Papergirl for the Cape Breton Post
This was the first job I ever had and believe it or not I think it was one the longest ones I ever had. If I’m remembering correctly, I started the route in the eighth grade and didn’t quit it until I went to college. Sometimes my mother would drive me because the route was a few streets away from where we lived, but a lot of the time I walked as well. It wasn’t a bad job for the most part, and at Christmas I got some pretty nice tips, but there was this one family I spent five years wanting to strangle. They were as rich as any family can be in Cape Breton, and it was like pulling a crocodile’s teeth trying to get my payment out of them. They would actually look out the window – right at me – and then not answer the door. My first “customers are idiots” experience.
Cashier at Zellers
For those who might not know, Zellers was a Canadian department store, much like Walmart. When I was in high school I got a job there for the Christmas season, working cash. I absolutely hated it for two main reasons. One, I was still pretty shy in high school and the job forced me to talk to people all day. Two, there weren’t enough support staff. A major flaw at Zellers was that sales were rarely properly programed into the registers, which resulted in a lot of customers loudly proclaiming, “That’s not the right price!” as I scanned. The thing is, people would do this all the time whether the item was on sale or not to try and cheat the system, and the only way to combat it was to call a “floor-walker” to go find the item in the store and prove what the actual price was. During the holidays calling a “floor-walker” was tantamount to insanity…it was so busy that chances were they would never get to you. So when my line-ups started getting super-long and all the customers started getting super-agitated I just stopped calling for help all together and overrode any price the customer’s told me was wrong. I probably cost Zellers a lot of money that holiday season, but in my defense, they should have hired more damn people.
“Waitress” at the Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal
I put quotation marks around waitress because I didn’t really serve the food, but I did sometimes serve ice cream. It wasn’t a bad job, but I had an idiot boss who would rather us wash down the same tables fifty times than stand still and do nothing for five minutes when there were no customers. I offset my annoyance by constantly filching Rice Krispie Square treats.
Also, once, my boss demanded that I stay late, even though legally I couldn’t drive that late (I was still a new driver with a restricted license). It was my first run-in with opposing an employer. I told her that I’d happily stay late if she paid my fine when I got it. She ended up sending me home.
“IT Specialist” at the Coast Guard College
This was a work term for my university program, and I can honestly say I didn’t learn a damn thing. The job mostly consisted of things like replacing the batteries in the TV remotes in the residents’ rooms. The one challenge I had was when the speaker at a meeting was having issues getting his computer to work with the overhead projector…that was the first time I’d ever seen a Mac computer, but damn it, I got it working.
“IT Specialist” at Cape Breton University
Another work term, and twice as useless as the first. This is the university that I actually attended, and they created the job just to have something available because they were having absolutely no luck finding work terms for the students in my program. I had almost nothing to do for this entire term. I spent most of my time transposing a huge map via this huge electronic drafting board, which wasn’t part of my job…it was just to pass the time.
“Floor Walker” at a different Zellers
This was the first job I got after my future husband and I moved in together, and I hated it so much worse than the first Zellers. I mostly wandered around replacing merchandise that people had moved, or straightening up clothes that people had unfolded, but those were the “good” parts. The bad parts were dealing with customers, who at this particular store seemed to be twice as idiotic as others I’d dealt with in the past. I remember this one particular lady brought in a flyer the day before the sales were to start, and absolutely demanded that we give her the sales prices that day because one of the graphics on the flyer said, “Come in and enjoy our great sales today!”
A-Little-Bit-of-Everything at a Nova Scotia Liquor Store
As far as customer service goes, this was one of the better ones. Everyone in the store did a bit of everything, so I’d be on cash one day and replacing stock another day, unloading new stock the day after that. But the best part was the drive-thru. Yes. I worked at a liquor store with a drive-thru. It was completely idiotic because legally the customer had to receive their liquor, pull forward, get out, and put the liquor in the trunk. It was just…foolish, honestly. But whatever. I enjoyed working the drive-thru. I particularly liked working it with this one other girl about my age. We would trade off on working the window/cash and actually running for the order. I enjoyed running for the order. It was also quite humorous because you can’t imagine how many customers we got who drove up to the drive-thru speaker with no idea as to what they actually wanted. I’ve gotten orders such as “uh…some kinda rum?” and “this thing in a blue bottle…I have no idea what kind of liquor it is”. I also had more than one traveler from another province beg me to let them take a picture of me handing their order out the drive-thru window. I don’t blame them. Leave it to Nova Scotia to have drive-thru liquor stores.
