Meaningless Employment

Today’s post comes from Bill.

I was cleaning out some old files the other day and I came across some television scripts I wrote in 1996 for K-Tel (remember K-Tel?).

When I decided to go freelance rather than look for another full-time job, one of the first assignments I picked up was writing for K-Tel. The voice and the format were already established, so all I had to do, really, was supply persuasive words. Most of the ads I wrote were for music collections. The offer was only slightly dubious. “The Greatest Hits of the Sixties Collection”, for example, was dominated by one-hit wonders. They were good, popular songs but they were Greatest Hits only if you could somehow pretend the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and any number of blockbuster bands never existed.

That’s not the strangest job I’ve had but it struck me then and strikes me still as an inauspicious launch to my freelance endeavor (I still can’t quite call it a career). It’s taken many twists and turns in the years since and I’ve worn many hats, metaphorically speaking.

Many of the Baboons have made reference at one time or another to jobs they’ve had—unlikely jobs, challenging jobs, absurd jobs. I’ll bet, though, that you still have job experiences you haven’t shared with us. It could be something that lasted only a day or two. The more peculiar the better. Share, please.

What have you done (or tried to do) for money?

49 thoughts on “Meaningless Employment”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    I had a short career with Temp companies during grad school (1979-1981) pre-computerization. In those days a receptionist was needed in every office to answer the phone, write out pink message slips, and greet customers. I would take such jobs during vacations when the U of M was on break.

    If ever there was someone not meant to do clerical work, it was me. My hand writing is poor, leaving my message slips illegible. I also occasionally reverse numbers. I cannot visually line up numbers.

    I am not a candidate for handwriting messages. But they loved me because I always showed up on time to mess up the work!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. House painter, parking lot attendant, band director, financial planner, essay grader, commodities trader, stock trader, wine consultant, freelance writer, novelist. (and now, it turns out, book marketing “trainee.”)

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Unlike Jacque, I am made for being great at low-paying clerical/administrative work. Detailed, neat hand-writing, doing work to make bosses look good, cheerful and accommodating. A few other unpleasant jobs I’ve had was factory work, waitress, hostess and working for a dubious home health care agency.

    I keep trying to do home-based business or crafts, but fail miserably. Just don’t have the moxie or the motivation. I make jewelry now and keep considering making a business and selling it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been thinking of making cards from some of my photos and selling them but don’t know how to start. And my brief foray into selling used books online showed me that self-employment is not my strength, in fact I’m pretty bad at it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There are people that do that and sell them on line. I like the idea! You probably need to connect with someone who can help you organize all of the details.


  4. Did you all hear that MPR is doing a re-broadcast of the final Morning Show at the Fitzgerald on Saturday at 2pm? I’m listening to a broadcast right now with Mike Pengra doing a quick highlight.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks–I did not hear that–news station or another thread?

      I have been busy in the garden and sorting out my business papers for shredding, so I am not hearing a lot of stuff.


      1. They’ve been announcing it all week on MPR Classical station. I have a one hour bus commute to and from work, so I listen to MPR music. Each morning at 8:30am this week, Mike Pengra comes on for a few minutes with a highlight from the show. I took my break at 8:30 so I could listen. They played a clip with the Mayor Chris Coleman proclaiming that day The Morning Show Day in St. Paul. It was an amusing clip. Great stuff!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I guess I better look up what number on the dial MPR Classical is; I don’t remember what it is.


  5. Chronological order, everything I can remember for which I have been paid money:
    farm boy and lumberjack as child
    camp maintenance man (Brimson)
    school janitor (TH)
    rink flooder (TH)
    school janitor (TH)
    rink flooder (Chi)
    locker room attendant (Chi)
    taconite plant laborer (Silver Bay)
    research bio lab tech (U)
    janitor (U)
    dairy barn worker (U)
    Marketing research canvaser
    English teacher (Lindstrom, TH)
    Football coach (Lindstrom, TH)
    school newspaper adviser (Lindstrom, TH)
    school play director (Lindstrom, TH)
    Speech coach (Lindstrom)
    Student council, NHS adviser (TH)
    Yearbook adviser (TH)
    elementary gifted teacher
    Independent study coordinator
    tennis teacher
    pastor (Castle Danger)
    curriculum coordinator (TH)
    Educational consultant (Virginia, Mankato)
    Writer, editor, publisher, company manger (Mankato)

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Nothing wrong with being willing to fake it.
        I’m trying to teach these college kids; Carry a clip board and act like you’re supposed to be there and you can get away with almost anything.

        Just last night I told someone who was afraid her resume was lacking in one particular area: ‘Baffle them with BS’ and I wrote her a paragraph of fluff.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Army rule: walk fast, keep your head down, carry a clipboard. We had an administrator, ex-army, who in fact did just that and was incompetent but held hid job.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. As mentioned above, I had several temporary clerical/secretarial jobs over the years to fill in the gaps between my “real” jobs. But one was permanent part-time, as secretary in a physiology research lab in a U of M office building. They were three young doctors who were excited to be able to finally have someone to help them type up notes and articles, and play receptionist. In the interview I was asked if I was able to be very discreet? Turns out the research was about erectile dysfunction. They were pleased with the antique desk they had found for this person they would hire. I only stayed a year, but it was a great job, and I rode my bike 1/2 hour many days to get there from S. Mpls. Enjoyed perks like learning my way around campus on errands, and I could have taken discounted classes at the U.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi–

    My first off the farm job was pressing suit coats for Andersons Formal Wear. That lasted about 2 months until the June wedding rush was over.
    I played a butler out at Mayowood for Christmas Teas… I don’t recall if I got paid for that.
    A lot of random lighting / theater jobs.
    Been paid for random theatrical ‘consultation’ jobs a few times.
    Nothing too exciting I guess.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Going way back here…
    * Cleaned cabins at a resort
    * Worked the mangle at a laundry (did the sheets from the local resorts). Boy, was I bad at that.

