3rd Prize from The Green Study “Worst Job I Ever Had” contest goes to Bill at Pinklightsabre’s Blog for a job straight out of a Chekhov story.
He will receive a Green Study Mug and a priceless postcard from Minneapolis. A $50 online donation to the American Red Cross has been made on his behalf to his local Red Cross Chapter.
by Bill at Pinklightsabre’s Blog
My friend Dave and I were down on our luck. Smoking cigarettes, staying up late playing Dungeons & Dragons, no luck with the ladies. Running out of money, living at home. Arguing with our parents, arguing with each other, sometimes needing a wank.
The offer came through at $7 an hour, unheard of! All the temp jobs were running in the high 5’s, sometimes a hair over $6, but never $7. We both got placed: 6 AM at the industrial park, Monday morning.
We met in the break room and waited, half a dozen guys in sweat pants and baseball caps, drinking coffee. It was a sort of recognition our lives sucked: me and Dave both with a college degree, reduced to this.
Two guys came in and told us to sit down. One was a hulking Puerto Rican with a mullet, and the other, a balding white guy with a tie. They explained we were part of a very important project, that if we worked hard there could be other opportunities.
We were to inspect ball bearings. There had been a problem with one of the lot codes and it was a government contract for a big name aircraft, so they needed us to go through all the other lot codes and check for defects.
We were led to a table facing a wall in the warehouse, with fold-out metal chairs. The ball bearings came in plastic tubes, about 20 a tube, and the tubes came in boxes, about 20 tubes per box. The boxes came out of crates. Dave and I were chuffed: seven bucks an hour, for this?
We got to it. Each of us got a few tubes, a set of cotton gloves, and a bucket. The bucket was for defects. Defects, we were told, came in the form of small patches of orange, which was actually rust, which may have been the result of a problem with how they were shipped, by boat.
The ball bearings looked like mini silver donuts, and had a nice weight to them: such magical little things! We were to carefully rub the grease off, inspect them thoroughly, then put them back into the tubes when we were done.
We sat there in silence rubbing the ball bearings, sliding them in and out of the tubes. No defects. None, really. Dave saw what he thought might have been something, but when he asked the guy with the tie, he said it was okay.
8:30 AM. Time for first break. Dave and I go out to his car and smoke a cigarette. It’s starting to rain.
8:45 AM. Back inside. The Puerto Rican set up a radio for us, but says we have to fight over what to play, he’s not getting in the middle of it.
10:30 AM. Lunch: no defects, yet. Dave suggests tomorrow we should think about getting high.
2 PM. We get off work and drive home. Day 1: three more weeks, maybe more, depending on how fast we go. Dave says we don’t want to work our way out of a job, slow down.
That week, I dream of ball bearings: rubbing the cool, silver surface with the edge of my thumb, looking for orange flecks, a Rorschach test: faces, flowers.
We get chummy with the other guys over time. Since it’s all men, and we’re all about the same age, it’s low conversation: Women, Getting Loaded, Car Parts, Sports, Fist-Fights. Pick your category, everyone’s an expert.
One of the guys drives an IROC-Z and tells Dave he can get us whatever we want, whenever. He’s quiet, looks like he might be Arabic; his name is Abe.
It’s Friday and we haven’t found any defects yet. Abe overhears the Puerto Rican and the white guy while he’s in the crapper, says they’re thinking about letting us go and calling it off, next week.
We need to find some defects. Abe tells Dave in the parking lot he kifed a tube and is going to take it home to work on it over the weekend. Dave and I want to continue our D&D campaign, but we’re tired from the early mornings, and agree to call it a night. We’ll get our first check the week after next.
Be sure to check out his blog – for a walk on the dark and light side: