Memorial Day Musings: The Best and Worst Jobs Edition

by Ken Mueller on May 28, 2012 · 30 comments

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300px Museum of Television and Radio 2006 Memorial Day Musings: The Best and Worst Jobs Edition

I have decided to do something a little bit different today. A lot of other folks will be featuring special Memorial Day posts on their blogs or Facebook. That’s great, but why do what everyone else is doing?

So, since it’s a holiday here in the U.S. and most of us have the day off, I thought we’d have a little fun and talk about some of the jobs we’ve had. What I want you to do is comment below and tell me about some of your jobs. For instance, what was your first job? Or your worst job? Maybe you want to tell us about the best job you ever had, or the oddest job?

In my life I’ve had a lot of jobs. If I remember correctly, I’ve been a dishwasher, house cleaner, lawn mower, gardener, linguist’s assistant, exterminator, radio DJ, news and sports reporter/announcer, college instructor, museum curator, marketer, consultant, blogger, radio producer, writer/music journalist, chocolate shepherd, and…there are probably a few I’m missing. I’ll remember them after I publish this post. And, those are just the paid jobs.

For me, probably the most unique job I have had is the thirteen years I spent as the Radio Curator at the Museum of Television & Radio in NYC and Beverly Hills (now the Paley Center for Media). It was a one of a kind job, and when people asked me what I did, I had a hard time articulating it. So I came up with a rather short answer:

I get paid to listen to the radio.

That wasn’t exactly the whole truth, but it got to the essence of it. And while in many ways, on a day to day basis, it wasn’t my best job, it was truly very interesting. I was able to use my love of radio and my academic background to study both the history of radio as well as the nature and sociology of contemporary radio programming. I got to learn a lot of amazing things, and meet some pretty cool people, including a lot of celebrities. And boy I have some great stories and funny stories. If you ever meet me in person, ask me about Gilbert Gottfried, Kevin Bacon, Larry King, or Tommy Lee. And then there was the time I happened to answer the phone only to get chewed out by Milton Berle…even though he had no idea who I was. He just needed someone to yell at. Not a pleasant man.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring people I got to meet during that time was my friend Norman Corwin, who died last October at the age of 101. I also got to meet Bob Elliot of Bob & Ray fame. Plus, I got to work with some great programs and producers, from Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, to Garrison Keillor and Michael Feldman. Then there was Tom Bodett, Lost & Found Sound, Radio Diaries, and Sound Portraits. Oh, and I got to hang out and eat pizza with Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Carolla, and Carson Daly, back in their days of local radio, before they hit the big time.

I don’t say all this to drop names, just to relate a bit of why it was such an interesting job. Another aspect was the joy of unearthing lost programs, and finding recordings that help define who we are: from FDR’s private office recordings to salvaging a mountain of glass-based transcription discs from the side of the road of a Yiddish program that turned  out to be an on-air rabbinical court from the 1940s, and became a part of the Yiddish Radio Project.

That job sure had it’s frustrations, but as I look back, there were some amazing moments. And some great stories.

Now it’s your turn. Take some time to tell us about one or more of your jobs. Anything you’d like: best job, most interesting job, worst job, oddest job, funniest job, first job.

Your choice. All I care about is having some fun and sharing some great stories.

 Memorial Day Musings: The Best and Worst Jobs Edition
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30 comments
Chem-Dry Carpet Tech
Chem-Dry Carpet Tech

nice write up! I must say that there are a lot worse jobs out there than most people think. before I was cleaning carpets for a living, Ive waited tables at numerous restaurants and even cleaned the inside of oil tanks! Talk about dirty jobs,,,, atleast I get to keep them clean now!

Latest blog post: Calabasas Carpet Cleaning

FranchiseKing
FranchiseKing

My first job. (14.5 years old)

 

I was a dishwasher at a Cleveland-area Chinese Restaurant.

 

I forgot how many courses were served with this style of food.

 

Too many dishes to wash!

