Monday, May 07, 2007


The other day I ran across a blog where this guy described all of the jobs he had had in quite some detail - a post per job. While I certainly don't intend to bore all of you with that level of detail, I thought it might be interesting (at least for me - as a memory exercise if nothing else).

Here's a list of the things I did that might be considered jobs, but I either didn't have to apply for them or I didn't get paid for them:

worked at my granddaddy's store (free candy, cokes, and anything else I could sneak)
mowed lawns (just a few up & down our street)
babysitting (our next door neighbor's kids a few times, fell asleep listening to their partridge family records once)
worked at a fishcamp (peeled 50 lbs of shrimp and set up tables when some help didn't show once)
cleaned out boxcars (Mr. Y.T. would let me drive his truck (I was 10 or 11 at the time))
worked on my granddaddy's farm (breaking ground, plowing, harvesting, mowing, all things involving driving his tractor over endless rows of peanuts & corn)

This is a list of the jobs I had to actually apply for and earned a paycheck doing:

1. Worked in the fine arts department of the public library.
I was in high school and this was my first real job. It included checking materials in/out, reading the shelves (putting everything back in order), cleaning & inspecting films that had been returned, and a few other odds & ends. I worked every other weekend, Saturday & Sunday. One Saturday, the library was involved in bringing a group to town to perform at the local theater. I was to usher (hand out programs) and was emergency pressed into service on stage as a page-turner for the harpsichordist since I knew how to read music. This indirectly led to me loosing my virginity that night. In somewhat unrelated events, the fine arts director was later involved in a scandal which involved, among other things, him making anonymous harassing phone calls to the director of the library.

2. college tutor.
When I was a senior in high school I went to college in the mornings. One of the classes I took was a basic/fortran programming class. I did so well during the first half of the course, and there being a dearth of programming tutors, that I was hired by the college tutoring program to tutor. I don't think I did very well. I understood the subject but had an extremely difficult time explaining programming concepts to people who had never seen a computer, much less programming one.

3. Worked for a tree service.
The son of the lady my mom worked for ran his own tree service. It was a small operation, sometimes just him and me, no fancy vehicles (cherry-picker, stump-grinder, etc) just an ancient dump truck (that I drove) and his el comino that he used to haul equipment around in. This was a summer job between my freshman and sophomore years in college. He was a bit careless (he dropped a piece of trunk on an air conditioner once, and limbs on a few other things occasionally) and he and I parted ways the day he hit a jaywalker with his car (I was a passenger) and ran from the scene.

4a. Worked in the college dining hall.
I worked here for most of my freshman and sophomore years in college. If you need someone to cook spaghetti for 800 people, I'm your man. Start with 80 lbs of ground beef..... About twice a quarter I had to cook 400 steaks for the weekend crowd - and wrap 400 potatoes in tin foil to be baked. You start as a general gopher for the ladies that ran the dining hall, and this included cleaning dishes, and progressed upwards to cook and the epitome was backing the serving line. This involved managing the serving line, keeping it stocked with food and calling in orders for more food to be cooked depending on a good many variables - the goal being to serve the last serving of each dish to the last person to eat - which rarely happened.

4b. Farm laborer.
again for the college. It had an agricultural school with a dairy program and a lot of acreage mostly devoted to silage. I spent the summer between my sophmore and junior years at college working for the farm shop. A good bit of that summer involved stringing barbed wire fence. Other parts included cleaning out the dairy barn (oh. my. god. the. stench.) and any other little shit-job the full-time workers didn't want to do, so get a college part-timer to do it.

4c. physical plant laborer.
once again for the college. We were pretty much gophers for the guys who kept the facilities repaired. Replaced broken windows, fixed doors, fixed plumbing, fixed holes in the roof, trapped possums (I helped make the trap!). The BEST job was inspecting and refilling fire extinguishers. This job involved signing out a truck and driving all over campus, to each building, and checking each fire extinguisher was full, and replacing those that weren't. It was a given that the water extinguishers in the dorms would be empty (butt-slide contests were very popular). Water extinguishers were refilled by the college (2.5 gallons water, 100 psi compressed air). The chemical extinguishers were refilled by the fire department. I had this job for most of spring quarter. I also got to roam the normally off-limits girls dorms. primo job.

