Bad Jobs – Volume 1: Two Pepsi’s and Hold the Red-Eye

If you've worked, you've had at least one crappy job - maybe several.  This is an example of just such a job.  It turns out that the skinny guy had terrible gas, making for a horrible work environment for the gentleman on the left.  (Image from sodahead dot com)
If you’ve worked, you’ve had at least one crappy job – maybe several. This is an example of just such a job. It turns out that the skinny guy had terrible gas, making for a horrible work environment for the gentleman on the left. (Image from sodahead dot com)

{The following was originally posted- sans photos- at The Green Study as my entry in her “Worst job I ever had” competition.  She’s a great writer who occasionally sponsors blog contests for lesser writers and rewards us with generous donations in our names and at the very least with postcards from the frozen north.  I shouldn’t have to tell you to check her out, but I am anyway}

Naming your worst job is not as easy as you might think.  On any given day, even the best job can seem like the worst one.  Keeping track of the truly awful jobs can be a good exercise to help you appreciate better ones.

I looked at my sordid career history and tried to narrow it down.  Though I had a few doozies back in my youth, I felt it wasn’t fair to look at any of those jobs, since there were no mortgage payments or little mouths to feed.  To me, any job you can walk away from without big repurcussions couldn’t have been that bad.

Overall, I’d have to say my worst job was one which never actually had a single good day.  It was a blissfully short in duration, only a few weeks, but everytime I think of it, I get a chill and a slight wave of nausea.  It was back in my bartending days, before embarking on my current “real” career.  I already had a decent gig slinging gin and light beer, but the commute was brutal.  I was getting old for the bartending scene and driving 45 minutes each way was adding time to my work-night and sucking precious tips out of my pocket and into my gas tank.

There was a buzz about a new place opening up just minutes from my house.  New places are always packed around here.  People go to the “new place” over almost any other choice.  Local bar and restaurant owners have been known to change the names of their establishments just to cash in on this phenomenon.  Getting in on the ground floor of a new place also meant an equal footing with other bartenders when it came to getting the best shifts.

As soon as I got a chance, I rushed over and got my application in.  The bar was huge and had a theme.  I’d have to wear a silly get-up – so what?  I got the job and went in for training.  The little voice in my head which tried to tell me that things might not be so great was drowned out by the amplified crooning of Billy Ray Cyrus lamenting his Achy Breaky Heart.  The specter of dollar signs blinded me to just how absurd I looked in a cowboy hat and bolo tie.  That’s right – investors had gotten together and decided that a country bar with line dancing would be a gold mine in suburban South Jersey, just minutes from Philadelphia.

You'd never guess it, but this ornery old cuss isn't actually a cowboy after all.  He actually works in accounts receivable over in an office building in Voorhees. (Image from fruitless pursuits dot com)
You’d never guess it, but this ornery old cuss isn’t really a cowboy after all. He actually works in accounts receivable over in an office building in Voorhees, New Jersey. (Image from fruitless pursuits dot com)

I already knew I could put up with any music in a bar, as I had done for years.  What I didn’t realize was that even a thousand miles from Gilley’s, people took their country line dancing seriously.  They came out of the woodwork and wore their very best western garb.  I suspected that many of them were closet cowboys, wearing pinstripe suits and hair gel most other waking hours, as there’s just not too many jobs for cowpokes in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Those boots and big belt buckles must have cost them a lot of money, because these folks had scant change left over for yours truly.  In addition, they were so wrapped up in avoiding any missteps while performing the boot scootin boogie, that they didn’t want to risk clouding their minds with alcohol.  Time after time, some middle manager dressed like a ranch hand would saunter up to the bar and order $19.75 worth of sasparilla, hand me a 20 and wait patiently for his quarter.

My tolerance of bad music and idiots playing dress-up is apparently directly proportional to my love of a fat wad of damp dollars in my pocket at the end of the night.  After two tortuous weeks of making less than nothing and listlessly participating in demeaning-but-mandatory staff dance numbers, I’d had enough.  I hustled my backside 45 minutes west and somehow got my old job back.

Somewhere in the weeds and detritus of the side of Philadelphia’s Schuykill Expressway lies an ill-fitting ten gallon hat with a bolo tie nearby.

Write your own damn caption!  This blog post is turning into a bad job itelf!  (Image from date hookup dot com)
Write your own damn caption! This blog post is starting to feel like a bad job itself!. The weekend can’t come soon enough! (Image from date hookup dot com)

My Life As A Wise-Ass

I’m a wise-ass from way back.  I have the natural inclination to look at things through the cynical, mischevious eyes of a true ball buster.  If there are no balls available for busting, I’ll look for something smart-alecky to say about whatever’s handy.

Hats off to my orthodontist! Those Invisaligns worked wonders!

If you’re lecturing me in a seminar, please don’t have on a bad toupee or speak with a goofy accent – I won’t be able to focus on a damn thing you’re saying.  If you’re going to say something which could unintentionally send 13 year old boys into fits of snorting laughter, try not to say it in front of me (think Beavis and Butthead with careers and mortgages).  I have just enough self-control to keep from snickering, but I also have the rotten impulse to make my fellow audience members start cracking up if at all possible.  If I can’t find a willing audience member to listen to my side-splitting commentary, I’ll text someone.

It’s not that I’m a bad person, I’m just a firm believer in laughter being the best medicine.  The way the world presents me with crap to poke fun at, the people who surround me could quite possibly live to be 150 years old.  The thing is, I won’t likely be joining them.  I don’t actually laugh all that often.  I’m more of a pusher-man of laughter than an actual user.

I’m sure all of you armchair psychoanalysts out there will see my comedic stylings as a sad attempt at making myself popular. It’s likely rooted in my being shunned as a child due to my eczema and pathetic inability to keep from crying for no particular reason. My derisive comments are clearly a desperate cry for acceptance. Perhaps I use my barbs to build a wall around my soft inner core, like a partially frozen Three Musketeers Bar.  Good for you Sigmund, but let’s talk about your wacky accent;  you sound like the kindly old shepherd caught in a cheap motel with a cute little lamb from your flock.  The two of you look so cozy, smoking cigarettes and watching Animal Planet on cable as you lay in the tangled sheets.  Get yourself some help, you sicko!

In most workplaces, my humor tends to be more subversive. In one particular job, my boss was an aging hippy named David (Never Dave – like me, always David – like me when I’m in trouble).  I guess he was more “new age” than hippy.  He would have these meetings and I couldn’t focus on anything he said because he was such a screwball.  I began to think that irrespective of the topic of discussion, it was only an elaborate scheme to eventually try to convince everyone in the meeting to become vegans.  I started sharing this theory with my buddies in the office.  Since people are fundamentally bored in meetings anyway, the concept of us being pawns in the clandestine recruitment program of radical vegetarians caught on.  We got to the point where no one could really focus on anything the guy said.  We would all just cast smirking glances at one another whenever David would stroll into the meeting in his funny looking, leather-free shoes and carrying a platter of edamame hummus.

For reasons which probably had nothing to do with people not listening to what he said in meetings, David moved on and was replaced by another manager, named Michael.  Michael was quite different than David.  He was an old-school businessman and looked like he might be having a stroke at anytime.  He spoke with a distinctive accent which I quickly pegged as being nearly identical to that of William Daniels, playing the voice of Kit the Car in Knight Rider.  If you could get Michael to say his own name you’d swear you were sitting right there in the passenger seat next to Hasselhoff (say it with me now – My-kull).  True to form, I wasted no time in pointing out this similarity to my colleagues.  Michael’s meetings soon provided us with endless hours of amusement.  It didn’t hurt that Michael was fond of using some really bizarre phrases.  Imagine this one in William Daniels’ voice, emanating from the flashing dashboard of a Trans-Am “..well, if they don’t like it, that’s just hard cheese“.   I’m not kidding, he’d actually say that.

I moved on to bigger and better things.  Their laying me off proved to be a blessing in disguise.

I left those lofty, professional ranks for the position of bartender – worse hours, better pay.  There may be no career better suited for the terminal wise-ass than bartending, except perhaps morning-drive disc jockey or United States Congressman.  People don’t normally enjoy being mocked, but in the world of alcohol consumption, it’s close to an honor.  For an accomplished wit such as myself, mocking the booze-addled clientele was like shooting tipsy fish in a barrel full of vodka.  If you’re a regular at a given bar, the staff, particularly the bartenders, should point out any of your flaws on an hourly basis, or even more often if you’re a good tipper.  If, as a customer, you’re greeted by a demeaning nickname despite repeatedly asking not to be called that, then you are officially bar royalty.

Despite being so well suited for the career, I was smart enough to see the lack of long-term potential in bartending.  Besides, I kept getting canned.

The years have flown by since those halcyon bartending days.  I’d love to tell you that my wisenheimer ways have mellowed with the years, but no one I know seems to think so.  I like to believe that my taste has improved to the point where I’ll wait for the best opportunity to lay out a primo snappy remark, rather than forcing my humor wherever I can cram it.  These days, the amount of ridicule I heap upon my superiors is tempered by the delicious smell of money and the comforting arms of job security.  I end up relegating my mocking and busting of chops for the select few who I know to be able to take a joke and those clueless enough not to realize that they are the brunt of one.

I remember hearing in an art history lecture about an artist who went to be with his mother as she lay on her death bed.  He was frustrated with himself because though he was at her side, he couldn’t help but study the light and shadow on her face.  I would tell you who the artist was, but I was almost certainly too busy coming up with something funny to say to pay sufficient attention to learn that part of the story.  With that story in mind, I know that when I’m laying on my own deathbed, with some clergyman trying to give me last rites, I’ll be listening to his words and hoping I get a chance to crack wise before I croak.  You want to leave them laughing.