 

The Franchise King®

annedreshfield
annedreshfield

Hmm..let's see. One of my first jobs was helping out with tasks around the house and yard at my house and my grandparent's house. I think my grandma paid me 10 cents for every leaf I swept from her yard. She probably rounded the total amount. ;) As a sophomore in high school I started working behind the food counter at a golf course's pro shop. It taught me I never want to work in food again! But, I did get a really delicious tuna salad recipe out of it -- it was the boss' secret recipe and I've committed it to memory. I worked that job through the summer after my freshman year in college, and left because my parents moved away from the area. Since then, I've had unpaid internships, worked in the IT department at my college, and...well, my best job would probably be the one I have now, as a paid intern with Livefyre. Can't  beat the people, the work, and the office. A large part of my job is connecting with community members, so I'm basically reading blogs for at least part of the day. Like your radio job, lots of people don't understand it, but it's awesome. :) 

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Shonali
Shonali

Hmmm.... you're asking a former actress what her most interesting job was... ;) Growing up in India was quite different; one didn't really get summer jobs as kids here do (and even adults). And quite frankly, jobs that involved any form of manual labor weren't quite "the thing." I can't tell you how much my attitude towards jobs and labor has changed since I moved to the U.S.

All that said, I was once the recorded voice of what was at the time India's largest cell phone company. You know the voice that you hear when you enter the phone tree? Yup. That was me. They kept my voice on for quite a few years, too. My dad used to call numbers on that mobile network just to hear my voice sometimes. ;)

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

I have had a lot of jobs in my life too. This made me laugh to recall some of them!! Worst job is a toss up between delivering phone books (I picked up about 700 and loaded up my parents Explorer when I was 18. This was before GPS so I had a map and a highlighter for my territory. Hurled phonebooks across fences where angry dogs resided and literally left about 100 in an apartment lobby because I was so annoyed. Took me a week and I made about $70!) The other job I had was going door to door selling discounts. You pay $15 to get $50 worth of something. It was like Groupon before the internet - LOL. It was awful! They literally dropped us off in the middle of nowhere with a map and picked us up after 8 hours. Think I lasted 2 days.

 

Best job besides the one I have now :) was drive-through at Dunkin Donuts. I loved the fast pace of it all. I was demoted quickly because my register was always 'off' and so I could only make coffee after awhile. I would press the button sometimes randomly and just sing into the outside speaker. LMAO!!

IamSauerkraut
IamSauerkraut

Worst job?  Easy.  Cleaning chicken barns.  2nd worst?  Summertime work at the local high school cleaning.  Floors, windows, walls, desks, toilets.  But nothing's like hand-shoveling chicken poop on a 90-degree day.

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

Best job EVER was the summer of  my 6th grade. My friends and I hopped on a bus that drove us to Meyer's Bean Fields every weekday morning. We picked beans, ate beans, had bean fights and a lot of fun while making money. I bought my first stereo that summer. Today, people would call that child labor and not let kids do that..

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

This be tough. I worked as a ref at a Skeet and Trap range on eastern long island in 11th grade late spring 1984  It was the year the made for TV russian scare movie the day after with jason robards (reagan was president of course they made such a movie to ensure rampant military spending and deficits....ironical parallel to today huh). I watched it a month before. And I was in a trap house that for anyone who doesn't know one looks like a WW2 machine gun bunker and I fill the machine with clay pigeons after each round depending on how many people are shooting. So I am down in the bunker and I hear this massive explosion and the stacks of clay discs start falling to the floor and breaking like from an earthquake but my view is out this rectangular hole. So in my mind I kept waiting for a red flash and then death. after a few minutes of waiting for my flesh to burn. I decided to get out and see what happened. The nearby Grucci fireworks plant (they do the NYC fireworks for 4th of july) had exploded killing a few people. Massive smoke over the trees. Really my only good story from that year of work =P

 

My last two corp jobs were cool I sold plumbing parts low and high tech so I got to go into power plants, oil refineries, missile plants, chip making plants, human waste recovery plants, satellite plants, nasa programs, unarmed military aircraft plants,  rocket plants, things like that in the western US.

