Hardest or Worst Job Ever?

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Hardest or Worst Job Ever?

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gen. 22, 2008, 2:06pm

I think the hardest/worst job I ever had was working at my uncle's gravel-plant in the summer. Sometimes I actually had to break rocks with a sledge-hammer. But still, it was outside in the Sierra Nevada, so it could have been a lot worse. Teaching English in Germany to German college students was no picnic.

gen. 22, 2008, 4:35pm

For me, there are two worst jobs that come to mind. For about a year, I worked third shift at a factory loading pieces onto furnaces. It was hot, dirty, and tiring, plus the money was not that great. And of course, there are all the other issues of 3rd shift work....I also worked retail for a time, and I quickly found out that the retail life is not for me! I was an adjunct for two years, and while I found the commute between two campuses tiring, I had a much easier time as an adjunct than working those two other jobs.

gen. 22, 2008, 11:25pm

I feel really lucky: I've never had to work third shift. As an R.A. at a community college dorm, I had to be on call every other weekend for 12 hours a day on Sat and Sun, but I wasn't really working, just answering phones and telling people to keep the noise down. . . . I don't know how people do retail for a long time. It seems brutal in a variety of ways--long hours, fussy customers, etc. I worked in a grocery store for two weeks and hated it--because of the customers.

gen. 24, 2008, 8:57pm

Oh this could be fun…..

I grew up on a farm, we kept cattle and even though the stuff could pile up three feet deep over the winter and the flails on the spreader tossed the last of the load forward over the tractor my worst job had nothing to do with manure. After all my parents paid me 75 cents an hour and twice a month Mom would drive me 40 miles to the nearest book store so I could spend it.
My buddy and I did odd jobs for anybody that would hire us. Once we cleaned out a cistern for a family that wanted to use it for drinking water. We pumped out the water and then I climbed down inside and shoveled the muck into a bucket that was then hauled out, over my head, to be dumped.
After high school, I worked repairing semi-trailers for about three years while I tried to go to classes at night. One of our clients was a dairy, their trailers were saturated with rotting milk that had leaked out over time and soaked into the insulation. Another was a dog food manufacturer that used 40 foot dump trailers to pick up “by products” from a large meat packing plant.
After all that, and some more, the hardest job I ever did was hoeing tobacco, bent over in the hot sun hour after hour concentrating on chopping weeds instead of the tobacco plants. I could not do that again.
The worst job I ever had was also the one I had the longest, automobile service advisor. Most of the people were easy, even fun to work with but sometimes the news I had to give people was very, very bad for them, their only means to get to work was not repairable or needed more work than they could afford. It got to where I just dreaded the thought of the next time that would come up. I hate to think how a Doctor feels when there is seriously bad news to be told.

gen. 24, 2008, 10:49pm

I have been very lucky, in that I never actually had to do any truly awful jobs (unless you count babysitting, which I absolutely detested, to an extent that I am childless today). But my work takes me to a variety of industries, and I have maintained a running list of the worst jobs I have ever seen. These two have to be at the top of the list.

Sugar processing factory. Sugar cane is unloaded from ships, crushed, filtered to remove impurities, then cooked to extract the sugar and molasses. In this plant, the juice was filtered through charcoal. The charcoal was rinsed, dried, and crushed so it can be re-used in the process. So, in the middle of the plant, and several stories underground, I encountered a guy sitting in a space with a claustrophobically low ceiling. This space was very hot, noisy, dark, and dusty. Charcoal dust on everything, including light bulbs, made it very difficult to see. This guy was wearing only shorts and shoes, and he was totally caked with charcoal dust from head to foot. Only his eyes, and the little rivers of sweat running down his chest, allowed you to see that an actual living human was inside that mound of charcoal. And his job? Watching a small video screen (he had to keep wiping off the charcoal dust), which was focused on a transfer point where the reclaimed charcoal dropped from one conveyor onto another. Every once in a while, big gobs of charcoal would accumulate at that point, causing backups on the conveyor behind the obstruction. This guy’s job was to watch for the buildup, and call someone to go up there and clear the obstruction. If this wasn’t hell on earth, it was certainly right on the doorstep.

Ice cream plant. Ice cream is mixed up as a thick slushy liquid, chilled, and poured into containers for flash freezing. This guy was standing in a cold room (above freezing, but below 40 degrees F), with windows on two sides. The plant offers tours, and groups of people periodically stop by to look through the windows at the process (not knowing when you will be observed, you can’t really sleep on the job). He placed a 5-gallon carton (the type used in ice cream shops) in the designated space, and waited while a spout automatically filled it. The container would be slightly overfilled, and would be vibrated to settle the contents. The attendant would then use a long blade (neither a knife nor a spatula, just a long flat strip of metal) to level off the top. As the conveyor carried the filled container away to the lidding station, the attendant placed the next container for filling. We were speculating on exactly which drugs, and in what quantities, one would need, in order to do this every two minutes for an 8-hour shift.

