Work is, well, it can mean a lot of things really. It can mean employment, or house work, or labor, or manual labor, or wage labor. Some would say work is the amount of energy transferred by a force. In thermodynamics I believe they define it as the quantity of energy transferred from one system to another. In a religious perspective Christians refer to work as acts of charity. Regardless of what avenue you play on, a fairly safe generalization is that work is the process of doing something.

Now I have done a lot of something’s in my time, so in an attempt to create a bit more of a finite perspective on this topic, I’m going to be using the word work in the context of performing a function for a person/company in which they exchange the time I spend working for them for green paper, which are commonly referred to as dollars, bucks, cash, mula, dough, bread… well you get the picture. The common everyday word for this exchange is called a job.

Over the years, let’s just say I’ve had my share of jobs. Sometimes even two or three at a time, sometimes four or five different ones in a year. Not because I was a bad employee, but because I was in a perpetual state of change. A change which meant I would be moving in just a short amount of time. I always find it mildly entertaining to look back at all the jobs I’ve had in the past and to see what I’ve learned from them. I believe this will be in mostly chronological order… mostly being the key word there:

Worm Picker
I learned that pouring garbage can after garbage can filled water and a chemical that makes worms freak out and race to the surface is a creepy and disturbing way to make $5/pound for worms. I also learned that I really don’t like holding worms, they are kind of gross. Recommendation: Skip it, unless you enjoy pulling slimy, wiggling worms out of the ground with your bare hands.

DJ for School Dances
I learned it’s really easy to become a DJ at 13 if your dad has a side business where he owns a mobile light show and sound system for putting on school dances. I also learned that you will never be able to make everyone happy, and if ever stuck on what song you should play next, go with the song that makes the person you have a crush on smile. It won’t do any good in helping you score a kiss, or even getting them to agree to slow dance with your, but at least you’ll get them smiling because of something you did. Recommendation: Worth the experience, but stay away from radio. Besides, it is fun for a while.

Fast Food Peon
I learned that flipping burgers at a fast food place is just was horrible as selling worms to fishing shops. I also learned that at 15 I was willing to do a 3 hour commute every day for the summer just to make $4/hour so I could buy my own school clothes. Recommendation: Skip it, unless you are required to do 100 hours of community service and serving burgers is one of your options; or unless you are 15 and it’s the only place hiring.

Grocery Bagger
I learned I hate asking, “paper or plastic?” Likewise, waking up at 5am to unload groceries from the back of a semi and stocking the shelves as fast as possible before leaving at 8am to get to school is one of the closest things to hell on Earth I can imagine… or could imagine while I was in high school. Recommendation: If you do mornings well, go for it.

Ice Cream Scooper
I don’t mean I was an actually ice cream scooper used to scoop ice cream, but the scooper that scooped ice cream using an ice cream scoop for people who wanted to buy it. I learned that I really don’t like ice cream that much. I also learned that when your co-worker is the 15 year old grandson of the owners, you should never comment that the grandson just clocks in and leaves work for the day, getting paid to do nothing. Because at that point you are the one that gets yelled at by the owners for being a bad employee. Recommendation: Buy some Ben & Jerry’s and skip the job interview.

Resort Jack of all Trades
I worked at a small resort where I cleaned room, mowed the lawns, tended the gift shop, took dinner and room reservations, waited tables, was a prep cook, was the breakfast and lunch cook, did construction… and served the occasional drink. I learned that if you have no friends in the area to distract you and have a boss that does not believe in overtime, but will let you work as much as you want so he doesn’t have to hire more people. It is possible to work close to 80 in one week. Recommendation: If they are good people and have an endless supply of stories and treat you well, it’s really not a bad way to spend the summer when you’re 18. Plus because you are working so much you end up saving most of your money instead of spending it during your free time… mainly because you don’t have any free time.

Day Care Worker/White Power Ranger
I learned that when you are working with a bunch of three to five year olds and you have long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, and it’s the mid 90’s, you are going to play Power Rangers every single day at work and you are always going to be Tommy, the White Ranger. I also learned more about the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers than I ever thought was acceptable for an adult to learn… I even found myself watching some of the episodes for “homework” purposes. Recommendation: For a semester, definitely… little people are always a good resource for making you laugh, especially when they don’t mean to.

College Dorm Room RA
I learned that working at a college day care was much more worthwhile than being in charge of babysitting a floor of college students that were only a year or two younger than me. The kids were much easier to deal with… plus they never arrived at the day care drunk. Unlike almost everyone on my dorm floor. Recommendation: It was a lot more work than I expected, but it wasn’t that bad. Besides, being an RA meant that I did have my own room, so in that regard I’d say yeah, it was worth it.

Assistant Pastry Chef
I learned that in resort cities you don’t need any experience to become an assistant pastry chef; you just need to be willing to wake up at 4am each morning to get to work by 5. If you were reliable enough to do that, you were reliable enough to be trusted with baking things in the ovens. Recommendation: Definitely a fun summer job. You meet an endless supply of crazy people, most of which think you are more nuts than they are because you work as a baker. Also, if you’re lucky, you have a job waiting for you when you go home for the Winter break before the new semester starts again.

