Podcast - Adam Savage Project

Worst Job Ever – 8/19/2014

Adam, Will, and Norm discuss their worst jobs ever, in part one of our epic three-part jobs trilogy.

Comments (74)

74 thoughts on “Worst Job Ever – 8/19/2014

  1. Thinking about ‘s electrocution story, (I know Adam’s on tour), you guys should do a show on work accidents. I’ve been working in theater/restaurant industry since I was 14 being 30 now. Between these two jobs both upon myself and seeing other people the accidents and injuries have been eye opening.

    The fact that in restaurants a common phrase, “oh it’s no big deal… it’s just a finger tip. It will grow back”, is so common and nonchalant statement says something.

    When I was working theater I was up on the catwalks hanging over the edge working on the pot lighting rigs. One of the lights malfunctioned and surged blowing me off the catwalk and into the air. Granted I should have been wearing a safety harness at the time, I was not. The show we were doing at the time has a stunt portion to it, and at this time we had the 2 foot thick fall mat sitting, covering, the front 5 rows of the seats, so in a way I was super lucky. I hit the fall mat from a 1.5 stories height, to the screams of my actors below. If that mat was not draped over the seats, I’m not sure if I would be here typing this today.

  2. Great podcast guys, thanks.

    Particularly relevant to me because last year the company I worked at for 6 years went under and I’m finding myself at age 45 not getting a lot of interest from companies in my field (front end web development) and having to contemplate a horrible McJob in order to pay the bills. Worked plenty of horrible jobs before (let me tell you about tech support at a sleazy domain name scraper where they basically stole people’s domain renewals) and Adam’s nod to those of us that do have to muddle though is meaningful.

    Which makes me think that perhaps a discussion about age and the tech industry might prove interesting podcast fodder, but that’s more appropriate for This Is Only A Test 🙂

  3. The worst job I’ve ever had was working at a comcast call center for 3 years. It was supposed to be troubleshooting connection problems it turned out to be a glorified customer service job. It felt like you weren’t looked at as human. Some of the people who would call in would curse you out before you could say hello.

    I also have an electrocution story. When I was in the US Army Signal Corp, I was connecting telephone lines in the rain with a gerber hand tool and some electrical tape wrapped around the handle. Didn’t work out too well, luckily it was only 52 volts DC. They say its not the volts that kill you its the amps.

  4. I have to say that none of you guys have had a “worst job.” The worst job is one that you feel that you can’t just walk away from. Even worse is the job where you are doing what you love, the thing that you were meant to do, but the atmosphere is so corrosive and oppressing that it’s just misery. I hope that you guys never have to work in a corporate atmosphere that is so soul destroying. My last job was like that and that’s a “worst job.”

  5. I worked on the Houston Ship Channel for a summer, maintaining the various petro-chem plants out there. Acids, bases, oils, we had a guy die from hydrogen cyanide toxicity my first day there. Unskilled labor (strong back, weak mind) started at eight bucks an hour, minimum sixty hours a week; this wasn’t a job, it was penance for some great sin I’d committed in a past life.

    That said, it showed me that getting off of my backside and going to school was the best thing. Granted, I learned a great deal out of it (fiberglass working, coatings, how to not kill your back bucking eighty pound bags of blasting grit, the fine art of paperwork schlepping) and I’ve had more physically and mentally taxing jobs since then, but this one was my worst.

  6. “I’m going to get a diet coke…”

    I thought it was just me!

    I might have been… 17… 18… Got a “real” job in a “real” kitchen, after a spate of kiddie jobs like delivering newspapers or working after school at McD’s. (Don’t diss working at McD’s as a kid… I went to more parties, and got more “hookups” working at McD’s than I ever did)

    It was a standard, 2nd or 3rd rate chain, roadhouse, as seen in the movie Waiting… and I started as sort of a prep-cook… But everyone in the place was, as you guys talk about, miserable about their lives, the job, each other, the owners, the managers…. It was the sort of situation where, from a distance someone looks young, and healthy, and vibrant… but when you get close to them you see the cracks in the trowelled on makeup, the yellow lips from nicotine, the prison tattoos… (Made me think of the whore sequence in the move 1984) The head cook would smile and flirt with every one of the waitresses and as soon as they were out of earshot, brag about impending, REALLY inappropriate, sexual exploits with them (In this day and age, he’d be up on charges, I have no doubt) I was there in the mid-morning to prep for the lunch rush… Kept my head down and my eyes on my job through lunch, and clean up and in the lull between finishing lunch and starting prep for dinner I said to someone, a waitress, or the busboy, “Yeah, tell Andre that I’m going to the Mac’s* for a book of matches.”

    And I never ever set foot in the place again.

    *Mac’s is a Canadian corner store chain, like America has Circle K, or 7-11…

  7. my worst job is my current one ive been with this company a year now still make way less than most people in simular feilds ($9 compared to $13) and the hours (10am to 7pm) suck i get no over time and i cant take a real lunch break becuase i have to handle a satellite store by my self while working on repairs, refurbishsing computers, and the sales floor. Tho the owners are pretty nice and so are my co workers when i stop in at the main location.

  8. My dirtiest job was clipping dry shit on dairy cow butts! Sometimes it was not so dry or not only on the butt!

    But it wasn’t the worst!