    Nothing else that was interesting.


  9. Nothing out of the ordinary. Receptionist, legal secretary, paralegal, waitress, bartender, baker, cake decorator, delivery person, smoothie maker, book store clerk, book tour driver, software manager, new stores opener, pet sitter, house cleaner, marketing communications manager, event communications manager, rubber-stamp sales rep, event planner.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it before, but I once had a temp job for the company with the “Call Before You Dig” phone number. I took phone calls and mapped areas for the utility workers to mark. There was a fair amount of training involved, and a test to pass. One thing they were adamant about was that EVERY job that involved any kind of digging was required to have utility lines marked, for reasons having to do with liability. So if someone called and said, “I’m going to dig out a big dandelion in my front lawn. Do I need to have my utilities marked?” the correct answer was, “Yes, absolutely.”

    Liked by 3 people

  11. As a student at SIU I worked four years at an Endocrinology Research Lab. Most of the time my work was secretarial: typing lecture notes, tests for periodic exams, research papers for publication, that sort of thing. The office was in the front of a regular looking house on the outskirts of campus, but the laboratory housed thousands of white mice. This caused the entire building to have a rather distinctive smell, one that those of us who spent a fair amount of time there didn’t notice after a while. From time to time I’d be asked to assist with castrating mice. My job was not to do the actual castration, but to weigh the removed testes and record the data. I must have weighed thousands of mice testes.


      1. A tiny electronic one, Linda. I suppose that Bill’s method would have worked too, but then we’d have been dependent on my flawed math skills.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I remember at some point in my youth thinking I would try my hand at selling “waterless” cookware door to door. I can’t imagine why I thought that would be a good idea because I am singularly unsuited to that sort of intrusion. I picked up the sample case and I must have gotten some instruction on the “pitch”. Before I tried my technique out on strangers, some female friends allowed me to try out my presentation on them. Before I got even halfway through they were laughing hysterically, and at me, not with me. I returned the sample case not having knocked on a single door.

    I’ve alluded at one time or another about some of my employments. I worked in the display departments of J. C. Penney’s, Dayton’s and Donaldson’s, dressing mannequins, putting up displays and signage and setting up windows. I worked in an art supply store. I was a janitor at the U of M and, briefly, in the NSP building downtown. I worked at several advertising agencies as an art director and sometime writer. On the side I’ve sold paintings at art fairs, built and tried to sell stained glass lampshades at art fairs, designed and produced rubber stamps, and had a business producing specialized props for professional photographers. As a prop maker, I was especially known for my photo-realistic sculpted and cast fruits but I also made things like artificial chocolate chips (that wouldn’t melt under hot lights), a large acrylic cranium with monofilament hair, a sculpted and cast set of clear acrylic dentures, a swirled cup of faux soft serve, a large erupting chocolate mountain and beds of fake glowing charcoal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Selling door to door, I can’t think of a more difficult way to make a living, and one less suited to my personality. Yet, like Bill, at one point I decided that I could sell baby pictures to new parents. I attended a couple of training sessions, and was paired up with a man who was uniquely suited for that kind of work. I went out on several calls with him, and he inevitably sold a contract, even to people I viewed as impossible prospects. “What’s the worst that can happen?” he asked me. They’ll tell you NO. You can do this.

      On my very first appointment, I knocked on the door of an apartment in Brooklyn Park. A woman in a bath robe, her hair in curlers, answered the door. I proceeded to give her my spiel. Pretty soon I heard a voice from inside the apartment hollering: “Who is it?” “Someone selling baby pictures,” she responded. “Tell her to shit in the street” came the response from within before she slammed the door in my face.That was the end of my career as a door-to-door salesperson.

      It hasn’t stopped me from going door to door to attempt to get people to register to vote. That’s not a whole of fun either.

      Liked by 3 people

  13. When I was a kid I wanted to be a translator at the U.N. Not sure where I got the idea, but I always loved languages and studied a few in high school. Then in college I saw the movie Charade with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. The Audrey Hepburn character is a translator and there is a scene in her little booth during which she’s translating some political tripe. That was the day I realized I did NOT want to be a U.N. translator!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I worked for the census in 2010. The first part of the job was okay – I had to go to specified public places, such as a community center, a senior center, a library, and Little Earth. There I had a table and forms and was there mainly to answer people’s questions about the census. The second part of the job was going to people’s houses – the people who hadn’t turned in their census forms yet. I heard very interesting stories, such as the man who claimed that he and his wife both lived there but their children, aged about 6 and 8, didn’t live there but were “at school.” Or the person who refused to answer any questions and yelled at me in Spanish and basically chased me away from his house. Then there were the apartments above a store where a neighbor told me the prostitutes worked and I was nervous about knocking on their door when they were “at work,” so I chickened out. Basically, I was extremely nervous and anxious about it every day and soon requested to be transferred to office work.

    Liked by 1 person

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