The Oddest Job I’ve Ever Had

Yesterday you read about how Eric quit his career as a lawyer and opened his own food truck. We all have dreams like that. But we also have a history of random jobs, even careers–I read today that the new length for a career is 4 years.

So it got me thinking about the oddest jobs I’ve ever had. None have been too crazy. But I’ve compiled them onto a list in chronological order to see how they hold up.

  1. Babysitter: One of those typical teenage jobs. I could act responsible, but was I really equipped for this responsibility? I remember once putting a little kid on top of a refrigerator to keep him away from other kids. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not okay.
  2. Referee: I actually loved this job. You get to run around, watch soccer, and enforce arbitrary rules. I was pretty good at this job. Reffing for teenage girls was really interesting, though. They would get really done up for the games–like, lipstick, heavy mascara, the works. Very odd. My proudest moment (not really) was giving a 12-year-old girl a red card for stopping the ball with both hands right before it was going to go into the goal. She was not the goalie. If there’s one true no-no in soccer, that’s the one, and I figured it was better she learned that from a young age.
  3. Movie Theater Dude: This was awesome. It was the summer before college, and I wanted to see a lot of movies in the theater for free. Little did I know that I was also going to consume a tremendous amount of popcorn and soda for free as well. I loved working concession, partly because of the popcorn (yes, we ate it with our hands directly out of the popcorn maker) and partly because I loved doing the math in my head for people’s purchases. At times I also had to tear tickets and clean theaters (people do dirty, dirty things during movies). I once asked two young teenagers for their IDs when they went to see a PG-13 movie (I think it was Galaxy Quest–there’s some cleavage in that movie!), and another time I hunted down a grandmother for sneaking in popcorn and candy. Not on my watch, lady.
  4. Church Work-Study Helper: In college, my part-time work-study job was at the church where I currently work full time. I worked with a lot of really nice people. Mostly I did data entry and bought/fixed technology for the technophile priest. I think he may have purchased the world’s first GPS device.
  5. Roughly how I imagined an alarm company central station would look.

    Alarm Company Central Station Operator: I thought that working at an alarm company would look like an ADT commercial. Heck no. Basically, you’re locked in a small, aging room with no windows filled with out of date computers for 8 hours a day. Other than the social atmosphere, it was a pretty boring job (you just sit there responding to alarm signals) until I realized that I could read books between alarms. Also, I was a rosy-cheeked college sophomore (this was a summer job). It wasn’t until years later that I realized that a lot of the friendly things those women said to me were actually quite suggestive. Who knows who I’d be today if I had been more in tune to those comments.

  6. Olive Garden Waiter: For two summers I thought I was going to open a restaurant after college, so I worked as a waiter to see how a restaurant worked. I learned a lot about serving people and customer service. I learned that a lot of tipping stereotypes are true, but I believe in giving people the same level of high service even if they fit into one of those stereotypical groups. I also ate a lot of breadsticks.
  7. Crab Louie Waiter: The second summer I upgraded to work in a nicer restaurant in my hometown. It really wasn’t all that different from the Olive Garden, but the tips were a little better. It was at this job that I realized that some people make their living by waiting tables, and they get really, really mad when you get the 4-top they wanted. I was not living from paycheck to paycheck, so I often traded tables. One underrated skill set that you’ll learn if you wait tables is memorization on the fly. Not just orders, but also little requests and observations as you dash around. I still have dreams that I forgot to refill the cornbread at table 5.
  8. Publishing Company Project Manager/Team Leader: For every textbook or scientific journal, there’s a publisher who finds the authors and gets them to write the book, there’s a middle man who managers all the copyeditors, typesetters, proofreaders, and authors to make the book perfect, and there’s a printer who actually prints the book. I was the middle man for 4 years. During that time I had one of the kookiest bosses I’ll ever have and also one of the best bosses. My coworkers were awesome. We ate lunch together every day and had a blast. It was the perfect first post-collegiate job.
  9. Director of Operations: This is my current job. I’m the business director for a non-profit facility on a college campus. I manage the staff, the finances, the volunteers, and the contractors. I handle communications and conflicts. And I run our large annual fundraising event. If you ever want to work with truly good-hearted people, work at a nonprofit. When there’s no corporate ladder to climb, you’d be surprised at the tenacity of the human spirit.
  10. Co-Founder of Blank Slate Press: My ongoing passion project is a small fiction publishing startup here in St. Louis. I handle the application process, some of the marketing, and some editorial work. I’m in constant contact with our authors. We’re currently accepting applications for our next novelist.