    Worst job: sanding mdf (for museum furniture or stands) with an electric rotary sander at the end of your arms, for 8 hours a day, for more than 6 months… WITH negative people… errhhhh… I’ve muscle that are still sore and it’s been 6 years now that I left. That is the kind of place that spayed a water-repellant stuff(highly toxic and bad for the skin(because it can’t sweat after that)) on a big piece in the shop and give only a mask to the person who was spraying the thing… 8 other people were working in that shop at that moment…

    Otherwise, bad jobs are mostly bad because of bad people for me. I’ve also worked in a fabric store for 3 years and those clients ruined me for client services… Most client were great, but the part that was bad were really bad!! Old stuck up ladies that have no respect for other people are nasty! I had one once that decided to unrolled her fabric on my working table and began to place her pattern on it to see how long she needed. Not acknowledging the line of 7 people who was waiting behind her, she took 15 long minutes. In a retail store it’s freaking long!!

  9. I love pulling into my local Chevron, rolling down the window, and telling some dude to “Fill it!”, all while I sit there and listen to the radio..

    Oregon FTW! 🙌

  10. Wow, I guess I’m pretty lucky, then. I’m almost 30 and including my current job I’ve only worked four jobs in my life and haven’t had a “bad job”. Prior to my current job, I was with my previous employer for 10 years until I resigned a month and a half ago. Before that, I worked at EBGames for about a year and a half. Before that, I worked at a church rectory. Each job was better than the last, so I guess, technically speaking, my first job working at the church was my “worst job”.

    I just did a quick search on Pennsylvania labor laws, just out of sheer curiosity. Apparently in PA, you are entitled to overtime pay if you work over 40 hours in a week, but there is no stipulation about requiring OT pay for working over 8 hours a day, nor is there any stipulation requiring meal breaks (only if you’re under 18 and working over 5 consecutive hours).

  11. I’ve had over a dozen jobs, spanning a few industries.

    My worst/best job ever.

    Pork slaughter plant in my home town.

    Shift started at 11:00 p.m. Changed into smocks, hard hats, and big rubber gloves in a minus 10 degrees(14 F) changing room(to control bacterial growth). And from there it was a mad dash onto the even colder Kill Floor; where a mound of stomach contents waited under the cavity splitters for me to shovel into a bin. The mound already stood half my height when I would start. This was back when I was a teenager and I didn’t have a car; so I was often biking home at 7:00 in the morning, all up hill. That job lasted about 10 months, but I did get to transfer to other positions: like the bung hole drill, pork butt boner, and casing feeder.

    Why was it the best?! Because everyone needs to work a job that makes them more appreciative of our quality of life in North America.

    Note: There are very few things on earth that compare to the smell of warm pig stomach contents; probably has an idea of what I’m talking about.

  12. yeah well i do work 5 days a week at 9 hours a day but i thougth lunch was mandatory if you were working over 8 hours a day. but mostly im spoiled i guess from working for rite aid for 18 till i was 23 and for pomeroy on contract for a year where i made decent money got vacation, over time and even if i couldnt take lunch at least someone would be there to let me try to eat most of my lunch before it would get cold.

  13. Worst job: working in a glass wool factory.

    At the end of the line i had to take the parts that where done wrong by the machine, and pull of the paper from the glass wool so they could shred it and re use it. all done by hand and without gloves because you could only peel the paper of with bare hands. Remember that stingy feeling when you just touch glass wool when installing it? well now imagine your arms and hands after holding them in that stuff for 8 hours.

  14. , that sounds harsh; I have to say there are several jobs in that pork slaughter plant I worked at that I would rather do than working with glass wool; I’d much rather be covered in viscera and freezing than have that feeling of millions of tiny needles poking my skin for hours on end.

  15. My family owns a chicken farm, every 5 or 6 months all the 20.000 animals need to be weighted, counted and classified. So we spend three days having to chance chicken, hanging them upside down on a scale and throwing them to their respective sector based on their weight.

    Most of them get pretty aggressive and incredible loud, they usually shit and/or vomit all over you. Plus all the feather, urine and poop turns into this little dust that ends up burning your eyes and nose.

    pretty thought thing to do, thank god it’s just 2 or 3 weekends a year.

  16. Oh man, I could go on about this topic forever! I have a lot of jobs where the best thing about the job, was the story I walked away with about my quitting. I kind of have a thing for flamboyantly quitting jobs.I once just emailed an animation of a burning bridge to one of my clients.

    However, my worst job ever, was the job that should have been my best job. After years of working in the corporate world, I finally got a job at an entertainment company (which shall remain nameless), doing animation. It was a drastic cut in pay, but it was doing something I had dreamed about doing since I was a kid. I couldn’t say no, and was super excited to start.

    When I got there, it was full of cool, interesting, talented people. Unfortunately, it became quickly apparent that the owner of the company thought that the best way to retain all these grossly underpaid talented employees, was to constantly tell them how worthless and replaceable they were, encourage all sorts of in-fighting and pointless office politics, and occasionally publicly humiliate an employee or two, just to make sure nobody forgot who was the boss.

