A recent survey listed the worst job in the country, and for the third year in a row, newspaper reporter was at the top — or the bottom, depending on your view — of the list.
As someone who has been in that career for 30 years, I take that kind of news personally.
Yes, the industry has been battered by layoffs and eroding readership and swamped by technological advances, but worst job? No way!
No, that particular title goes to a job I had in high school working for Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips in the Bronx.
I was a fry cook, dining room clean-up staffer and eventually a manager.
There was nothing quite like working with superheated peanut oil, splattered batter and garbage to teach you lessons in humility — and a career path to stay away from!
I would go home at midnight on Fridays — our busiest day of the week — with the stench of oil in my nostrils and a combination of oil and batter matted to my hair. Wearing the cap as part of the uniform did nothing to help.
At the end of each shift, we would run the used oil through a contraption that was part vacuum and part filtering machine.
You would line up the machine beneath the frying vat, open a valve, and the oil, which was still hot, would gush into a holding tank, go through various filters and be discharged through a hose back into the vat.
Peanut oil was very expensive, the owner would constantly remind us, so you would try to extend its life by filtering out the fried crud.
One night as I was running the machine, I felt something burning my toes.
My right shoe was positioned beneath the big metal box of the machine that held the oil.
I looked down and the corner of the box had sprung a small leak, allowing the oil to dribble onto my shoes, burn through them and onto my foot!
That was bad but dealing with the garbage was the worst.
If you worked the shift before the garbage was collected, it meant you had to drag the heavy, dripping, smelly bags to the curb.
And that meant you had to enter a room – yes, a room about the size of a small bedroom – filled floor to ceiling with garbage accumulated over the week.
The room was not vented, but for a drain on the floor. It attracted roaches and waterbugs the size of the ants in “Them!”
I would be so skeeved out!
Clearing the room was easy to start since you could grab the bags closest to the door, but then as the pile thinned, you had to step deeper and deeper into the room.
I would hold my breath and dash in to get the remaining bags.
But you know, upon reflection, I look around me and see jobs that are far worse. Take for instance the sites in New York City.
There are those people who stand with signs or pamphleting for tour buses and nightclubs in all kinds of miserable heat and cold. Or people who work in sewers.
What was the worst job you had? Share your stories.
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s be miserable together.