4d. butcher.
I spent one quarter cutting beef carcases. The college farm would have it's cattle slaughtered commercially but processed on-campus. It was primarily for the dining hall, but would sell quarters and halves to faculty & staff. I would occasionally sneak a couple of steaks for a weekend cookout, but by the end of the quarter I swore off beef for a month or so.

5. UPS driver-helper.
At this college we got a 6 week break between fall and winter quarters. UPS would come around recruiting for the busy Christmas season. The first year I applied I had long hair and a beard. I read through their appearance guidelines and told the guy I interviewed with I would shave and cut my hair if I got hired. I didn't get hired. The next year I had shorter hair and no beard. I got hired. I rode around with the driver making deliveries for the 4 weeks preceding Christmas. Those guys earn their money. The guy I worked with didn't eat lunch, preferring to work through it and finish early. HAH. We literally didn't stop from 9:00 AM until the truck was empty - and the last week I worked it was between 9:00 and 10:00 PM before the truck was empty. (he did have pity on me and let me get a coke and an candy bar if it looked like a long day.) In 3 1/2 weeks I made, after taxes, $1600. I didn't paid that well again until after I had been working in this job for a few years. I don't know if it is still true, but at that time UPS drivers were the best paid of all the teamsters. They earn it.

6. pizza and short-order cook.
When I transfered to large university, large city school, I got a job cooking pizzas at a local eatery. We made chicago-style deep-dish pizza. We also made sandwiches, spaghetti (not for 800) and lasagna. Next door was a bar & grill owned by the same people, so I would work there occasionally cooking bar food (burgers, nachos, fried mushrooms, sandwiches). The work was much more hectic, but when they closed the doors we would get a free beer while cleaning up. There was one manager I worked a lot for that would open the taps after we were all done closing. I spent many a late night/early morning getting either drunk or high at this place.

7. Assembly-line worker.
Just before joining the Air Force I worked for a temp manpower agency doing almost anything. after 3-4 jobs I got sent to a grill manufacturer who needed some seasonal labor and worked on a packing line. This job lasted a month and was THE. MOST. MONOTONOUS. JOB. I have ever had. Sometimes I would get a different position on the line, but the novelty went away after an hour or two. The better jobs were for permanent employees and were bid on. If I hadn't been waiting for my delayed enlistment into the AF to end I would've been hired full time. Not on your life. If you ever want to teach someone the value of a college degree, get them a job on an assembly line.

8. Cryptologic Linguist.
I blogged about this job here.

9. IT Project Manager.
This is the current iteration of the job I've held for the past 17 years. I began as a programmer-trainee and worked my way up. I've supported the same processes since I was hired, but on different computer systems, written in different languages. At first I supported hardware as well as software. When you support hardware, you learn to ask stupid questions. (the majority of the users I supported worked in the mills and were not used to computers of any kind.) Someone would call and tell me "my computer don't work". I would remotely log on to their system and everything would be fine. At first I was confused, but soon learned to ask a series of questions. "Is the screen dark?" I would ask. "Is the screen plugged into the computer?" I would ask. "Is the switch turned on?" I would ask. "Is the screen plugged into the wall?" I would ask. "Does anything else work when plugged into this outlet?" I would ask. Only then would I take them a new monitor. I learned the meaning of patience doing this.

The last two jobs were professional in nature and lasted 6 years and 17 years (so far) respectively. The other jobs lasted anywhere from a month to 2 years. With the dickey state of textile manufacturing in the US I don't know how much longer I will be here. If it will hold on another 18 months I might get a job bolting on bumpers at the car plant being built a few miles up the road. And probably make more money doing so.

15 deeply creased, dogeared comment(s):

Mother of Invention said...

Well, you certainly have experienced the full gamut of diverse jobs and worked quite hard while you were going to school. You know computers AND food prep?!!! What else could one ask for? I wish you did meals on wheels and lived near me for computer tutoring!

(You lost it to the harpsicord player?!! At least you'd be on the same page!)

jen said...

wow. talk about diversity. and a lot of food service type jobs, yes? butcher, huh?

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling to come up with a comment because I'm having a panic attack thinking that soon I'll be having to update my resume. It's quite an art, weaving all my exeriences into a suit I can don for an interview.

Susanne said...

I liked reading about all your jobs. I would have read a post on each of these too.

meno said...

Interesting variety of jobs. It made me think about all of mine too.

I'n not sure if i wouldn't give up meatfor a while too if i had been a butcher.

I worked in the food service at my dorm for a while. I only progressed to being a "catcher" getting the clean dishes off as the came out of the conveyor belt dishwasher thing.

Loved the IT descripton. We used to call those RTFM calls. "Read the Fucking Manual!"

urban-urchin said...

this is fun Bob, I may have to steal the idea...

Maggie said...

Ok, so was it the harpsichordist? Or the library director? C'mon, kiss and tell.

What is it about pizza joints and after hours partying? I had this experience too.

What happened with the guy that hit and run? Did he ever get caught? Did you turn him in? Was the pedestrian ok?

Which was your favorite job so far?

Bob said...

MoI - maybe I should to meals on wheels, but I doubt I could afford to live in SF, as much as I would love to.

and no, it wasn't the harpsichord player (see below.....)

Jen - yep, working in the college dining hall gave me experience that helped getting the other jobs. Butcher - that was for the college too.

De - I don't know what I'd do if I had to try to put this melange on a resume! Good luck to you. Take a deep breathe, exhale, and start writing! (you should do well, I really like the imagery of .."weaving all my exeriences into a suit I can don for an interview").

Suzanne - I still have a hard time shaking the attitude that no one is interested in the details except me.

Meno - we used to fool around in the area where students dropped off their dirty dishes, making games loading & unloading the dishwasher. It made the tedious job less so.

As for RTFM - oh, yeah! If I had a dime for every one of those calls I would be retired too!

Urban-Urchin - I would love to read about yours. Steal away.

Maggie - okay (briefly, and since it's been 28 years I don't think she'll mind if I tell) The assistant Director of the library (K)held a dinner party in celebration after the performance. My director (M) invited me to go with him at the last minute. I rode with him to the party, leaving my car downtown. The party was winding down and K took me aside and asked if I realized M was gay and that he was hitting on me (I did). She suggested that she would give me a ride back to my car after the party so I wouldn't have to fend him off when alone with him. He left alone (in a huff) and.... I wound up staying longer than planned (or at least I planned) and I lost my virginity to her in her pool.

The hit and run: he left the scene and drove to his uncle's house nearby in an attempt at an alibi (he was driving w/o a license). He and I left after 30 minutes and he dropped me off by my car. I drove home, told Dad and called the cops. They came to the house and picked me up to help them look for him (I was scared sh!tless) but couldn't. I went downtown and made a statement. (He turned himself in the next day) I had to go to court for the arraignment but wasn't called as a witness as he plead guilty. The guy he hit suffered a broken leg and arm (I think).

My favorite is this job. I've had an interest in computers since that first class in college. I tend to think in programming steps.

patches said...

Just think how different your life could have been if you had never been a page turner.

Bob said...

Patches - yep, I have a penthouse-worthy loss-of-virginity story. I just don't have a penthouse-worthy sex life.

Lee said...

Your business cards should reflect all these job titles. (You could use the back) :)

Bob said...

Lee - maybe if they were 3 x 5 notecard size.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm still thinking about the teenage boy you were being hit on by adults of both genders.

I loved that there was a harpsichord in the story.

Nancy Dancehall said...

Quite a list there, and quite a few, um, adventures. ;-)

Bob said...

Hearts - This wasn't the first gay man that worked at the library that hit on me. Also, Laura tells me on our infrequent trips to San Francisco I would get more looks from men than women. She thought it was funny.

Nancy - I will admit I had a few, um, adventures in my youth.