A-Little-Bit-of-Everything at Walmart
Yes, I did eventually end up at a Walmart, only because the liquor store just kinda…stopped scheduling me in. Anyway, I started in an actual store, doing more floor work, but what I was really hired for was a large group that was set to “build” the new Walmart that was going up. We put the shelving together and arranged it properly, pieced the cash register area together, put up all the signage, and eventually stocked all the shelves. It wasn’t a bad gig for brain-dead work that you could zone out during, but I hated it for one reason: the manager. Never have a met such a stone-cold witch. The best example I have against her is when she refused to let my young coworker have the afternoon off to go to her cousin’s funeral. Apparently “a cousin isn’t a close enough relative”. I was so disgusted that when I got the girl alone I told her to take off and I’d cover for her. She didn’t because she needed the job to pay for school and was scared she’d lose it, which just made me that much more disgusted. When I finally left that job it was all I could do to keep myself from slugging that manager in the face on my way out.
Customer Service Rep for Sirius Satellite Radio
…which is a nicer way of saying, “call center punching bag”. I activated people’s radios, took payments, resolved issues with accounts, and helped them troubleshoot issues with their radios. By way of explaining what this job was like, I beg everyone this: if you ever get a Sirius Satellite Radio, listen to the rep who is activating it for you. I lost track of the number of times I asked, “Does your radio have a clear view of the sky?” and received a “Yes!” only to find out later when the radio wouldn’t work that they were really in a parking garage or in the middle of their apartment building. It was all I could do not to scream bloody murder at some people.
Also, occasionally, the Sirius system would screw up and double- or triple-charge people. This made for some very interesting conversations. One man with a trucking company had purchased three radios with lifetime subscriptions (approximately $500 each) and been triple-charged, making his bill jump from $1500 to $4500. He was extremely calm and polite while I fixed the issue. Meanwhile a few years later I got a customer who had been double-charged his $15 monthly bill and he completely lost his mind. I actually hung up on him three times because he wouldn’t stop swearing and calling me every name under the sun. Pleasant!
Instrumentation Maintenance Tech at the Paper Mill
My first “career” job, which is what I trained at university for. This job taught me first and foremost that I knew nothing. I may have spent four years and a crap-ton of money becoming a technologist, but my first few months at that mill taught me that school means absolutely bupkiss without experience. I really had no idea what I was doing, and my older and much-more-experienced coworkers didn’t let me forget it. Within my first six months I burned myself on several steam pipes and once managed to spray myself with hot condensate. It’s really quite amazing that I have any skin left. Oh yes, and lots and lots of 120 volt shocks. You’d think I would have learned to wear my gloves, but…no.
Maintenance is an interesting beast. You learn a lot – because you have to – but it can be very stressful because you have to keep the plant running. When the plant is down it’s losing money every minute, and that’s directly correlated to how fast you can fix something. I didn’t really realize just how stressed out this job made me until long after I’d lost it (when the mill shut down and was sold).
Commissioning Technician on the Kearl Lake Project
My first (and so far only) job out West turned out to be an excellent one. I had a good contract, good coworkers, good (for the most part) bosses, and good work. Sometimes it was hard work – particularly in the middle of winter when you’re outside in minus 40 degrees Celsius – but it was interesting work with very little stress. Since we were still building the plant there was no big scary rush to get things going like right goddamn now!!! I also got to experience the job both from the field and from the control room, which I think taught me a lot. All in all I can’t complain about this one. It was a good job with good people and I made a lot of money to pay off lots of debts and bills. Yes, after ten other jobs, I finally hit one that didn’t make me want to murder the world.
Writer!Okay, so it can’t really be considered a job until you’ve been paid for it, but it sounds better to say that I’m currently working as a writer than to say that I’m currently unemployed. 😛
My eighth grade English teacher told us once that by the time we were thirty-five we would have had up to ten different “jobs” and possibly one or two different “careers”. I didn’t believe him at the time, but there you have it: I’ve had 11 different jobs, only two of them part of my career as a technologist, and one unpaid “job” as a writer. Amazing. Has anyone else had a varied string of jobs like mine? Please share!