Then there was the rendering plant…

gen. 25, 2008, 9:09am

My worst job was an over-night merchandiser for Sam's Club. The funny part is neither my duties nor the shift was a problem. It was my immediate boss. If he didn't like you, nothing you did was good enough, and you never got enough stuff done. He's only really the second person who got me upset enough where the urge to punch his face, almost overrode my self control.

Oh and I think I'd rather clean horse stables than work in food service again.

gen. 25, 2008, 4:26pm

I sure am enjoying these descriptions and anecdotes of jobs. Great stuff.

gen. 30, 2008, 12:37am

My worst job was working for one of those banks that are in the grocery stores. It was a soul-sucking experience. Not only do you have to deal with the fluorescent lighting and the canned music, but it was pretty morally corrupt. It was a "fee based bank," which basically means that it makes its money off of fees and we were encouraged to sell accounts that we knew were likely to get people in the hole. I used to get "talkings to" because I had a hard time getting jazzed up about screwing people over. A lot of our customers were poor people who were just being preyed on. sickening.

Sometimes we'd work twelve hours without a break if there was no relief because the little gung-ho manager didn't want to look bad by asking for help from another branch. The uniform was the most unattractive thing I've ever put on my body. It was a systematic demoralization of the employees, no doubt. ha

Editat: abr. 29, 2008, 1:01am

I spent three days working at a glass recycling plant. As a temp, they paid me five dollars above Oregon's relatively high minimum wage, but, given the fact that I spent most of my time wondering how the poor bastard who I was covering for had injured himself, I was more than happy to put the experience behind me...

For a longer period of time? Retail. Talk about a repetitive and dehumanizing experience...

Editat: abr. 29, 2008, 4:51am

My hardest job was probably as a warehouse worker for a moving and storage company; when the warehouse was slow I had to go out on runs and help drivers move heavy stuff up and down stairs, too. I later returned to work there as a mover--exclusively moving heavy stuff up and down stairs. While it was physically demanding, it was also one of my favorite jobs, but only because of the great people I worked with.

My worst job ever, hmm what to pick? I've worked a few retail jobs that sucked, sometimes because of the customers, also because of a lack of breaks (they were small stores and I was often the only one there, so no one was around to cover me).

Food service was not fun either; and the hour I worked as a telemarketer sucked a lot!

The truly worst job I can think of was one I had for a couple of days, before I quit. I was 16, I think, and didn't have a car so I needed a job that I could ride my bike to, so I took a job at a city-run golf course. I don't remember what my title was, something with "maintenance" in it, I think.

My first day was spent walking around in knee-high mud picking up golf balls that had collected along the fence. This paid minimum wage....

Day two I was sent out to pick up the golf balls from the driving range. Now typically this looks like fun--you sit in a caged-in cart and drive around while the attachment on the back does all the work; however, the range had just been re-seeded so no carts were allowed to drive on it. I was sent out to pick up the balls by hand--while people were hitting golf balls at me! Minimum wage, a living target for golfers, and no health insurance ... yeah, I quit that one pretty quickly.

abr. 30, 2008, 7:40pm

>5 oregonobsessionz: Your mention of the rendering plant intrigues...when I was a kid and doing various predictable unpleasant jobs, that was a negative example that was dangled in front of me. "Hey, this is nothing compared to the rendering plant" etc. Though I certainly didn't want to test it, at the time I suspected in my teenager way (no doubt wrongly) that the reputation of the rendering plant was exaggerated adult folklore. Any first-hand insights?

>4 TLCrawford: What I find particularly interesting in this post is the palpable sense of time. Of ongoing experience. This makes me sit up and listen.

Otherwise I wonder if there's a serious risk on threads like this of dilettante miserablism. Or slumming. It might piss people off if I say that. But I know in my heart that there's an essential difference between working such jobs when you know you're passing through, and working these jobs when that's all you can hope for.

I've cleaned toilets, washed dishes, poured cement, worked third shift, and hourly field labor--big deal. Whoopee for me. (As a lucky guy who stayed in school etc. who knew it was going to be temporary.)

Just passing through is one thing. But the real measure or social/political question is addressing folks who live it all the time. And then looking it in the face, and trying to figure out whatever that means.

I don't pretend to know the answer but I'm curious about the subject and that's why this thread interests me.

abr. 30, 2008, 9:37pm


>4 TLCrawford: What I find particularly interesting in this post is the palpable sense of time. Of ongoing experience. This makes me sit up and listen.

