• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I aint scared of you I’m scared of me

Over Thanksgiving holiday, my nephew (also my tech person and the smartest person in our family if Harvard admissions is any judge) suggested that I scrub up my blog if I ever wanted to apply for any job. This hit me like a ton of books. It’s not like I’m posting pictures of myself on Facebook wearing a tube top and throwing up at a backyard party, or doing bong hits in the ladies room of the Nassau Coliseum.  I don’t even have a Facebook. I took umbrage at his remark; was I really that over the top, out of bounds, or to use the dread word: inappropriate. Was I eating dead babies? Smearing feces? Carving swastikas into my forehead. What was he talking about?

Thank god I work for myself, I thought. But then what if I did want to get a job? And where? Run Random House?  HBO? Personal assistant to Jake Gyllenhaal? I could always bag groceries (I am amazing at this), organize Tupperware drawers (again, sorry for such unabashed self-praise, but I’m genius at this), I could teach pottery. I wonder if I could get a job at Google or Amazon, or is this what he is talking about?  I started thinking about self-censorship and how, on this blog, I already engage in a fair amount of it. For instance, I never write negatively about clients or publishing colleagues. I never talk about projects that are in play. Is my nephew aware of how much self-control I actually muster night after night? I thought the blog was a resume enhancer. At the very least it makes me appear younger, right? And to all potential employers: fuck off and die.

What’s on your resume? Worst job? Besides being a writer that is.

59 Responses

  1. The worst job was the one where I had three managers who would come in and bump each other’s top priorities so I could work on their crap instead. When I left there, after six months, I had seniority over EVERYONE who wasn’t management (except for one person in sales, whom management mostly left alone.) My replacement lasted 10 days before she simply failed to show up one day and never returned.

    The job itself was interesting (ad traffic controller at a small magazine) and the owner could spot talent a mile away…but she was a lunatic, and the managers were like unto her.

    One day I wrote a fake memo, purportedly from management, instituting new regulations for how we were to wash our hands in the ladies room to minimize waste of soap, water, and time. One of the managers ended up finding it and it took the woman far too long to realize it was a joke. (I posted it here: http://is.gd/hYey0 )

  2. I worked at a gas station in Connecticut for a few days. The worst part was the lotto machine, a real fucking nightmare. A lot of gambling and nicotine addicts hang out at gas stations. I remember a pack of Marlboros was $2.17 back then.

  3. Now you know how I felt in the Adirondacks when I was scolded for using the words ass and horny.

  4. that’s so weird. i just had dead babies for lunch today.

    do you really ever want to work for somebody who doesn’t get what you’re about here?

    my boss brings his dog into the office and i’m pretty sure it’s going senile. it barks ferociously whenever the doorbell rings. twice it has barked like it was going to bite me. it also stays put right outside my office door so i have to walk by it every time i need another cup of coffee to keep me going. my boss says that the vet told him the dog has low self-esteem.

    see? this is one of the few places where i can talk about that. (for now. one day, i’d like to write a memoir about my work. the chapter on all the scary dogs there will be called Dog Day Afternoons and it won’t even be the funniest part.)

  5. I once worked for two months at a frozen yogurt place. It was a living nightmare. The manager, who blamed me for every single thing that went wrong in that store, was caught embezzling the till for her boyfriend – no, I lie. She was caught have sex in the back room with her boyfriend, whose pockets (when he pulled up his pants) were stuffed with cash from the open safe.

    The regional manager told me I was in charge until she hired a new manager – I was delighted to inform her that I’d just worked the fourteeth day of my two weeks notice.

    I never did food service again . . . until I gave birth to my oldest kid.

  6. Project manager (i.e., babysitter). I once blogged about the creatives I worked with and called them “frat boys” whose only creative direction consisted of “make it more cool looking.” I should have gotten fired, but my boss just told me to take the posts down…I think she appreciated my perspective…I guess if you insist of blogging inappropriately you can only work for people who share your sense of humor.

  7. I worked at a chicken slaughterhouse in Springdale, Arkansas. Worst.

  8. I hold myself back on this blog, too. No sense going out of my way to make an ass of myself.

    I don’t know what’s on my resume, I haven’t looked at it in years. I suppose most of it’s true.

    My worst job was as a live-hanger on the chicken line at the Val-Mac plant in Dardanelles, Arkansas. The original chickenshit job. (Steve would understand.)

  9. I’ve had bad (and good) bosses, but nothing I would call a bad job.

    I’m a teacher, so I have to be conscious of whether something I post online can come back to bite me. But, you know? Tough shit if anybody objects to something I post. I don’t talk about my students or my colleagues, and when I complain about work I do it in oblique terms. But I don’t intend to hide who I am when I’m off the clock.

  10. I’d have to say working in an antenna factory inspecting the chrome caps that cover where the antenna is attached to the car. 🙂 First my supervisor would tell me I was being too picky…then the next day she would tell me I wasn’t being picky enough…then the next day she would go back to being too picky…I found out that everyone before me had quit… lol

  11. Hoeing for a peony nursery in Southwest Missouri. 16 and way to cheery for the weathered crew– when I asked after a half day of work “what’s next you guys?” one of the woman said “keeping on with that is what” and her surly daughter threw a rock at me. I can still hear it whizzing past my head.

  12. Worst job was as a secretary for a sanctimonious ass right after I finished my Master’s degree. The boss was what made the job so bad. He was so condescending and made me wear skirts or dresses every day.

  13. No one has commented on the young man trying to impart this message of fear and conformity. My students are so rule bound they can hardly think and they seem to like it that way. They are always imagining new rules where there are none, or where certainly they have no information of any. It’s insidious. Everything my generation was taught to fear about the Soviet Union, minus shortages of food and consumer goods, is now here, us, entrenched; and when you suggest to people that liberty is not merely a word we use when we invade other countries and kill people with drones and mercenaries, but an actual practice that requires a certain degree of courage, and was once a central tenet to which everyone was more or less dedicated, they think you’re crazy. Of course we love freedom. Our enemies hate us for our freedom. That’s how we know we’re free. But if you tell even a fragment of the truth on your blog, you’d better watch out.

    • “. . . when you suggest to people that liberty is not merely a word we use when we invade other countries and kill people with drones and mercenaries, but an actual practice that requires a certain degree of courage, and was once a central tenet to which everyone was more or less dedicated, they think you’re crazy. Of course we love freedom. Our enemies hate us for our freedom. That’s how we know we’re free.”

      Brilliant. I’d like to print the part about liberty being an everyday practice that requires courage on a card and give a copy to every high school student in the country. Well said, dammit.

    • Totally agree with this. But as far as the young (we’re assuming) man: how he reacts to liberty is a direct result of the world that previous generations have created over his lifetime. I have a nephew who as a kid was so gentle and peace-loving and love-loving. He watched the towers burning from a high school classroom. After college he went to work for a company that supplies high tech equipment to the military, stuff that ends up in Afghanistan and Iraq. Liberty’s kind of morphed into a tears for fear thing. And added to the fact that the economic possibility there won’t be a job for these kids, his comments to Betsy make perfect sense to me.

      He’s smart. He’ll figure it out.

  14. CIA. Nine years.

  15. Country Australia


    Shearers Pub

    A Saturday night

    Clogged public bar toilet

    No plumber

  16. My two dream jobs became my worst nightmare. I love to type and my parents are deaf, so I thought I’d combine talent and doing goodness, and become a closed captioner. I lasted a year, but spending 8 hours a day captioning crappy 30-minute bottom-feeding TV shows just about drove me insane. Also, I’m pretty sure my boss found out that I had xxx with yyy in the zzz. Was there a hidden camera? I’m afraid to become famous now, in case I find out for sure while being interviewed on Letterman: “Let’s run a clip.” (Excuse #37 of why I never finish my novels and ha ha get on the bestseller list.)

    Second “dream job” for which I actually went to school and got a certificate was graphic design. I was hired to help put out a small-town newspaper and got the small-minded boss from heck. I am normally a very polite person, but when I caught myself rolling my eyes AT HIM while he was lecturing me yet again, I knew I had to leave. The last straw came a few days later, and I walked out an hour before deadline, leaving a half-completed newspaper. Sometimes walking out is the best, the only, option.

    I work at home now, which suits my hermetic personality.

    What’s wrong with your blog, Betsy? I think it’s pretty fine.

  17. I’ve been a street tree planter, bartender, police reporter, book review magazine editor, pizza waitress, VISTA volunteer, and a-hem, writer. My worst job was as the PR person for a children’s book publisher. They had a crappy YA title about a dog and the order from on high was to call the author “The Next Jack London” in all the promotions. I walked out, leaving a trail of “There is no next Jack London!” trailing behind and never returned.

  18. A photographer I used to work for as a stylist a was a tough, demanding woman but she knew her stuff. I think she paid me $8.00 an hour. When we shot on location, we sometimes had twelve hour days. I asked for a raise and she gave me an additional .50 an hour. I’ve had worse jobs.

  19. My first and worst job was as a late-night, teenage, truck-stop waitress for less than minimum wage.

  20. Okay, what is up with your nephew? Freaking hell.

    I’ve had so many bad jobs, I went back to school for an MLS so I could become self-employed. Truly bad jobs are the ones where you work for bad people. The worst was as personal secretary to a miserable crazy imperious woman who took so many sedatives she could barely see me after lunch.

    The oddest one may have been working for a plant breeding lab. Either I was out in fields in the heat and in the freezing rain taking soil samples, or grass samples with roots and all, or I was in the lab all by myself, taking grass samples out of the freezer, laying them on a mesh tray over a sink, and washing all the soil off the roots, trying not to lose a single hair.

    I once had to sample a plot of red clover in full bloom, that seemed to have an entire hive of honeybees working it over, you could hear it hum from yards away. Honeybees do get out of your way if you move slowly and keep talking to them.

  21. Working as a Registered Rep at a major wall street brokerage firm under a senior stock broker who was a controlling and paranoid type A personality. I cold-called and set appointments with prospects for him. The moment I stepped off the elevator each morning and walked into the office my stomach immediately tied into knots and the tension in the air was so palpable you cold smell it. It reeked of desperation.

  22. I worked on the slime-line in a salmon cannery. Best worst job ever!!

  23. High class whore, better known as the Executive Wife. Instead of crumpled 20s I get paid in real estate, German engineered machinery and the guise of respectability. Venture into my clutches and you are funnier than Seinfeld, smarter than Gates and as desirable as Mark Wahlberg – if I wasn’t married. I knew you the moment you walked in the door. You never had a chance.

  24. The worst job I had was working in a bank at night when I was in college. I last two weeks before I threw my required high heels out the bus window on my way home. Never again took a job I couldn’t walk away from.

  25. Best job and worst job: activities assistant at a nursing home that was a for-profit operation run by a big corporation. The monthly fees to live there were mind boggling, and the food was like school cafeteria lunches. But the residents were lovely…unfortunately they kept dying. And some were very lonely.

  26. ” I thought the blog was a resume enhancer. At the very least it makes me appear younger, right?

    Younger and thinner. Your blog is the new black.

  27. I recently made a list of all the weird jobs I’ve had (they’re not on my resume, though):

    Typist for Amish newspaper
    Information desk attendant who had no actual access to information
    College phone-a-thon PITA
    Tabulator of “The Best of”survey results for a regional magazine (When people voted “McDonalds” for best hamburger joint or “Olive Garden” for best Italian, I kind of wanted to poke my eye out)
    Freelance writer of articles about decorative hardware, Disney cruises, etc.
    Concession stand employee
    Confirmation specialist of addresses/fax numbers for fast food restaurants around the county
    Box folder in a pizza shop
    Deliverer of prescriptions in a pharmacy-owned car I called “The Drug Mobile”

  28. I couldn’t organize my way out of my tupperware cabinet if you put a gun to my head. That’s like the 3rd ring of Hell to me.
    Me and foil, we’re tight.

    Your scrub-free-ness gives me hope.


  29. Toss up.
    1. Dietary supervisor for a failing nursing home where i once had to carve 8 pumpkins in an hour and where I basically hid out with the 30–yr-old stoner quad resident who’d been bounced around from nursing home to nursing home for the weed he kept having buddies sneak him. He used a straw in his mouth to type out dirty jokes on a keyboard device. I quit before I could get fired.
    2. Asst manager at a Pizza Hut during the ill-fated Priazzo Italian Pie roll-out. Let’s just say mischief ensued. Nearly lost my arm in the dough mixer.

  30. Research job counting ejaculations of the meadow vole, I’m serious.


  31. Public Relations account manager at a high tech PR agency. I was basically a shill. Came home every day feeling dirty.

  32. Worked at a boat-building plant. Mind you, I was about 22-yrs-old and knew squat about boats, let alone building them. I was put on the “carpeting” line; had to glue the shit all over the place and then clean my hands with toluene (which I accidentally sprayed in my face). My sister, though, had it even worse: she was on the “engine installment” line…..anyway, both of us were eventually fired when one of the boats we both worked on sunk on a test run.

  33. Wedding photographer. I had a drunk groomsman tell me he’d only smile if I showed him my tits.

  34. I just found you via my friend, Barbara De Marco Barrett, and look forward to calling in during your interview with her this Wednesday.
    Regarding resumes, I read about a woman who was sick of sending out her resume which she claimed was so limiting, and decided to do something different. She started a blog, posted her resume on it, and talked about all the other skills she has that aren’t mentioned in a boring old resume. She decided to interview for a potential boss, and attracted the attention of employers, and landed a great job. I like people who think outside-the-box. Sonia.

  35. This is a book-sized question. Thinking pop-up.

  36. Cab driver. Just married, lived in San Francisco, broke. Walked to Yellow Cab, signed up. Sent to the police to get a Hack License. Cops run a check on me. Turns out I have 22 outstanding parking tickets. No money.
    I am escorted (!) up to the top floor—the jail—and held there until I get my one call, tell my new wife how my day is going, she takes up a collection for my bail—and by the time she arrives they are taking my mug shot, and the flash goes off as she walks in. A fine newlywed moment.
    She stayed with me. Go figure.

  37. Topic remix: Most desired job — activist-writer! working for an organization that combines environmental activism and the arts. Shy about a lot of things, but not about this: I would be really good at it.

  38. I had a job one summer when I was sixteen bagging groceries at Foodtown–I wasn’t too good at it and went insane listening to Muzak all day…that was probably the worst job I ever had (“Be careful with those eggs!”)

    I exercised horses for a rich polo player–not too bad a job, except once when I forgot to do something with the horse’s bridle and polo player almost fell off…he almost killed me later…

    I worked as a cocktail waitress in the Hamptons–only job I got fired from. I was so bad I got a dime once as a tip from a whole table of people. The owner, a really nasty French guy, was later arrested for heroin smuggling or something…

  39. chambermaid at the Paradise Motel. there were silverfish.

  40. I was once an extra on “Charles in Charge”.

  41. I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king.

    Wait, no. I’ve mostly just been a pawn.

    I’m working on the pirate part though.

    Your nephew is probably on-target for young up-and-comings grasping for the brass ring. For someone like you though? Behaving a bit badly is what keeps the carnival ride fun.

  42. Snapshots:

    Pizza counterperson/waitress across from the huge Air Force Base in my hometown (was hit on and ordered to smile–also had one guy come in and stay for, like, THREE hours every single day).

    Job at literary magazine on East Coast in early 90s — was asked to clean out editor’s office and discovered handgun in his closet (the guy was in his late 70s at his time, I think), same editor had me Fed-Ex a single half-used bottle of Visine to his swanky apartment in New York (he and another editor came into the New England office for three or four days each month), shopped for Chessman cookies, three large navel oranges, half a pound of smoked salmon, etc. before editors arrived each month (there was a list of about 12 items in the editorial assistant binder), was regularly berated by managing editor who chainsmoked everyday all day in the basement office (she was either cloyingly sweet or bitterly condescending, depending–on what i don’t know). she thought the editorial assistant who worked there before i did was plotting to poison her with entenmanns cake or something. you get the idea, just the tip of this iceberg …

    Freelance work for an environmentalist who landed a very powerful position when he was 23 and who was nice for a while then turned arrogant, sanctimonious and shouty. Have mixed feelings. Good person in some ways, really not so nice in others. I tend to ask a lot of questions and focus on details as well as the big picture (did writing and brainstorming work for him as well as editing). He was more into talky meetings and hand-shakery. Eventually he landed a job working for an ad agency, also worked for a huge much maligned chainstore group. Once called me at a new job about something I’d written for him and one of his clients. Instead of asking me if I’d noticed a relatively minor edit he’d suggested for a project he called me at a new job and threatened not to pay me for the freelance project I’d worked on for him because I’d “ignored an edit” he’d made and had not, in his mind, delivered the final project. In my mind his “edit” read like a query or a suggestion and was, in any case, very minor. Also I had delivered what I’d thought *we’d agreed* was the final project. In his defense, he was stressed. In my defense, so was I.

    There are more and far worse, though one of the worst was made so by a four and a half hour round-trip daily commute from San Francisco to San Jose (this worked out to four bus rides, two shuttle rides and two train rides per day).