    One night, after all sorts of drama, and having mostly relocated myself to working from home, so I would not have to deal with the constant office politics, I was working on some animation at 2:30 in the morning. An email comes in from the owner (probably just getting back in from clubbing for the night), going to the entire company, with some ham-handed parable, basically telling everyone at the company that they weren’t working hard enough, and needed to seriously consider their if this was just a job, or if they were serious about their career. Well I snapped. I hit “reply all,” which in this case meant it went to everyone in the company, and went on a rant about how I was serious about my career, which was why I couldn’t believe I had wasted so much time at such a horrible company. I detailed a long list of all the ways he was mismanaging his company into the ground, and explaining how he would never keep anyone worth having by constantly telling people how worthless they were.

    I never looked back, but I know several other people found new jobs within the next few months. I understand that within a few years of me leaving, they had to restructure the company, and start a new company to avoid lawsuits. However, this horrible owner is still in the entertainment industry, and still making money by treating people like garbage. I’m just glad i don’t have to deal with it anymore.

  17. I’m going to go with my worst job was rural duct and furnace cleaning. Just the conditions some people let their houses get into… but we did once have a job dealing with the offices of a local paper. That’s when I learned the whole “rub a chimey-sweeps head for luck” thing… I wasn’t there that long.

    Hanging Christmas lights… on a 28 story building that was alright.

    Late-night airport bookstore clerk… lots of fun, but getting pizza delivered was a pain. 🙂

  18. i’m not sure i have as good a bad job story as have been posted, but what adam says just short of the half hour mark, about the importance of a family you know has your back. about there being a home that is genuinely a home – a safe haven, a not-the-wild-waters-of-the-outside-world – is the truest thing in the world.

    i find this infinitely more important than making sure your kids continually bring home good grades, scrambling for coaching lessons the very minute a grade takes a dip, or ensuring they do “all the proper things.”

    i often see parents inundating their kids in these things as tasks to fulfill. monday is football/hockey/handegg/tennis/any other socially acceptable sport, tuesday is guitar lessons, wednesday is chess club (because we read somewhere how this is super beneficial for brain development), thursday is occupational therapy (because of that one time when the kid looked somewhere else when we talked to them), and so on. no time left for the kids to be kids and do kid stuff, and no time for the family to be an actual family when all they do is chauffeur the kids to stuff. total pet peeve.

    oh, and a job story i just remembered. it wasn’t a bad job actually, but it makes a bizarre story. i was recruited as a research assistant at uni, for a prof who did research on the medieval translation movement from arabic into latin, mainly through spain. so while we were all working on tracking characteristic changes in how certain key technical terms in all kinds of sciences and philosophy were translated, we started noticing how some translators were pretty set in translating certain terms in a certain way, and we harboured the idea that we might assogn some latin texts by anonymous translators to translators we knew, based on those key terms being translated the same way.

    a big weakness of this approach was that a key term in, say, biology, would only occur in other biology texts and we couldn’t find out if this other text on astronomy might also have been this guy’s work. what occurs in every text, though, are the small formulations to denote grammatical relations. think the latin equivalents of “thereby,” “so that,” “in effect causing” etc. – translators happened to have their favourites there, too. compiling a list of these quirks was comparatively trivial, as was searching for their distribution in texts we had in files.

    some texts we only has as microfiche printouts from the original manuscripts in carolingian minuscule. long story short: our room, usually a bustling and cheer-y place, had a student at each table, each with a list of translators and their respective quirks, bowed over a big stack of printout pages. silence. except for the occasional dramatic high point of someone muttering: “i found a ‘prout’!”

  19. Get out of retail man. I work for the state of CA (where minimum wage is actually $9) and pretty much every state department has a help desk. You could make $25+ an hour. You could also move into server or network support and become what is called a Tripple S (Systems Software Specialist) where you can make $40+, and even more if you become a SSS Sup.

  20. My worst job was working for a small company was contracted out by BLM (and others) to put out small fires in and around this part of the Oregon Coastal Range. I was probably around 19 at the time, and was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.

    Being young, overly confident, and not in the best shape physically for the job, I thought to myself, “Oh, sure. I can do this. How hard can it be? I am not really firefighting. I am just putting out ‘hotspots’ some little hill out in the woods.” Boy was I wrong.

    Do you know that scene in Rambo where the National Guard is searching for John J.? As he is climbing up a hill, he turns, looks down the mountain, and spots them way down below. He then turns, looks up the hill, and probably thinks to himself, “Well, I guess there is no where else to go but up.” That is the type of terrain that I was working on. Steep, with large timber as far as the eye could see. And it was my first day on the job too!

    Let’s just say that I only lasted one day. Having to climb (up and down) hundreds of vertical feet, numerous times, in blistering heat. All while digging around smoldering stumps, as some guy (on the landing far above me) is screaming, “Move! Move! Move! … Dig faster!” After about an hour of this, it became painfully clear to me that I was not cut out for this.

    How I managed to make my way back up to the landing at the end of the day, I’ll never know. I almost passed out from heat exhaustion several times as I finally crawled on my hands and knees back up to top of the mountain. I left a brand new flannel shirt and gloves out there that my parents had bought for me. I was simply too exhausted to go back down the mountian to retrieve them..

    The ride back to town in that Ford crummy (van), was the best sleep that I have ever gotten in my life. I was so glad when we finally got back into town. That day was payday too. But, I was too embarrassed to go into the office and ask for my check. While all of the Mexicans on the crew were talking in the parking lot (probably about the worthless white newb), I quietly slipped away to my car and drove home..

