We’ve all had those jobs, where you wonder, “How the hell did I get here?” The answer is simple. You either walked into it, or you got there through a family member that knew someone or once worked there. And once in, you’re trapped, and until they slide you that pink slip, you belong to them. And only after you finally escape do you wish to forget the experiences that came with one of the worst jobs of your life.
After a short stint with an industrious company, I found myself unemployed with the rent due on my apartment. Desperately, I began to search through classified ads, looking for something to keep me afloat while I searched for something else, and then I saw the ad, “Typist Wanted.” The details seemed easy enough. If I could type a certain amount of words a minute, then they would interview me, and shortly afterward, I found employment. But the job was not what I expected.
On the first day, I received a list of keywords to work on, and my task was to enter them into a search engine. They were all diet-based, helping to promote weight loss and weight loss products. Words tumbled over words, and my fingers went to work. And before I knew it, the week was over.
But as the second week began, a new list of keywords was given to me. These words would also be entered into search engines, but they would not focus on weight loss or its products. They would be more chemistry based, but after that, I decided that the money was not worth it. And that job was left beside the curb.
4. Loose Ends
It was a nice day for a walk, and I took off down road. Time disappeared, and a soft breeze from speeding cars blew by. Traffic lights flashed red and green, and my thoughts ran wild. But the train came to a halt when I found myself at the crossroads of a highway, where I discovered a large strip mall.
There were many stores to choose from, but I decided to enter a shoe store first. As I walked in, the manager approached me. He seemed like a nice enough guy, and after a brief conversation, an application was filled out, an interview was given, and I found myself holding a third key position. But was this too good to be true?
Months later, I rode local buses to different parts of Long Island. Arriving during the day was not the hard part, but I did find myself lost a few times. The hard part came when I had to close, and I depended on public transportation to get home. So, it fell to the managers to drive me back, but the situation was becoming ridiculous. I was spending money on bus fare when I needed to pay bills, and time was being taken away from my studies. And if I was not placed in a permanent store soon, I would have no choice but to quit, but my original manager assured me that he would take me with him when he moved to his new store.
He drove me home one night from another store. The car ride was quiet, and I was lost in thought. I wanted to know why he had hired me. I had no qualifications, no car, and instead of a sales associate position, I got third key. So, why did he hire me?
His response, “You reminded me of my ex-girlfriend.”
3. When The Cookie Crumbles
After a harsh streak of finding employment in all the wrong places, I found myself working in a mall bakery near home. The people won me over with their friendship, and the environment was not as stressful as the previous ones. And I found myself settling in, finally finding a positive balance between work and college.
As the bakery closed up shop one night, I stepped into the walk-in refrigerator. We were running low on juice, and it had to be refilled. And I hefted the medium-sized crate in my arms and walked back outside. What I didn’t realize was that the other girl had mopped the floor, and a pool of water was waiting next to the door. As my foot slipped across it, I fell backward, and the crate slipped from my hands.
As I stood up from the floor, the other girl ran toward me, but then she stopped. Her face was frozen in horror, and her eyes stared at my arm. But I didn’t notice as I tried to lift the crate, and a pain shot through my arm. And then I followed her gaze.
My arm was twisted to one side. Every time I moved it, another pain ran through me. I could wiggle my fingers, but that was all I could do. And the assistant manager hurried over to us to assess the damage, and unlike the bottles in the crate, my elbow was broken.
During the months that followed, I was told repeatedly to sue the bakery, but this was the first job that I ever liked. All I wanted was to finish therapy, heal my arm, and return to work, but when I finally did return, nothing was the same. There was no warm, friendly environment in a now very stressful atmosphere, and the tasks of the job grew more difficult. And I had no choice but to quit, and to this day, my arm has never been the same.
2. Can I take your order?
My father was growing more and more frustrated with my laziness. I was a senior in high school, and it was time to stop being a free loader. I needed to contribute, but finding jobs was not as easy as it seemed. And my brother called in a favor, leading me to a place, where he once worked, and he told me not to worry. I would be well taken care of.
In the beginning, I was assigned to cashier. I followed each of the manager’s instructions and rang up the transactions accordingly. I could sense that a few of them did not care too much for me, but nobody said anything. And I continued with my shift until it was time to go home.