Clothes Seller and Human Eye Measure-er for the GAP
I learned that the prospect of meeting cute girls diminishes quickly when they demand they are a size 4 and you know that they are a size 6… or 8. Recommendation: As a second job for the summer months between college semesters, yeah it’s really not that difficult. Plus you get a great discount on school clothes. Also, if you become friends with the window decorator, you can actually help create a Smirkable window display every now and again. My favorite was when the mannequins had a snowball fight using rolled up boxer shorts.

Video Rental Store Clerk
I learned that when one of your coworkers is dating your sister, he really doesn’t care much when you meet his aunt at a bar and take her out a few times. I also learned that it’s helpful to have a co-worker related to the bar maid you’ve just taken a fancy to, to learn that she’s still married, but separated. (Yeah, I stopped asking her our when I learned that little nugget.) Recommendation: Yes, when you are going to school, having an endless supply of free movie rentals does come in rather handy.

Subway Sandwich Artist
I learned that when you work with a kid who smokes pot in the back cooler, he has a tendency to eat a lot of the food when things are not busy. You do spend a lot of time up front keeping an eye on things though, because of all his trips to the back cooler. I also learned that just because you wear a button that says Sandwich Artist, you’re really just some guy that makes incredibly mediocre sandwiches. Recommendation: If it allows you to keep out of the volatile living situation for eight or so hours a day, yeah it might be worth it. Otherwise, find a local sandwich instead.

Precook at a Steak House
I learned that working with your dad in a kitchen can be a lot of fun. But if you boss (which is not your father) is an unrelenting drunk that keeps disrupting your work and then yells at you for not working, it’s a job that you don’t need. Recommendation: I might be ok to learn a few things about working in a kitchen, but don’t be afraid to walk out on the drunk.

Door to Door Sales Man
I learned that people don’t like to be interrupted at their homes by strangers trying to peddle them something they really don’t need. I also learned that the truly crazy ones are the one that will actually invite you in. Recommendation: For the sake of having a lifetime of stories about really obscure people and situations, by all means yes, just don’t make it a life time vocational choice. The experience is worth it as long as it ends.

Coffee Shop Deli Boy
I learned a lot about a product that I hate… coffee. I also learned that I really only like customer service when I can make food for people I like instead of everyone who comes in asking to be fed. I learned that working with your best friend can be a lot of fun, but also make you want to put their head in a Panini grill every once in a while. I also learned that you can barter meals for a bmx bike or even hypnotherapy sessions. Recommendation: Yes, you meet a lot of great people, who, when they remember to tip, are downright sweethearts, also if you have a thing from baristas, you stick with the job long after you should have moved on to bigger and better things.

Banana Republic Stock-Boy
I learned that hanging out in a cool basement running closes up to the main floor for customers that you would not be helping in any way is a nice customer service job that keeps you away from the customers. I learned when it comes to spending the summer in San Francisco; there are worse places to be than at work in a clothing store. I also learned that San Francisco is the town of a thousand smells, and it’s a nice place see, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Recommendation: It’s an ok distraction and gives you some cash to buy sandwiches while you are spending the summer in San Francisco to write.

Newspaper Opinion Columnist
I learned that writing a liberal opinion column for a mostly conservative campus paper is a good way to get voted as the most hated person on campus. I learned that editors are very useful things to have access too. I also learned that some people do not handle negative criticism about their negative criticism well. For the record I only had to call the cops once due to threats. Recommendation: Definitely, getting paid to share your opinion is one of the sweetest gigs I think I’ve ever had.

Writer of Technical Documents
I learned that I can get a job with an English degree that doesn’t require me to teach a class. I also learned that when you tell someone that you are a technical writer, about 98% of the time they will ask you, “What’s that?” Recommendation: It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you can do it and after 8 years you feel fine towards it… I figure that’s a good thing… well, it’s not bad anyway. Also, if you’re lucky you just might meet that special someone that asks you to marry them.

I’ve learned that for me creative and satirical writing is the cat’s meow, the marshmallow in my rice crispy treat, the Sangiovese grape that makes my favorite wines my favorite wines, the K in MST3K, the little crack you feel when stretching your back that makes everything feel better… I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Recommendation: Absolutely. If you enjoy writing, then write. I love it. Also, when others tell you that they love it as well, well then that’s a whole new sentence of obscure analogies which ultimately mean, “it’s pretty damn cool.”

And there you have it, my job list. I think that’s all of it. Nineteen jobs in 36 years… I’m not sure if that is excessive or pretty standard. Still, it has been a collection of life experiences… and well worth it.

What were some of your more outlandish jobs?

Image Sources:
Google Images, key words: work, high school dance, bagging groceries, day care, SNL GAP, sandwich artist, working at coffee shop deli, newspaper columnist, and blogging.