In honor of recently celebrating Labor Day, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the highlights of my rich working history. But then I realized, I’d rather look at the lows, as there are more of them and frankly, I think I’m still pissed.
In high school, my friend Jen referred a babysitting job to me. One young kid, convenient location, good hours. I was surprised she didn’t want it for herself and soon found out why. Shortly after meeting the adorable toddler and his mother, who needed someone to watch him while she had permanent makeup tattooed on her face in what I assume was a response to an acrimonious divorce, I discovered the kid had two pastimes about which he was equally passionate: “Barney & Friends” and biting people. To be honest, this wasn’t first time I’d be been bitten by a child. When I was about four or five and “Jaws” was all the rage, my family took a trip to Lake Tahoe. As so often happens when you’re a kid, I began playing with the other children at the swimming pool. (Have you noticed that dogs gravitate to each other, and children gravitate to one another but adults do not? It’s curious.) Soon one of the other kids put her hands above her head to approximate a fin, hummed the “Jaws” theme and chomped down on my shoulder. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I had relevant experience for this particular job. Worse than the biting though was the “Barney” It’s been over twenty years but just typing the words has put the song back in my head.
Soon after, I began working as a greeter at defunct music store, Sam Goody. This theoretically involved saying, “Hi! Welcome to Sam Goody” and “Bye! Thank you for shopping at Sam Goody,” to people as they entered and left, but in reality meant shouting, “Hi! Welcome t—” and “Bye! Thank you for sh—” at people’s backs. It also involved an aggressive pat down every time you left the store, and a manager who repeatedly admonished, “Alison, help the customers,” even though they’d already declined my (not very much) help. “Ask them again,” she’d hiss. Frankly, between being accosted by a manic greeter and being asked repeatedly if you needed help finding anything, shopping at Sam Goody was probably an unpleasant experience. I’d like to think I had a hand in that.
Fast forward a great many years, through working at a coffee cart that required you to wear white — the hardest color to keep clean and the most difficult substance to keep off your clothing (or maybe I’m just messy), interviewing men dressed up as giant vegetables, working for an editor who demanded to know how many pounds of tomatoes are used a year by all the chefs in New York City (when I tried to explain why it’s impossible to ascertain this number at 5 p.m. on a Friday I was seen as “difficult,” an injustice which to this day makes me want to throw a shoe) and being forced to dance on live TV, to my brief experience with temping.
I started on Monday and quit on Friday and called in sick on Wednesday. I never quite understood what it was the company did, partly because I was warned not to ask too many questions by a woman who wrote her name all over her chair in white out. I think it had something to do with list maintenance for a company that sent spam.
I remember sitting down at the desk of the woman who was to train me, noticing her computer was festooned with pictures of a calico cat and holding off on asking the cat’s name because I wanted to ration out possible conversation topics. (I later found out it was named Venti because she “loved Starbucks.”)
She handed me a few sheets of paper stapled together titled Rules for doing something or other. “This is basically what we do here,” she said, running her hand over the outline. I seriously considered the possibility that what we do here was make outlines.
And then some tall guy with floppy hair entered the building, and all the women swooned. His name was Blaine, he did tai chi in the park, and he’d designed the barely functioning software we used to maintain the lists. In my brief tenure, I would be told no less than 17 times that Blaine designed the software, each time with a faraway look that began to frighten me.
But the real problem was there were two of us assigned to do the job of half a monkey, and the boredom was soul crushing. Up to this point I’d wondered where the jobs were that paid you to sit around doing nothing. I found one, and I hated it.
Upon reflection, I fear I come off as an asshole with a poor work ethic, which I assure you is a mischaracterization. Never mind that I characterized myself.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to perform a “Barney”-ectomy on myself before I walk into traffic.
Hear more from Alison Rosen on her podcast, “Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend” or on the immensely popular “Adam Carolla Show” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @alisonrosen or visit her website at www.alisonrosen.com. To find out more about Alison Rosen and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.