Great show on the Discovery Channel called, “Dirty Jobs”. Some are pretty nasty and some look pretty cool, all are dirty. My list for this week is: the dirty jobs I’ve had.
1. Rax Roast Beef. In the same way that the blind shouldn’t do brain surgery or drive cars, I was never meant to work in the fast food industry. I lacked the aptitude, attitude and general skill set for the work. I got the job because my good friend Jeff worked there and he was employee of the month every month since he’d started working there. Frankly, I asked too many questions, thought far too much (that beef can’t possibly be real if it’s shaped like that) and worked way too hard trying to get each sandwich to look like the picture of it up on the board. From the Napoleonic assistant manager to daydreaming about Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, trapped in the giant gears while I was toasting buns, it was a total disaster.
Just before the end I was finally demoted to dishwasher in the back where I couldn’t screw up the assembly line process. I finally quit; a relief to everyone there. My only regret is filling out one of those customer surveys as a joke and almost getting my friend Jeff fired too. Apparently someone takes those things seriously. Who knew?
2. Jewelry Store. First, I don’t wear it, other than a watch and my wedding ring. Second, it killed me to sell jewelry to people who I knew really should be buying groceries or some personal hygiene supplies. The mark up was incredible and it was amazing how easy it was to sell a gold chain when you leaned across the counter and whispered, “I really shouldn’t be doing this but for you I’ll knock off 25%.” People would glance over their shoulders conspiratorially and whisper back, “30% and I’ll take it.” I paused like I really had to think about it. “O.K., 30%.” Cha-ching! That sale only netted us 125% over cost. I finally quit when the owner disappeared for a couple weeks and none of us knew where he’d gone or if he’d come back. I’m comfortable knowing organized crime exists in theory but not from personal experience.
3. Hospital Kitchen. I mostly liked this job but what puts it in the ‘worst’ column was that I was forbidden from interacting with patients. Some times my job took me up to the geriatrics floor and as I rolled by with the food cart, elderly people slouched over, strapped in their chairs and in obvious pain would ask me for help as I walked past. And I had to keep walking past or I had been told I would get fired. It killed me to keep walking past people crying, literally, for a little help. I did go to the nurses at first but they were already helping 3 other patients at the same time, way understaffed. I finally gave up before I died inside.
4. Karmel Korn. I worked at the mall store pre-Christmas preparing for the sales season. I went to work at 10 p.m. and worked ‘til 6 a.m. Then I had a 7 a.m. class. It was a pretty clean operation, the thing that made it dirty was the complete lack of sleep I was getting but living in denial over. At finals time I pulled out the notes I took in my 7 a.m. class and was shocked to read, “meeble frimp dorgal mooze klicking fresh doody.” On almost every page.
On afternoons, after classes I tried to get a short nap. One afternoon, just before I quite the job I woke up in my dorm room to the sound of a slamming door. I blinked, looked around and rubbed my face and found that someone had covered my hand thick with my chunky peanut butter. Dirty.
5. Hotel Coffee Shop. Before I waited tables I cleaned them. Some people seemed to work very hard at making as big a mess as they possibly could. But cleaning the tables wasn’t the dirty part of the job. The dirty part was after closing when we were cleaning up in back in the kitchen. I’d get a cleaning towel, get it soaking wet to give it weight and then we would turn off the lights. ‘We’ being me and ‘the Salad Lady’. She was one of he biggest people I’ve ever met who still moved under her own power and not by crane or powered scooter.
We turned off the light and waited, waited, waited and then ‘BAM’ flipped on the light. That’s when the wet towel came in. With the light off cockroaches had climbed the wall behind the salad prep area, with the light on they froze in place and my job was to throw the wet towel and get the roaches. Splat. Splat, splat, splat.
I could eat anything from the menu I wanted for free. I never ordered a salad. Never. Ever.