  21. i could but my degree is in programming im doing repair work since the programming feild crashed right when i got out of school and this is the closest thing to my feild i found wiht out moving out of state

  22. I recently moved to Japan to teach English, and it just turned into a giant mistake. I went out there under an agreement and the second I got there they reneged on it. At that point I had effectively spent my life savings on travel fees, apartment fees, and from that I had just enough to survive for two months – meaning I should get paid before I ran out of money. Essentially they hit me with an altered and secondary contract once I reached the office and from there it went South.

    I went with it at first but their treatment of me was so poor that I just decided to come home after 10 days, even though I knew it would effectively bankrupt me. To highlight how bad the treatment was:

    • They owed me money from my apartment fees up front which I didn’t receive (ever)
    • A furbished apartment was paid for and when I got there, there was no bed whatsoever
    • They refused to purchase a bed for me, or even take me to get a bed, leaving me sleeping on the floor
    • I was promised paid training (cash), which I never received
    • There were several hidden fees upon arrival, and they expected me to pay for gas when they drove me to my apartment (what)
    • They were overall really just mean and entirely apathetic, they had no interest in getting to know me or welcome me, I was there to just draw in money for them

    I talked to my friends and parents over skype and relayed the situation – I was still determined to see it out because I sacrificed so much to go and do it – but they just stopped me and said ‘you need to come home, sticking it out won’t make it right’. And just like Adam, I had parents there that could support my fall. Otherwise I really would have had no choice to continue.

    Those bastards even threatened legal action when I got home. Thankfully I never heard from them again after I ignored their pathetic emails. Sadly the real cost was not only that I effectively became bankrupt, but that I had also more or less spent a year getting there through doing lots of interviews, applications, and other crappy jobs to pay for it.

  23. My worst job ever was working as a Pdi technician for Chrysler

    What made my job truly horrible is the lack of purpose. My job was to look for damages or defects in vehicles before they where put on the lot. the problem was that if anything was not obviously shipping damage my manager refused to fix it. So loose seats, rattles in the suspension, engine problems etc. As long as the car worked it sold. the only things i got fixed were missing bumper. total clutch destruction on a test drive. a unbase coated tailgate(yes it had Clear coat and primer but no color) and the most amazing mirror without screws. how that thing shipped without screws from Mexico to Texas without falling apart till the second i inspected it is truly amazing. Well all the things that we had to shove under the carpet would eventually cause the customer to come in and complain at witch time my manager would call me in and say that I missed the issue. I started to be kinda irreverent and as the manager would say “we have a customer with a noise coming from the rear of the vehicle” I would be like “it couldn’t of been that Red Durango you said was fine could it?” yeah that gained me no points of favor.

    the worst part of a pdi job should also be the best. you have to test drive every car. which in my case was Chargers Darts Abarths and anything owned by chrysler fiat. and unless it was a slow day where we had time to drive calmly well it was a nightmare. the moment you find yourself driving 145 down a busy highway just so that you can drive 2 more cars that same day well that is a different type of stress.

  24. I’ve been a night shift Walmart janitor for the past thirteen years in a factory town with no more factories. With a store manager who will tell you to do something one day, say it has to be done every day and then give you shit for doing it two days later. If it weren’t for crippling anxiety problems that have only been made worse by that hell pitt i would look for other work, but it’s not like there is any other work to be had anyway. I just thank any god I can find that we are only open 24 hours for a couple weeks at christmas. That’s another thing, I used to like christmas as a kid. Now I despise it with the burning hatred of a thousand suns…

    Moral of the story, stay in school kids.

  25. This was an awesome video guys! It was fun hearing about your past work experiences! I am disabled now but I did work for one year before I got too sick due to my genetic disorder. I loved all my jobs but the first one was very akward and pretty bad…

    My first job was by far my worst job! I graduated highschool early and went to college at 17. I was a cheerleader for my college and we were having practice at a gymnastics place and on the spot the owner offered me a job to coach preschoolers. I was very excited because I had only been to college for one week and was offered a job without even applying for it! Well once I got started I quickly realized that there was something really off about my boss. First off his name was Teddy. He was probably in his 60’s. He would come around and grab my butt or try to give me akwardly long hugs, along with kissing me on the cheek. He would also call me his wife. He would also do this with the little kids and it really freaked me out. I really think he was a predator/ pedophile. But then once I quit and went to my next job I realized that he was paying me under the table the whole time. I didn’t think anything of it when I first started working there since it was my first job and I didn’t know any better. I did always wonder why he paid me in cash each week and not with a pay check. So I couldn’t even count it as an actual job because there was no tax information. Needless to say it was one of the strangest jobs I think I could have ever had!

  26. No need to justify, I was merely stating that working help desk at an office pays much more than retail does (and in my personal experience its also WAY less work). I’ve worked at Comp USA in the past, and also had friends that worked at Fry’s.

    I’m only speaking from experience as someone living in CA, other less tech savvy states (idk where you are) it could be more, or less beneficial.

    There is also a programming series in the state, but it parallels (in terms of salary) the classification that most people in help desk roles are, so unless you REALLY enjoy programming (and programming really dull enterprise applications) it don’t see that as really being worthwhile. Right now I do a bit of both.

    As for my worst job, i can’t really say I’ve ever had a truly horrible job, but there are some jobs that were a lot of hard work and I didn’t feel I was valued or properly paid. I worked at a ski resort in the past where I worked 50 hours a week, and the over time was basically the only reason I could afford to live. 10 hours a day standing (we were literally yelled at anytime we were seen sitting down) and lifting people skis and snowboards in and out of a gondola. I was getting .25 cents over minimum wage at the time. Other people at the resort got paid the same amount hourly to do much easier or way more fun jobs (mountain safety people get paid to ski around all day), but transferring was really hard and I needed the overtime anyways. It was a good experience (it could have been way better) and it’s something I always wanted to do, but I’m glad it’s over. I really do miss the culture and the people I worked with though, working in an office is way dull.

  27. My worst job was my first out of college. I was hired to do marketing but no one knew what they wanted me to do (it was a small start up). After trying to to get a few marketing plans in action (when I presented them I was told they were great and at some point down the road they would get to them) I ended up just becoming a secretary for the CFO and CEO.

    The bizarre thing was they kept expecting me to do…something but they couldn’t give me any idea what nor any resources. I felt an intense amount of stress everyday but with no outlet since they wouldn’t let me actually DO anything. Boredom and stress equals terrible life. Not to mention I was making about what you would at a retail chain. Try making Bay Area rent off that!

  28. I’ve never really had a bad job, yet (knock on wood).

    Growing up on an island, my first real job was in a boatyard that specialized in designing and fabricating various fishing rigs for the small-boat fishing fleet. I’d work there whenever I had vacations from school. I’d do a lot of the janitorial work, inventory organization, material-breakdown, basic machining and assembly. Essentially, anything repetitious and easy. A lot of the time, this simply meant making sure the fabricators had the necessary parts to complete the ongoing rig, which meant many hours of making large steel and aluminum tubes/sheets into smaller pieces.

    I also did weeks and weeks of machining and assembling bearings and axles for the wheels that guide fishing lines around the deck during mackerel trolling. Once one batch was done, after about 4 full days of machining, fitting and assembly, I’d start a new batch. I loved this part, it was some serious meditation.

    One summer I spent two months grinding all the welding splatter off of these things:

    We’d get pallets of the parts delivered from a plasma cutter, the welders would put them together and I’d grind every last bead off. They are harnesses for the bouys that suspend seismic oil-searching equipment during towing. Any bead is a risk of chewing through the tow-rope, so the client would return any harness with a bead and we’d have to hit it again. For this I got paid by the unit, so I hit it pretty hard. At the end of the first week, I couldn’t lift a cup of water with my grinding hand.

    In addition to the metalworking and production, I’d also assist with fibreglassing (the only bad part of the job), motor repairs, rig installation and sometimes delivery. The people in the shop were great, we had a lot of fun on the job. It also paid pretty well for a job I had no training or qualifications for.

    The last two years, I’ve been tutoring undergrad and grad students in graphic design here in San Francisco, it doesn’t pay very well, but was the only job I could hold as an international student. It allows you to meet a lot of different people, and the handful of terrible students (the ones who don’t make an effort, complain, expect you to do the work for them) are easily outweighed by the good ones.

    I got my first design job a couple of weeks after graduation, spent 5 months there doing visual design, mostly for web, apps and SaaS applications. Decided to move on due to a lack of hours, and being in dire need of a break after completing a Bachelors and Masters back-to-back in three different countries. Currently interviewing and hoping to find something more permanent.

  29. Back in the old days, when movies came to a theater and stayed forever, I was a projectionist. Being the lowest on the totem pole in a 6 theater chain, I was assigned “The Sound of Music” for six months, 6 days a week, 4 runs a day.

    I still have a soft spot for the Nazis in that movie.

  30. I have had several jobs that weren’t great and a few that I really hated, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly “Terrible” job.When I was very young (12-13) I worked at a dairy farm down the road. I walked about 3 miles to the farm after school 3 days a week and helped milk the cows and do the chores and clean the barns. It usually took 3-4 hours and it wasn’t great. But I didn’t mind the work. I lived on a small farm until I moved to college so the dairy farm was just an extension of working at home (except I got paid [very VERY little]).

    What made that the worst job I ever had was, like Adam said, the owner of the farm was just an He was a 65 year old farmer who had lived on the same plot of land since he was born. His grandfather had started the farm and his father ran it before him. When I was there, he was still running the farm though I have been informed by my dad that he has handed it down to his son now (who I liked a lot better). But he was a grouchy, picky, rude old man. He wanted everything done a certain way and he would show you how to do it. But you were not allowed any mistakes. If he showed you once, that’s all you were going to get. If you messes up after that, you were in for a long session of being cussed out and yelled at.

    I stayed on that farm for about a year and then (thankfully) as I entered 9th grade, I was able to run Cross Country on the varsity team so my schedule wouldn’t allow me to work after school anymore.

    That is the worst job I’ve ever had. I’ve had jobs that I disliked more but was working for some really great people, and I’ve had jobs where I worked for some worse people but I really enjoyed the work, so in their own ways, those jobs were much better. But the year I spent on the dairy farm was the worst job I’ve ever had.