How many jobs have you had? What’s the oddest one? Which one would you do if it paid $100,000/yr?

18 thoughts on “The Oddest Job I’ve Ever Had”

  1. My dad worked for the same company his entire career, just as his dad did. He found it troubling that people of my generation tended to change jobs so often. Of course, he was used to companies being loyal to their employees, too. Those days are long gone.

    I worked for a vet once (I wanted to be one at the time), cleaning up the office after hours. And yes, that included the cages. Never was a waitress. Never worked retail. I babysat in high school. Knew better than to throw a kid up on the fridge, though. 😉 I worked for temp agencies in the summer during college. Was a receptionist in a car dealership. Definitely saw/met some interesting people in that job…

    After college, I was in corporate communications and marketing for 15 years. The role didn’t change, but the company often did. I worked for four during my career. Currently a stay at home mom transitioning to work from home and trying to make money (not a living, mind you) writing.

    • Honestly, I’ve always found the concept of company loyalty to be odd (and I consider myself a compassionate, understanding manager). Strictly in terms of running a business, it’s much more cost effective to find good employees and hang onto them than continually hire and train new employees. Thus loyalty makes sense. But beyond that, do companies owe their employees anything? It’s a business transaction.

      Oo, cleaning up cages sounds dreadful. Who was the most interesting person you met at the car dealership?

      How is the latest career path going?

  2. Great list, Jamey! By the way, my former step-mom once made burritos for my dad, her, and me, and snuck them into a movie theatre in her purse. I felt both embarrassed and exhilarated by this criminal, and delicious, act.

    I’ve had some unique jobs: DJ in a top-40 nightclub at a restaurant, TV reporter/anchor/producer in Alaska, writer/producer for shows on Home & Garden TV and Food Network, ghost writer, freelance book editor, writing coach, and author. I still do the last four – because I’m not yet making $100,000 at the last one.

    The most unusual job I ever had was an “In-School Scouting Leader”: I brought a scouting program into inner-city elementary schools in Los Angeles, during class time. That was fun & rewarding, though it was strange when I got pulled over once by police and had to explain why there were short lengths of rope in the back of my VW bug: “Ummm, to teach boy scouts how to tie square knots.”

    • Wow, your former step-mom went all out! I wouldn’t have minded if the grandmother had said something nice to me. But when I asked her what she was hiding, she said, “Nothing!” By the time my investigation was complete, I found a bag of microwave popcorn, a huge bag of hard candy, several sodas…and true love. You never know what you’ll find at the theater.

      You write about your jobs in such an entertaining way in your book–I loved reading about them!

  3. True love? Is that a little joke about the thieving grannie, or a hint that you met someone closer to your own age in the process?

    I’m so glad you found my jobs entertaining in my book. Thanks. Most of them were fun. On the other hand, to this day, when I’m really stressed out I have waitressing dreams.

    • It was just a joke–Grannie was far too fiery and passionate for me. 🙂

      I can totally relate to those waitressing dreams! Somehow that experience must get ingrained into the head of most servers.

  4. I have bagged groceries and sold shoes. I have worked on a golf course and a bank. In college, I delivered pizza for both Domino’s and Papa Johns. (There was a bidding war.) I was once compensated for regularly ingesting supplements not approved by the FDA. (Don’t ask.) I have been an accountant and a police officer. But, by far, the strangest thing I have ever done for money was work on an oil rig.

    Yep, an oil rig. 60 miles off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana. 12 hours a day, 7 days a week cleaning a rig that had been in the water for 28 years. I don’t even know where to start. The single oddest experience of my life. You can’t see land, and since this was 2001, there was no Internet out there. There was one television, but trust me – you did not want to see what was on that screen. So you’re entirely isolated from the world. Someone could have just thrown me off the side of the rig and nothing would have happened. The people on the rig were also quite…interesting. One guy, Pops, had worked the rig for 28 years. I thought he was 80. He was 46. He slept on the top bunk, and he had to rest halfway when he climbed up. Another guy was an aspiring MMA fighter. (In 2001, this was unique.) Another was on the run from a casino. He figured they couldn’t get him out there. He just stayed on the rig until he had enough money to pay them off.

    You know what? I’m going to stop there. I’m getting the shakes just thinking about the sharks I saw out there. So to summarize, I worked on an oil rig and it was weird.

    • Your description of Pops belongs in a novel. That was awesome. And perhaps the oddest job listed on here.

      Two people wrote on Facebook that they were Chuck E Cheese in high school. That’s pretty odd too.

