"Which One's Worse?" The Worst Jobs We've Ever Had.

Feb 28, 2013

You think YOU've had a bad job?
Credit The Library of Congress via Flickr

I was so inspired by today's segment on Micro-tasking and the practice of doing mind numbing work over the internet for pennies, I thought I would interview the Word of Mouth team to see which of their worst jobs could go head to head with being an Amazon Mechanical Turk. It's a little game I like to call: Which One's Worse?

So without further ado, here's what I found out my colleagues used to do before they found their groove in public radio:

During a heat wave one summer when temperatures were holding steady at 105 degrees, Taylor Quimby worked at a linen service in the drying room. His job was to watch dry towels traveling down a conveyer belt and press a button when one of the towels looked like it had reached the end of its drying days. For eight hours a day he stood in a blisteringly hot room, surrounded by less-than-fluffy hotel towels, scanning for torn linen.

He lasted only two days; an eye infection that caused a disturbingly large amount of puffiness in the area immediately adjacent to the ocular region of his face convinced his supervisor to send him home.

Credit Ross Catrow via flickr Creative Commons

In Missoula, Montana Producer Zach Nugent worked temporarily as a janitor in a hospital. He didn't go into great detail about the position though he quietly mentioned that the job involved cleaning a LOT of bodily fluids. When I pressed him for details he merely said, "It's just too gross to talk about." However, he did say that there were times when he was required to don a full body hazmat suit in order to clean specific rooms. That's enough detail for me, thanks.

Zach lasted approximately two months at that job, a record amount of time in comparison to everyone else on the team.

Credit V&A Steamworks via flickr Creative Commons

In the late 1980's, at the beginning of the video tape era, host Virginia Prescott was in France and had just been hired as an intern for Mercury Films International. She had been nominated by her professor and was incredibly excited about the internship, but the excitement quickly faded when she discovered what her job would entail. One aspect of Mercury Films International repertoire was to take B, and worse, grade films and then overdub the dialog into French. These were awful movies, the worst possible, and Virginia's job was to watch the movies in their entirety and then summarize the plot for the blurb on the back of the VHS case.

She lasted two days, and then quit to become a waitress at a tourist trap restaurant in Paris. She considers quitting that internship as one of the best decisions she's ever  made.

Credit benchilada via flickr Creative Commons

Rebecca Lavoie has been described by many as "indoorsy" so it might be surprising to hear that a job she held in college involved long walks in the woods. Now you might be saying to yourself about now, "Long walks in the woods? That sounds AWESOME!" Unfortunately, Rebecca's task was far from frolicking in forests with woodland creatures. She worked for her university's Lyme Disease Research Lab and her hikes required her to shake mousetraps full of mice into a container and then transport the mice back to the lab. Once in the lab,  Rebecca would hold down the squirming mice while she scraped the ticks off their fur. She would then categorize the ticks into different groups. Once section for deer ticks, one for brown dog ticks, and a mysterious section for "unknown tick-like insects."

She wore gloves of course, and while the mice didn't break the skin when they bit her--and they did bite her, a lot--it still hurt. In what's becoming a bit of a theme in this post, Rebecca lasted two days at her tick collection and identification job.

Credit fairfaxcounty via flickr Creative Commons

My worst job definitely pales in comparison to checking for torn towels, or harvesting ticks, but it was memorable and exhausting. In high school I was recruited by a traveling car show to be Catwoman and stand next to the batmobile in costume. My friend was chosen to be Batman and the two of us spent two full days having our photos taken with excited children. Although in reality, most of the kids were afraid of me--I wore a mask, had black fingernails, and carried a whip--so the only people who requested me for the photos were the creepy older men who were likely only at the car show to ogle the scantily clad women modeling next to shiny cars. I wore a two-piece Lycra costume that was supposed to look like the costume Michelle Pfeiffer wore in Batman Returns, but thankfully was not nearly as revealing. I'm not certain how many people actually wore that costume before me, as it was a traveling show, but needless to say I took a very long shower at the end of my shifts.

I too am a member of the two day club, but it was out of necessity as the car show had moved on to the next town.

Actual photo of actual me as Catwoman at a car show.
Credit Roosevelt High School Journalism Dept. Des Moines, IA

So, Which One's Worse? Would you rather have any of these jobs instead of being a drone for Amazon's Mechanical Turk, or do you have a terrible job that blows these out of the water? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on our Facebook page.