    On a side note, I am now working on the Grounds crew for my university while I finish my degree. It’s a difficult job, the people aren’t the least bit happy to be there, and I only make minimum wage, but it’s a job where I can focus 100% of my mental energy on what has to happen in school while I’m working. As anyone who lives in a northern climate can attest, it takes little to no brain power to shovel snow.

  31. i wish the state (pa) had a programming feild but beyond having to pass a shit one of pay to take/ free to take civil service tests to even apply it makes the state hard to get in to. tho the amount of work i have to do varries by day and what i do wiht my down time is own me since im alone in the store thank god for finding tested

  32. When I graduated tech school my old man sat me down at the kitchen table & said don’t ever ask us for another thing as long as you live. nice.

  33. As a student I worked in a boat building yard- hand sanding the fibreglass in the bilges of yachts. We were supplied the most useless respirators- by the end of the day you were coughing like crazy. I lasted one summer and never came back.

    My last job was in an office with a passive aggressive boss- he would also Catholic guilt you into staying long hours and blame everything on you- but the work was interesting and I learnt a fair deal- enough for me to start my own business. I don’t think I’ve ever really been happy at work until I began to work for myself.

  34. Inventern – my boss was a real stickler.

    Followed by summer painting job dry-scrapping lead paint and only given a paper dust mask for protection. Quit after first day.

  35. Worst job would have been washing pots, pans and dishes for the local K of C hall on the weekends. Worked all night and smelled like food when it was over.

  36. I had a couple of bad days of work at the boatyard.

    Fibreglassing inside a boat-hull, next to a running motor. Warm, full of fumes, fucking fibreglass everywhere.

    Stripping maritime coatings from boats. The stuff we used was nasty, intended to etch the fibreglass boat to allow adherence to the cleaned surface. Required a seperate airsupply, all the gloves we had melted in seconds.

    Curing fibreglass in winter, using a heat gun, in a snowstorm, lying on a concrete dock for two hours moving the gun around to try to cure it evenly.

    But on average, it was good :p

  37. Tornintegral, Did you bother to learn anything about Japan before going to teach. Japan is not the US and things are different there. For instance, a large part of the population DOES sleep on the floor. You needed to get a futon for that. And those English school are notorious for being flaky. All of these things you could find out from the many blogs and so forth that are on the internet. Frankly though, going into that situation with the attitude you seem to have made what could have been a wonderful learning experience a total loss. If you make the commitment stick to it. You should have stuck with it for at least a year and then moved on once you knew the ropes to a better company.

  38. Fibreglassing inside a boat-hull, next to a running motor. Warm, full of fumes, fucking fibreglass everywhere.

    I think this may be a form of torture in some countries.

    … and here’s to supporting parents! I had to move back home after my first year out of the nest. Without them I couldn’t have done anything!

  39. They renegotiated on his/her deal as soon as they hit the ground and didn’t provide the training required, or repay the deposits. They were banking on the person eating the costs due to having made an investment and being in an uncomfortable situation, I totally get why he/she said “fuck that” and went home. That is not an experience condusive to enjoying your time there.

    There is always the option of travelling to Japan in the future and actually enjoy it.

    But yes, so many such companies are predatory in nature and research up front is no guarantee you won’t get screwed over.

  40. Great video. It was interesting reading through the comments. Many of the things were worse than my worse job but i figured I would post because mine was a little different than what I have read.

    I was just out of high school and in between jobs one summer. I have the mentality of “take whatever you can get” when it comes to not having a job. So for the summer I worked at a place that made liquid smoke. If you don’t know what that is, think of it this way. If you have ever eaten some junk food that tasted like it was grilled on an open fire, it probably just had a few drops of liquid smoke mixed in with it instead.

    They basically had these huge furnaces that they would pour saw dust into and take all the tar and soot and I guess whatever substance smelled the most like burnt wood out of these furnaces and mix it with water. They ran at 400 degrees, it was 80 to 90 degrees out all summer, and you had to wear these fire resistant overalls, gloves, boots, helmets, face masks, the whole bit. You had to constantly monitor these things, and go around and open these small doors and scrape out certain spots with these long metal tools while 400 degree air and sometimes flame blasted out.

    At the end of the day you were hot and soaked with sweat and smealed like smoke. Even after using the on site showers and changing into fresh clothes, you smelled like smoke. Your hands were dyed this orangeish color. Neither of those two things went away no matter how hard you scrubbed or how many showers you took. I’m certain my health deteriorated from working there those three months more than the few years I smoked.

    On top of the terrible conditions, they had swing shift. First shift one week, then second shift the next week, then third. Really hard to make any plans that way, and going from third to first shift always made for an impossible Monday.

    The very worst part was one day I had to go and clean out the chimney where they dumped their excess ash into and burned it off with super heated flames and some special emissions control system at the top. They had the feeder turned off, and there was a small door at the bottom that you opened and had to climb in and scrap off all the ash that had gotten stuck onto the side walls at the bottom. It was third shift and was going to be an all night job. I get a few minutes into scraping off the walls when I realize that this is the exact place where just a few years before, two guys were killed when they were doing this exact same job and someone accidentally turned the system on and fired it up. I finished cleaning it, but was pretty freaked out for the rest of the night.

