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Worst Job Ever


In an effort to get back in the habit of blogging and writing for an audience, I am reposting this essay from 2008. A friend of mine reminded me of this old post from my TwoMommy blog, one I have since taken down. So in part I’m reposting so I can send her the link. Here I am now, working my dream job – teaching- and finding things to love about it every day. I find things to not love of course too. Any job has love/hates, but flagging construction-what can I say, not a lot to love. 

This is a good ice breaker at a party: ask people to tell you about the worst job they ever had. Forget about questions like how do you know the host or what do you do for a living. It’s more fun to talk about the job you hate then the job you have, although of course those two things could be the same. My worst jobs fight each other for the number one spot. Cleaning a hair salon on Saturdays when I was in high school was pretty bad, there was hair everywhere and it just would not go away, no matter what I did, and then all day Sunday I felt itchy and sneezy- not really worth it for 5 bucks an hour. Being a “package handler” at UPS was pretty bad too; I had the most injuries on that job and too many supervisors with stopwatches yelling things outside my truck like “that’s 1.5 seconds per package Tammy, 1.5! Let’s go, you’re buried!” Apparently I handled a package every 3 seconds, which is unacceptable. And I knew I was buried, I was the one underneath all those packages of infomercial easy gliders, hating every American who ordered that stupid contraption, just praying I’d live another day at that job. The job as a pizza cook at Macaroni Grill was pretty crappy, mostly because the line cooks used to come into my pizza area and fart, and I had no escape. This is the height of restaurant humor to a line cook. Grady’s restaurant was pretty bad too, mostly because they sent all my paychecks to Atlanta instead of Albuquerque, and I was so poor my daily meal was the free pre-shift baked potato. But all of these jobs were not horrible, unbearable, they were just moments of terrible sprinkled with occasions of not so bad.

Here is the pure terrible, worst job ever: flagging construction. You know those people out there with the Slow/Stop sign and the attitude? That was me. Well, minus the attitude. I’d be all like, Hey, if you don’t mind, can you not drive your car through all this hot, freshly laid asphalt and if it’s not too inconvenient, could you slow down at least to 50 MPH please? Here’s a little tidbit of information: construction flaggers have to go to school to learn how to hold, twist and pump that sign. For 2 whole days. It’s like traffic school, and everyone has to go, even the seasoned, career flaggers. It’s way worse than traffic school because the people in the class are allowed to talk and share their flagger stories, and they all have many, each one worse than the next.   My favorite is the one about the guy who was “workin up in Tahoe and this bear came and it was the lady flagger’s, uh, you know, monthly lady time, and so he had to tell her to go to a different part of the construction zone because if that bear smelled her, uh, you know, monthly time stuff, well, he’d kill her. So, I basically saved her life.” Two days of stories like that before you get your little I-can-be-a-flagger card to put proudly in your wallet, never to be taken out again because nobody really cares if you are certified or not.

On Day 1, you get valuable advice like don’t let people push you around, you’re the boss out here, and put your sandwich in you hardhat so the homeless people don’t steal it if you are working downtown. It’s hard to feel like the boss when every time you turn your head your peanut butter and jelly sandwich slides over your ear and hits you on the cheek, and you have to put it back on your head like a girl in heels practicing posture. The truth about flagging is, it’s hot and miserable and boring, and you only get to pee once per day. People throw food and sodas at you, and you’re so thirsty that if the soda lands upright and it’s not empty you seriously consider drinking it. On a particularly miserable, hot, boring day, one of the construction guys yelled at me, “Hey Tammy, sucks huh? Kind of makes you wish you went to college, huh?” And I thought, I did go to college. And graduated. So what the hell am I doing our here, trying not to get hit by cars and trying to avoid eye contact with Paul who always needs a ride home to his downtown weekly hotel, and trying to cut out all liquids so I’d never have to go to pee behind a boulder again. And that was it for me. I quit, and now I only have a few good stories and a lot of sympathy for flaggers, because inside every bossy construction flagger who is pumping their Slow/Stop sign and yelling at you to slow down is a bored, sad, hung-over person who has to pee. Really bad.

Sometimes the people I work with complain that the toilets are so bad you have to flush twice, and I think, come talk to me when you are peeing crouched behind a boulder in South Lake Tahoe, hoping no one is staring at your naked white butt. Then we can talk about your sad work story.

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