    But yeah, if you’re smart and assertive and don’t hide those things, if you can’t help but spot the ridiculousness in broken systems and attempt to fix them, if you don’t knuckle under to supervisors simply because they are your supervisors, if you allow mean and manipulative egotists to treat your co-workers or you unfairly you’re going to have trouble. Plus, as a friend has pointed out, clear communication and decision-making between two people is sometimes challenging–raise that number and things obviously become more … complex. So it goes.

  43. Make that: “if you _don’t_ allow mean and manipulative egotists to treat your co-workers or you unfairly” …

    Not to be a hippie, but part of it’s the system, man. Seeing people as means to an end has always troubled me–yet those who are good at seeing people this way are often rewarded. I was raised by a philosopher and a writer. I was not raised to be deferent to power, efficiency or money–I was raised to be deferent to kindness, wisdom and compassion. This gets me into all kinds of trouble but I wouldn’t trade it.

  44. “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
    Hunter S. Thompson

  45. Tea Lady- WORST JOB EVER.
    I was living in London, just finished an MFA at Chelsea College of Art and needed to start earning lolly. Amazingly, since I couldn’t type, an MFA made me eligible for nothing. I finally got a job at a venture capital firm as a tea lady. This was as terrible and demoralizing as it sounds. I pushed around a trolley with tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits arranged artfully on a paper-doilied plate. I believe I was hired for my artistic biscuit arranging abilities.

    The morning after my 25 birthday, still drunk from pitchers of Caipirinha I’d imbibed in the wee hours, I dragged myself into work and started making coffee. My manager came in and had a word. In my befuddled state, it took me a while to realize she was firing me. I walked towards Holborn station as everyone else was walking towards the city and more tea-trolley/venture capital drudgery. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

  46. I was an assistant store opener for a discount store chain, and travelled all over the country. I really did enjoy the work and the travel, but, man, did I ever have the accidents. I was an expert at having accidents, as I had fallen off two ten-foot ladders, lost nearly half of my left pinky finger on a pallet jack and had a head-on collision with a New York cop while driving a company truck. I was also pinned to the floor when a gondola of shelving with mechandise collapsed on my arm nearly breaking my arm. I was also caught by an avalanche of shelving careening down a walkway, which left some significant marks. There was also the time that my friend and boss directed me to cut some wires out of the ceiling of a store that we were closing. He neglected to tell me that he had not shut off the power. That one knocked me half way across the room. The irony was that I was usually the one who gave the safety briefing to our temorary employees before starting each job. I could never do that with a completely straight face. It was fun though.

  47. Hah. This was so much fun to read.

    I once sold satellite dishes door to door. I was also a log tagger (which involved eye gear, a helmet, a tool apron & ear plugs).

    And when I was underage, I worked for a relatives video store. I ended up with the red badge. Red badge workers were those who A) had keys to the X rate adult movies in the rear and B) would read movie descriptions to the illiterate.

    The bad part was when those in the X-rated room were illiterate. :))

    But my absolute worst job was working for a small publishing company in Ohio. They hired me for one job and then re-wrote the job description. After the rewrite, I didn’t qualify for my job. I once got written up for having my pants improperly hemmed.

    I’d rather read porn covers to people who can’t read. LOLOLOLOL.

  48. I’m a kid, so I haven’t had too many totally awful, story birthing jobs yet, but the worst thus far has been as an intern at a magazine. 12 hour days, no lunch, limited pee breaks, yelled at constantly by a man who wore furs and made Tim Gunn seem the epitome of manliness. My friend was lectured for eating M&Ms, and I for not wearing high heels past the point of tears.

    In college we’re bombarded with warnings about how much of ourselves we put on the internet. People are talking about there might be a wave of name-changes in kids who are ten and eleven now because of how stubbornly all the shit you put online can follow you. They lecture us about how we have to ‘build our brand’ and all of this other crap about presenting yourself.

    Frankly, I love the honesty levels we’re reaching. You can tell so much more about someone by what they’re willing to post than by what they actually post. And in a few years everyone who’s interviewing job candidates will be in exactly the same facebook-twitter-myspace situation.

    But seriously, unless you have blatantly violent or racist things posted (in which case, natural selection rules apply and you are too stupid to be of too much use to yourself or society anyhow), I see no reason to freak out. Everyone’s got basically the same shit up online. We whine about privacy as we flash the security cameras and ask our friends to comment. What do people expect?

    Thank you infinitely much for summing it all up so perfectly in your last statement.

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