One of my may friends named Laura tagged me for a meme on seven weird jobs you have had.
I need to stretch the definition of weird, to focus on unusual. I’ve been working since I was 14 almost continuously, but nearly all the jobs were actually really cool.
One that stands out as just a weird fit was working for H&R Block in the back room, copying tax returns by using a blueprint machine. Way back then — in the old days — that was the easiest and cheapest ways to make copies I guess. So I would run them through, endure the ammonia fumes, and collate the returns.
I worked for the Governor of Michigan, essentially, receiving a per diem for attending meetings and making advisory statements on issues of juvenile justice. $40 a day plus food and travel expense. Seemed like a lot in the ’70s I was just 15 and 16. I ended up with three different governor’s appointments and was about to progress to the federal level with Jimmy Carter when I realized this was a terrible career path that would ultimately destroy me. I am thankful for that insight.
At age 19 I was the director of a federally funded runaway house. Now that is weird. Could never happen now.
I was the first female bell hop ever hired at the Campus Inn. To fill out my schedule I also did some work on the switchboard. I was happy to represent the extremes of sexually stereotyped jobs. As a bell hop many people were disturbed by having a young woman carry their bags. A number of men would put their own bags on the cart, let me push it, and then insist on lifting them off and then wold over tip me in their nervousness. I was outraged for a while and then realized I was doing less work and making more money. Did it really make sense to be upset?
A wonderful perk of that job was access to the hotel’s master key. Which opened the door to the roof. The hotel was either 13 or 14 stories – and it was a thrill to go up on the roof and watch the sun set or just hang out. It was sometimes hard work (a tour bus would come in and you had half an hour to deliver 40 or more bags for $.50 each) football Saturdays were nuts and the whole team would stat on one floor the night before the game (I pretended once I didn’t know who Bo Schembechler was when his car was blocking the entrance — that was fun and I got to drive his car… it was an ugly maize Cadillac).
One truly weird job was as a contract employee involved with creating the Hummer car. I worked on the data base of parts involved in building the thing. I actually had to go into American General a few times to work. Bizarre atmosphere, strangely lax security for a place with so many military contracts, but I was part of that history. I have mixed feelings, obviously.
There was a job I had that helped me to have close contact with a segment of the population I had avoided until then. In the very early 80s I was the massage therapist and reflexologist for a residential health spa. The women were rich, high society, mostly housewives, indulged, and had the whole make up and shoes and clothes thing down. It was weird to do the whole fawning and further indulging thing with them, and often engage in pretty intimate conversation. Overall a really good experience, but I had never imagined that so many women had completely ruined feet from wearing high heels.
I suppose the only weird job left was working for the census bureau for the 1980 census. I was a crew leader, I hired a bunch of college students to do the enumeration of the dorms. I had to follow a perfectly awful training process, and then keep on top of their work. It was hard, any time I strayed from “the way” I was yelled at by my supervisor, it was impossible to introduce humane and reasonable ways of doing things. I was demoted to return checker, and again discouraged from suggesting better or more intelligent ways of doing things. I would foresee a clash down the line because of the way one section was doing something that another section would soon take over — if we followed the rules it would be more work. At that age I just was so frustrated that no one seemed to care that we could do better work by innovation. I didn’t understand that better work was not the point, saving time and money was pointless, and the illusion of following rules and making it real was all that mattered.
But it was a fascinating experience.
So that’s my seven — I’ve actually held very few jobs, being self employed for over 25 years. Just a few part time things to fill in the gaps in all that time. And my jobs of my youth were pretty fabulous – interviewing, working at the UM Botanical Gardens, making bronze bells, and a few stray computer jobs. Never a waitress, never fast food, the most mindless work I ever did was for my dad making manuals and other collating and office work. Still not that bad.