Worst Job. Ever.

At our steering committee meeting one Tuesday, I offered the ice breaker of “What was your worst job ever?” Many listed restaurants. Only one was a professional career, and one restaurant job was a family business which made things awkward. I picked a restaurant, too. I chose “Hot ‘N Now.” (You don’t see many in that chain nowadays.)

I was 16. I just got my license. I wanted a job so I could have my own money. I wanted to go to movies, buy my own clothes, and well, live a nice ole consumerist life. I had no idea what $4.25 at less than 20 hours a week would yield. I had no idea what it meant to work in fast food. I had no idea when I started what a middle-manager was.

In retrospect, it was an interesting character study and learning experience. One reason I picked Hot ‘N Now was because two of my classmates worked there. We didn’t often have the same shifts, but it was some semblance of a rapport (this was before I even knew what rapport meant!).

There were people who cared about their jobs, those who didn’t, those who needed it for extra money, and those who depended on it. There was an awkward hierarchy of people and roles. Our Hot ‘N Now also had a Taco Bell. So, one station was dedicated to tacos whereas the rest of the small space was for the burger making money makers. Burgers were the coveted role. That is, you knew you’d made it when you were flipping burgers. I kid you not.

We wore yellow t-shirts, terrible ball caps, and our own black pants. Uniforms, of course, were required. There is a saving grace in that because every night I went home covered in grease, and I was at the taco station.

I hated making those damn tacos. You had to be fast. And, you couldn’t break any. I broke so many hard shell tacos, in part it was nerves. Your managers aren’t paid to care at that wage level, so that was my introduction to unrealistic expectations on a job.

I grew up with the you do your job, and you do it well. The shut up and get it done without complaining attitude. This, however, is somewhat contrary to my personality. I’m the type who wants to say something when I smell bullshit. Like the kid who outs the Emperor when she clearly sees, he’s not wearing any clothes! This job was bullshit! We were racing against the clock for a TACO! A taco that was less than a $1!

Later in life, I had the opportunity to read Nickle & Dimed: On Not Getting by in America by Barbara Einreich. She succinctly pointed out the correlation that the more complex the job, the less that is expected of the (potential) employee. Think about pilots who don’t have to take alcohol tests. The more mundane the job, the more stringent the requirements are. Think about Wal-Mart (or any big box store) orientations. You know, you’re seated with a video about how to behave. You have to answer, maybe, to several bosses, all middle-managers in their own right (someone else giving them a line of what to do). There is no flexibility with being late. You work less than 32 hours per week because you can’t earn benefits.

Yes. Taco Bell/Hot ‘N Now was my worst job ever. I’ve had some interesting jobs in between – but the greasy, slippery floored, fast food joint, with the middle manager mentality staffed with high schoolers. Yea, it takes the cake for worst job.

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