  5. Good stuff. Since most of my stuff is public record, former stockbroker and all, I’ll say this. Some of us creative types do have job add which I attribute to vocational ambition. So, as to the 100k question, it’d be more like 3 jobs which thankfully I do have and am closer to the 100k. Trading (yes that bug never goes away), writing and consulting (hooray for Hollyhood), and life coach.

  6. I don’t really have any odd jobs in my past… Chronologically:

    1. Barnes and Noble – stocking books
    2. Lady Foot Locker – selling shoes
    3. Bergner’s – department store
    4. Laundromat – freshman year of college – one guy drank a cup of bleach and blamed it on me
    5. BSI – a manufacturing company that made parts of Caterpillar, worked in the office
    6. emergency room patient registration – definitely saw a TON of interesting things there, but made me very apathetic towards people
    7. BSI – again
    8. Ameren
    9. where I’m at now

  7. A guy drank bleach and blamed it on you?! Gee, too bad you didn’t do the emergency room job first, then you might have either: a) already been apathetic toward people and been less traumatized, or b) learned some cool medical MacGyver trick to save him from his strange choice of attempted suicide. Anyway, the laundromat job caught my attention, because that’s another one of those jobs that people just don’t think about that often.

    • Well, what happened was one of the closing duties was for me to clean out the coffee maker/pot. I was to fill it up with ice and then pour bleach into it. I was getting ready to close and had done this already and placed the coffee pot safely behind the counter – but this guy, who was a college student (as I was), reached behind the counter and poured himself a cup of bleach and drank it. He immediately freaked out, said he thought it was lemonade and yelled at me for having a coffee pot of bleach available to customers. Seriously? You can’t smell the bleach when you’re bringing a cup of it up to your mouth?! And dude, you had to reach around behind the counter to get it so it clearly wasn’t supposed to be “available to customers.” I couldn’t believe he was that big of an idiot and I knew he wasn’t going to die from taking a swig of bleach so my concern was minimal. He called 911.

      And after working in the ER for 2 years, I just became desensitized to people and their perceived emergencies. While there were definitely some true emergencies, a LOT of people just use the ER as their own personal doctor’s office. We had so many people come in for a toothache, a sore throat, or just a general pain that it was ridiculous. I remember one older man coming in who was screaming because he was in so much pain (he was passing a kidney stone), but I couldn’t muster up very much sympathy because everyone else who came in would also scream they were dying when it was really nothing. That’s when I knew my time in that position was up (I had also graduated college and needed to find a more permanent position). Oh – and the number of people who go to the ER just to get painkillers/narcotics is also ridiculous.

  8. Yikes… you have seen a lot. I’m impressed you stayed at the ER that long. As for the guy with the bleach, I hope he was OK after that, but I’m thinking: not your fault. Thank you for sharing so honestly, Jill.

  9. My list of odd jobs is not as interesting as some of the others, but here goes:
    1. Babysitter/tutor- not that unusual, except that my ‘charge’ was only a few months younger than me, and both of us were old enough to not need a babysitter at all. I did spend lots of time going over math and English, two subjects my childhood friend was struggling with.
    2. Disney intern- I worked behind the scenes helping all of the characters get ready for shows and parades.
    3. Cell phones salesperson- my college job, which I stayed in for way too long of a time after graduating.
    4. Jewelry salesperson- one of my favorites. I lived in the Caribbean for about 6 months and met a ton of interesting people everyday who would come in on the cruise ships.
    5. Technician- what I do now, not my favorite, but I learn something new everyday, or at least try to learn something new.

    • I’m fascinated by people who worked at Disney…their company culture is so interesting, at least from an outsider’s perspective. And the jewelry salesperson position sounds really interesting too, especially given the location.

      • Working at Disney was quite an experience. The first 2 days I had to go through what I fondly called “Disney Brian-washing,” they called it “Traditions.” Some of the rules they enforce (especially on the dress code) were pretty extreme, but also understandable with the nature of the company. The housing situation was pretty comical, as they have over 2000 college students living in apartments inside of a gated community, and everyone is supposed to follow very strict rules. I think my roommate may have stayed in our room for a total of 3 nights in 8 months we lived together, which was probably a big no-no.

        The jewelry store was fun, especially the part about days off at the beach. Most of the people I worked with were from other islands around the Caribbean, and spoke very little or very poor English. I learned how to effectively communicate with gestures and a calculator, as many of the tourists were not that adept at English, either. Also, learning how to drive on the other side of the road, while still in a left hand drive (American) car was a fun learning experience.


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