It was the lunch rush, and the line curved all the way to the door. Three cashiers including myself dove through the orders bombarding us and completed each transaction as fast as we could, and the crowd finally started to diminish. And then these two girls approached me with a tray of hardly touched food and soda.
Accusations launched my way, saying that I served the wrong order, served cold food, and was utterly nasty to them, but in my defense, I knew the other cashier next to me had handled their order. And I saw no problem when their order was complete, but when I turned toward the cashier, she was gone along with the other one. Instead, two managers waited with arms crossed to see how I would resolve the situation, and I realized that I was set up. And the end result was being sent in the back to make the food instead of handling the orders for it.
As the orders came in, I struggled to keep up, but nobody was lending a hand. It was well-known by then that the managers wanted me gone, but they would not fire me. They were waiting for me to quit, but I had no choice but to work there until the end of senior year. I tried looking for other jobs, but nothing turned up. And I was trapped.
As another lunch rush flooded through the doors and filled up the lobby, I was placed on fry duty. Hands quickly flipped burgers. Wrappers waited to be wrapped. Cups were filled with soda and shakes. All that was needed were the fries, and I went to work. But as I pulled the vat out of the oil, I burned my arm and nearly dropped the fries.
A manager stormed over to me, not hiding her annoyance, and looked at my arm. The burn mark was already noticeable, but she merely instructed me to apply cold water to it and to go back to work. And as I moved away, she grabbed the vat and finished making the fries.
If I were to serve a year in hell, it would have been at this job. I knew I was a rookie, and I was there only because of a favor asked of the head manager. But still, I wonder what did I ever do to these people, who wanted nothing more than to have me quit, or was I wrong? And as graduation day arrived, who did I see but one of the managers, whose child was in my graduation class. She admitted to all that I endured, saying that she was sorry for what they did, but it was too late for apologies.
1. Flushed Away
Senior year was approaching fast, and there was no end in sight to the constant arguments at home. It was time to grow up, my father said. It was time to get a job, be responsible, and be ready for the real world, and he would not tolerate any excuses. And toward the end of that summer, I found my first job.
It was at a fast food restaurant located in the heart of town. Shortly after filling in an application and being interviewed, I was hired as one of their workers, and because they wanted the more experienced to be on register, I was placed in the back. And under the supervision of one manager, I was trained to process orders, but after a couple of days, I could sense his growing irritation. And I realized that it was not that I did not understand what it was that I was doing. It was that I worked at a slow pace, too slow for a fast food chain.
But they had no intention of firing me. Instead, arguments fired up over handling orders. Clean up tasks were given more than processing food. There was even one day in the back, where I had to stand and wait for the rush to die down before I was allowed to resume working, but I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t go home to my father and tell him that I failed, and I struggled on.
And then I was assigned to toilet duty. The men’s bathroom was clogged, and the manager slammed the plunger in my hand. He nearly threw me into the stall that needed to be unclogged and hovered behind me as I fixed the bowel. Shortly afterward, I was back in the kitchen, and the manager picked up a burger and ate it right in front of me. But the joke was on him because back then my stomach was made of iron.
The next day, I was dropped off at work. I walked inside, wearing my uniform and hat, and I saw him waiting by the register. He gestured for me to walk over and explained that I was not to work that day. In fact, I was not on the schedule for the entire week, and I asked him if I was fired. And he shook his head, merely replying that I was not needed, and this went on for another week.
My father was running out of patience. He asked my brother to call in a favor, so I could resume working. But as I waited for him to get back to me, I returned one last time to find out once and for all if I was fired.
“We just don’t need you here,” the manager replied. “Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Fine.” I threw the uniform at him. “It’s your way or no way.” I took the hat and smashed it into the garbage. “I quit!”
I have had more jobs than I would like to admit, but I never knew what direction to take with my life. I didn’t know where I was going, but I never wanted to go back to where I have been. I wanted to pursue my own dreams but not if my father had his way, and it would take years to finally change the course of my destination. And now, when I do look back, I wonder, “How the hell did I ever survive the worst jobs of my life?”