 

I saw Garrison Keilor at the Hollywood Bowl my girlfriend at the time was from Iowa and insisted we go. I have some similar stories from my first sales job selling pagers when they were cool in west los angeles 93-94. Celebs can be cool, cranky, or worse.

RunOnEnergy
RunOnEnergy

I worked one summer on a PennDOT road crew. It was "college boy's" job to scoop up the decomposing road kill and unload maggot-invested dumpsters at rest stops. I studied REALLY HARD and made dean's list after that summer! Sometimes I think back to the guys on my crew and how well they motivated me with their collective kick in the shorts.

janelledowney
janelledowney

I will never work retail again.  Every time I have, the store manager has this attitude that they own you and your personal life, jerking the schedule around to make it as painful as possible to get to work, making it your responsibility to get coverage for a shift you have already asked not to work.  Back when I was 16, my work schedule was changed after it was originally issued and the manager failed to tell me.  Of course, I was cited for failing to show up for work.  Most recently I agreed to work at a store as a favor (they were having trouble finding someone to work there-big surprise).  I told them I had a full time job weekdays when I was hired and said I would work only weekends.  You guessed it, I ended up being scheduled for weekdays.  During the day.  I told them to forget it.

My favorite job in the whole world to this day was lifeguarding at a swim club in the summer during high school, but I also enjoyed working at an apartment complex when I was 21.  I got to know a lot of people there and I ended up getting an apartment there a few years later.

mantywebdesigns
mantywebdesigns

Let's see. Both of my worst jobs were in college and lasted a total of one shift - clearly I have no tolerance for being unhappy in a job (especially one that pays minimum wage). I worked for about 6 hours as the person who makes the drinks at Sonic - seriously, people, you don't need to make your drink combinations THAT unique. And I worked about 4 hours doing inbound telemarketing, signing people up to buy something in order to win a prize. The only detail that I remember from that was when I asked for details about one of the "prizes", and I was told to just make up the details because that prize didn't actually exist. That was my last call.

LeonMiller
LeonMiller

I have two that rank down at the bottom. My first job was whitewashing fences at a horse farm. That was nasty! But the all-time worst was between semesters at college. I was a telemarketer. I still have bad dreams over that one.

LizJostes
LizJostes

So before I answer, here are my questions on your list of jobs.

 

1. I feel like "linguist's assistant" and "chocolate shepherd" need further explanation. (BTW, I initially typed "chocolate retriever". Can you tell I have dogs?)

2. If you have met Kevin Bacon, then does that mean the rest of us are instantly only 2 degrees removed from him?

 

A few previous jobs I've had... I worked in a Hallmark Card Store for a handful of years during H.S. and college. During my consumer product/service research years, I learned more about potty training and overnight bed wetting than I ever cared to know, and dealt with more car dealer principals than I ever thought I had patience for.

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

When I was a nursing student I tagged along with the medical examiner in the field. It was a wake up call to the horrors that can happen on any given day and sometimes man's inhumanity to man. It was also a fascinating education about the human body and the significance of life. This is a great day to reflect on the value of life and the sacrifices that are made by others so that we may live ours in freedom and safety.  Life is truly but a fleeting moment, enjoy the ride.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @XpressiveHandz Haha. That sounds interesting. I think most of us would have called that our worst job!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

oh I only had one worst job. Temp work at the Sally hansen Hard as nails factory during college. I spent 8 hrs a day building display kits by putting one tiger rose and one crimson lily in each box on the conveyor belt.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @RunOnEnergy Now THAT would be an interesting, and rough, job, Dan. thanks for stopping by!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @mantywebdesigns wow, that second job is horrible. but...Sonic drinks are amazing! How could you walk away from that???

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @LeonMiller Whitewashing has to be horrible, especially if the weather was hot and humid like it is here right now.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @HowieSPM I knew you would have had a lot of experiences. Great stuff, Howie.

mantywebdesigns
mantywebdesigns

 @KenMueller Believe me, after about 50 vanilla, cherry, lime half regular/half diet Dr. Peppers with half ice, it loses the romance.

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