Big Boy and one of the stores I worked at was next door to the Winchester Mystery House, and at the time I only live a half mile away. Anyone who ever read Alan Moore's Swamp Thing story based on the WMH may think it's out in the booneys in an isolated area; nothing of the sort. Aside brom the BBB next door (at least back then), there were the movie theaters behind it and a large outdoor mall complex on the opposite side of the street and a larger indoor mall just a little further down the street. And in the '80s it cost $35 to take a tour of the house, which I thought was too steep and hence never went inside despite passing it by regularly for the four years I lived in that neighborhood.

Edo Bosnar said...

Hey Fred, I lived in the SF Bay Area (various places in the South Bay and Berkeley) from 1986 to 1992, and yes, I never once visited the Winchester Mystery House, because of that outrageous cost of admission. You're right about the location though: it's kind of weird seeing this spooky-looking mansion admidst strip malls, chain restaurants and a cinema complex.

B Smith, that story reads like a treatment for what could be a really fun(ny) movie. Ever think of writing a screenplay?

Humanbelly said...

BTW Karen- Not too much info at all, thanks. Nicely satisfying one's curiosity. I feel like we should be holding you up as a solid example to young women, in fact-- HERE'S a woman who has made a career in a hard-science field, and who ENJOYS working w/ numbers, see? None of that Barbie-esque "math is hard" nonesense!


Doug said...

Karen, my memory is worse than yours! Check out what I did almost a year ago to the day --


Jeez, am I getting senile or what?!?


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