    I was eventually “let go” at the end of the summer and I did not feel bad about it what so ever.

  41. Kim_A,

    I understand what happened to him. What happened to him has happened to a bunch of other people, who not coincidently wrote about it on their blogs. The behavior of those schools, which are notorious, is well known and documented. As is a bunch of other stuff. But even with that, he should have been willing to put up with the difficulties, get settled in and looked for other opportunities. Look, I’ve been to japan several times and have been reading stuff about it for other reasons for some time. Which is one reason that I haven’t applied to one of those schools. The other reason is that, for me, I would take a HUGE pay cut to do the English teacher thing. Think 70k a year being what I can earn as an engineer and what I would get paid as an English teacher in Japan. But I’ve been screwed over worse than he has and even with that I learned from the experience.

  42. I think you just nailed it right there. I have a job where I’m pretty darned good at what I do, but last year it became difficult due to a new manager, with a corrosive and toxic atmosphere. But, I’m well paid – so the old golden handcuffs came into play. Luckily I managed to move sideways.

  43. I unfortunately did not have the privilege of a home to fall back on, so to this day I have never quit a job without having another job lined up. During most of high school I lived with my grandparents in the bad part of town, my mother lived across the country and was too involved in drugs to care, and my father was in jail. When my father was released I lived with him, but was kicked out senior year of highschool because of a senior prank. My only option was to couch surf from friend to friend. So to eat and pay friends parents for room and board I had to work.

    Some of the positions i’ve held include a pizza cook at Chuck E Cheese, busboy at a restaurant, cook at KFC, bagger at a grocery store, retention specialist at a cable company, and ran a concession stand at a waterpark but none of these jobs were the worst. The absolute worst job that I had was a position at a scrap yard when I was 19-20. Keep in mind I am located in Illinois, and this was an outside job. The only heat source was a open flame propane heater that I was not allowed to stand near until my break. This scrap yard is the biggest in the area. It is the place where 18 wheel semi trucks come in with trailers of scrap metal to be weighed and cranes would remove the metal to be crushed into bits, or cars would go to be chopped into small car bits and sent down a conveyor belt into bigger piles of metal.

    Some of my duties included:

    Go into the 4 hydraulic rooms of the two-three story crushers and put down kitty litter to soak up the hydraulic fluid that leaked from the machine and shovel it into a wheelbarrow until it was full and take it to the “trash” pile, walk around the yard and pick up garbage people threw out of the window, random sticks, or anything nonmetal and place that into said wheelbarrow, change the blades on the crushers. Which involved putting my body in between the blades to loosen the gigantic nuts holding the blades and hope the half inch rod that locked the top and bottom doors of the crusher would stay in place.

    But the worst out of all my duties was cleaning out the entrance scale.This is the main scale that the trucks would come in and be weighed on when arriving with scrap. The company would not stop the trucks during this process, and there would be long line of vehicles waiting just to get money for scrap. I would have to wait until a truck would be weighed and move on, then jump in front of the next truck with a shovel, and a five gallon bucket with a rope tied to it and pull up a small hatch and climb down a ladder into 1.5-2 feet of mud that would build up from the trucks driving overhead. This scale room was about 5 feet tall in the highest areas, and only lit by sunlight through cracks. I would then have to shovel mud into the bucket from the floor, in a crouched position due to ceiling height of the room, wait for a vehicle to pass, pull the bucket up the ladder with the rope and dump it into my wheelbarrow until it was full, then dump the full wheelbarrow into a mud pile. This duty took a full 9 hour day of work to complete.


  44. The very first job I every had was a school holiday job putting washers on nails full time for two weeks. It was a job that was so mind-numbingly repetitive and simple that in addition to myself, they actually hired intellectually handicapped people to do it. Basically I was sitting in the middle of an industrial plant which was manufacturing screws and fasteners, doing a job that would have required an expensive specialist machine to do, but since it was a limited run, it was cheaper to hire manual labour to do it.

    My worst job was working as a kitchen-hand at a bar/restaurant in the city. The management’s general opinion on matters was “if you don’t like it, then quit, we can replace you within 24 hours”. It was one of those jobs were you had a start time, but no clear finish time. While it was supposed to be part-time, I regularly found myself doing 40 hour weeks in the 3-4 days a week I worked there. Breaks were unheard of, even during a 12+ hour shift. You actually had to complain in order to get a lunch/dinner break. Plus being kitchen work, when it comes to psychological torment from head Chefs, it made Gordon Ramsay look tame.

    After a year of doing that, turning up one day in a suit to hand in my uniform and apron after starting my first desk job was an awesome feeling.

  45. Well the worst job I ever had was when I was around 20 and had just left art college, no idea what to do so I signed up with a temp agency to do literally anything at all. For a couple of weeks I worked in a cleaning team who went into a hotel that had just been built but not decorated or furnished and our job was to vacuum the bare concrete floors and scrape all the hardened mortar and tile adhesive off of the bathtubs in every room. Backbreaking, really hot, horribly dusty – my idea of hell! Now I’m self-employed doing illustration and I look back on those two weeks with horror…:)

  46. The closest thing I have had to a worst job was working for McDonald’s for almost a year. The only reason it as bad was because they gave me next to no hours at minimum wage. 70% of my paychecks went straight to my gas tank and sometimes didn’t fill my tank.