You sure know how to talk to a wanna be writer.


abr. 30, 2008, 11:57pm

krolik--interesting point: the difference between being able to look ahead or to look back and feeling as if you're in the job forever. I think we're all still figuring out what we learned, if anything, from the bad jobs, or from the working-families in which we grew up.

Editat: maig 1, 2008, 12:09am

a summer at wendy's. nasty stuff. long shifts dressed in polyester. cleaning toilets. taking the trash out, the foulest smell ever. flipping burgers. we had to open the potatoes with our bare fingers. burned my arm with frying oil too.

maig 1, 2008, 9:43am


That is a good question and I have to admit I never thought about it even though I have spent 30 years in what most people would call dead end jobs. None of them were the mind numbing repitious jobs like some of those described above, the ice cream plant comes to mind, but nobody would call them career paths. Looking back I think I was always working toward something. Even in the worst of times there was always a carrot dangling out there in the future.

maig 1, 2008, 9:49am

oregonobsessionz - you're not childless, you're childFREE. Same here. Despise kids and hated babysitting. Got a real job as soon as I could.

Worst job? I guess it would have to be the time I got a temp job doing survey work for R.L. Polk. They do the feet on the street part of the Census Bureau's periodic counting. The actual being outside part was ok, but some of the people I had to deal with were actually scary. Probably not the best job for a college age girl.

juny 29, 2008, 7:38pm

Working in a disgusting sausage factory in Manchester which was conveniently located next to an abbatoir. The floors were covered in animal fat as were the little winding stairs to the "staff lounge". The fat was carried on the soles of the workers shoes and created quite a gross, unsafe working environment. The smell was enough to knock an elephant out from forty yards away. I lasted two days. However I did not eat a sausage for a long time.

juny 29, 2008, 9:22pm


Based on my limited experience with the semi-trailers that hauled abattoir waste to a dog food manufacturing plant i was ready to declare you the winner. However I looked at your profile and saw where you work now. Purely out of jealously I have changed my mind.

Congratulations on the move up and I really am jealous.

jul. 17, 2008, 11:56am

I worked at a video rental store for a little over two years and, though it wasn't the worst I've had, it certainly wasn't fun. My "favorite" thing about that job was the customers who would come in with a movie that was a week late and scream that it was my fault they had a balance on their account, demanding to see my manager and have me fired when I said I could not credit them for the fees.

I'm not even going to bother describing the part-time job I had calling university alumni to beg for donations. Suffice to say we started calling these poor kids the semester after they graduated and they usually didn't like it.

The absolute worst job I ever had was working for a maid service. I only held out for a couple months but I saw many other girls come and go in that short time. Not only was it less than enjoyable to spend the day inhaling cleaning chemicals while scrubbing other people's sometimes-revoltingly-filthy houses, they paid us for "piece work" which ended up being less than minimum wage about half the time. One home I went to had so much cat urine on EVERYTHING that we had to tie rags over our faces to keep from vomitting (even though it was one of our bi-weekly cleans). The customers we had were typically spoiled rich women who somehow couldn't manage to scrub their own toilets despite not having jobs... Let it not be said that grime was the only revolting thing we witnessed.

All of the above complaining aside, those days are behind me and I am grateful for the cubicle drone job I have now. There are many people who work far more horrible jobs than I ave ever had for their entire lives so I don't feel entitled to gripe.

oct. 9, 2008, 10:19am

I grew up on a farm so my version of what might be difficult is a little different. One example would have to be driving a bus for city transit. The routes cut through some of the worst neighborhoods in town and several times I found knives on my bus. Maintaining order on Friday nights with all of the drunk people was the most stressful job in my life. Imagine being strapped down and focusing on the road while trying to keep an eye on the belligerent guy behind you who might just take a swing at you.

Then the area I lived in flooded, and as a city employee I was expected to help. I would go into my retail job at five in the morning, work until two, drive from two-thirty to seven, then sandbag until it got dark, usually around ten or so. Sometimes I would have to watch the sandbags to ensure no one stole them overnight. And I worked every weekend.

Now I work in an office and it's boring. This is definitely the worst job I have ever had. Temping...

nov. 1, 2008, 4:29pm

3rd shift security at a Nuclear Power Plant. Traipsing around in 6 inches of ice and slush @ 2am in February for the nightly perimeter alarm tests, or checking underwear-clad techs in to 'hot' work-areas (they often strip down to their undies before donning PC's to work in radiation areas--they're not shy and it ain't pretty!) The up-side was firearms training--that was just fun:)