Bits and Pieces

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jack of All Trades... Master of Two or Three

From the comments:

Congratulations! Novels have been written about (and published) on less interesting temporary jobs than working in an ice cream factory. I hope it goes well.

That got me thinking. I seem to have a gift for finding strange work, so I thought I'd do a top 5 list.

5. I once worked for a company that manufactured components for military jets. At first glance that may sound like an exciting company to work for, but no. We had to coat tiny components with heat-resistant paint before they could be installed into the wings, and my job was to stop up all the screw holes with wadded paper to stop the paint leaking in.

We started the day at 8am with a huge pile of little fiddly gadget things on one side of the table and a ream of A4 paper on the other. By the end of the day at 5pm we had a big pile of little fiddly gadget things full of folded strips of paper, and a fuckload of papercuts. They wouldn't let us sit down because, they claimed, it would encourage us to chat (an impossible feat, considering that the factory was so loud that we had to wear earplugs to block out the whirring of the machinery).

A horrible job, but one that had occasional zen moments when the brain slowed to a low purr and the hours flew by.


4. The job I recently got fired from. I was working on a contract for the Wall Street Journal Europe. Not, as I would prefer, actually writing copy but selling subscriptions over the phone. At one point we were selling to the Belgians, for some reason. You can imagine management making that decision:-

Bill: We don't seem to be getting the response we hoped for in the UK market, Bob.

Bob: No, Bill. Maybe we should try a new tack.

Bill: You could be right. Why don't we get our guys to call the Belgians?

Bob: The Belgians? Huh. You think that'll work?

Bill: How the fuck should I know, Bill? I'm in marketing. What with all the effort of perfecting this fashionably messy hairstyle I don't have much energy to think about anything else.

Bob: I hear ya. You've really got that mane tamed. Kiss me, Bill.

Bill: I thought I made myself clear at the conference, Bob.

Bob: Sorry. So, it's agreed. We're calling Belgium.

Bill: Get your hand off my ass, Bob.

Sorry, I went off on a little tangent there, didn't I? Anyway, stupid job.


3. This was a strange one. Shops and bars hire people called mystery shoppers to rate the customer service of the staff. I had a good gig while I was a student doing this. My job was to visit a chain of vodka bars, buy a drink and check out stuff like the bathrooms to make sure they kept them clean. I got my expenses paid, so I used to take a friend for a night out for free. After a while I got used to the kind of report they expected me to write, so I didn't bother visiting the bars anymore, but just wrote a report and claimed my wage. OK, so they caught me and fired my sorry ass, but it was fun while it lasted.


2. My first real job was stacking shelves at ToysRus. Good times. We used to play football in the store rooms, fool around with the box crusher and have lightsaber duels. Me and a guy - I forget his name, but we called him Joker - used to roll a dice to decide what sort of accent we'd put on in front of the customers. Just light accents, nothing too obvious. We did Canadian, Irish, Jamaican and (my favourite) Mafia style. I got fired after we rolled a six and ended up swearing at each other in Sicilian accents over the Barbie aisle.


And in first place...

1. I ran out of money in my second year at university and volunteered to be a guinea pig for medical studies. OK, so it isn't technically a job, but I'm counting it anyway. They were testing a new anti-depressant and its effect on, er, sexual function. To boil it down the job consisted of whacking off to lesbian porn, taking a course of drugs, and then whacking off again to see if it took longer. It was the single strangest sexual experience of my life. I was led into a small room by two attractive nurses, sat on the bed and was handed a cup. When they left I had to attach a sensor to myself and press a button when I, er, began and again when I was done.

One of the conditions of the study was that I couldn't drink, but I figured one drink couldn't hurt. I went to a friend's house for a couple of sips of lite beer and I'll be damned if 7 or 8 pints didn't just fall into my mouth. I was roused by the phone at 7 the next morning by the doctor running the study, reminding me that today was the day I started the course of drugs. I ran out the door and got a cab into the city.

By the time I arrived I had a throbbing headache and a pounding heart. They tested my pulse and blood pressure, and the doc asked, 'You didn't by any chance have a drink last night, did you?'. I looked up, bloodshot eyes and funky hair, and replied something along the lines of, 'Why, no Doctor. I watched the evening news and retired to bed at sundown with a mug of warm milk and my Bible.' Somehow he saw through my lie - God knows how - and fired me.

Still, I got to watch some excellent porn.

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