    To put it into perspective, I live in the hills of NH meaning it takes me thirty minutes to get anywhere.

  47. I think that the worst job i have ever had was a dog groomer. This local grooming shop just needed a few part time people to come in and work for a few days every week and it was hell! First of all, i was getting paid minimum wage, which was like $9.50 and you dont realize how little that is until you get your first paycheck and think to yourself “but….but….but i worked so hard!”. Secondly, it was surprisingly very hard work. Washing dogs takes alot out of a person. Thirdly, on the first day of work i had to wash this incredibly dirty dog. He was absolutely filty, with its eyes crusted over, incredible fur matts, and feces caked all over its butt. and hiding right in one of the large mats on its back there was a pimple/boil the size of a large quarter. As i was cleaning this dog, my hand hit the pimple and it exploded. And when i say exploded i mean EXPLODED! the force of the buildup was strong enough to literally hit the ceiling! And as it was travelling towards the ceilling it caught me on the left side of my face! it was one of the most absolutely disgusting things i have ever experienced! Since that job, i have never had another bad one! it was my one experience and i wear it like a badge of honor!

  48. It’s 2006, just graduated college with a BS in geology. Thought I was hot shit. My ex girlfriend, some friends and I moved to Portland, and while I was looking for professional geology jobs I took a gig at the local Kroger behind the fish counter.

    This particular store was competing with Whole Foods, so it was a little nicer than the average Kroger, but cliental consisted people who wanted to shop in a fancy store but didn’t have the cash-flow to do so. People on scooters tended to be the most rude, but competition for that title was fierce.

    I’d been in customer service for several years, and so I try to be really friendly and approachable when customers walk up to the counter. Much of the time, friendly greetings go ignored, but there was one special customer. She rolls up on a scooter like Urcela in the Little Mermaid. She browses the fish intently, but ignores my ‘Hi, can I help you?’ completely. No sign of acknowledgment whatsoever. I walk to the meat side and tell my coworker “Screw this, I’m gonna rearrange boxes in the back for 5 minutes; if she’s still here when I get back I’ll help her”.

    I’m in the back feeling quite proud of myself. I’d passive-aggressivly stood up to a rude shopper! What a hero; what a rebel!

    I walk back out after a few minutes. I turn to my coworker and say, ‘good, she’s gone’, to which she replies: ‘yeah, she was deaf. Nice job, asshole’.

    Lesson learned. I quit shortly thereafter for a job gluing resistance wire to mats for installation beneath tile floors. Crappy in its own way, but at least I couldn’t embarrass myself in front of customers any more.

  49. In relation to the end of the podcast and Adam not having been into space, I think it time to approach Richard Branson for sponsorship regarding space myths!

  50. Selling Sears extended warranties on lawn mowers over the phone.

    Graveyard at a convenient store ( no you can’t buy beer after 2am) over and over again

  51. Worst job ever – a college summer spent working maintenance at a fancy tennis/swimming club in Kansas City (95 degrees/90% humidity). My “partner” was a master at goofing off and always managed to disappear when we had to do things like spread tar on the club roof, seal cracks on the outdoor courts or clear brush in the adjacent field. It was miserable, hot and dirty yet just a few feet away everyone was having a great time enjoying their summer. I worked retail and in restaurants in high school and college but nothing compared to that particularly miserable summer.

  52. Funny topic. My worst was a nursery where we carried hundreds of pounds of flowers around for customers inside of a 120 degree greenhouse where your only break was a 30 minute lunch. It was relentless. I was actually fired (over voicemail!) because I sat down on a bench for a minute during what must have been a 700 degree day.

    I had a “diet coke” job too. There was a charter boat company that gave tours near my home. My mom knew someone and so they hired me in kind of on the spot. I showed up on my first day and I was pretty intimidated already because it was something I knew nothing about. They showed me how to keep the boat clean and honestly learning how to properly clean something is still one of the greatest skills I’ve learned. But, then they had us do the narration of the tour and I have tremendous anxiety about such a thing. I decided OK, I can just suffer through it and they’ll see I’m so bad that they won’t ask me to do it again. But, before that, it’s lunch time. As I’m getting off the boat, they mention that I need to get my swim suit on becausse they’re going to be practicing coast guard drills when lunch is over. I asked what that meant, since I have a fear of open bodies of water, and they said they take turns putting someone in the water and the captain and the crew practice fishing them out.

    I didn’t come back from lunch.

  53. I can relate! I worked summers at a family-owned fast food business (hot dog / hamburger / bar). I flipped burgers, made french fries– a “short order ‘cook'”. For the first few weeks the family dog followed me around closely when I got home. I must have smelled like a giant french fry!

    –Paul E Musselman

  54. My “worst job” was probably powerwashing farrowing crates at a pigfarm. Umbilical cords would wrap around the gratings in the floor. And, if you were particularly unlucky, you would hit a corner filled with poo and the splashback would smack you right in you slightly ajar mouth. Yup.

    Still better than the sales/customer service jobs. Pig poop doesnt give you anxiety.

  55. So true. I am just glad we didn’t fry anything but after several hours of clearing pasta plates it was hard not to smell like sauce.

  56. My worst job was not as bad as some of you, but it was pretty horrible.

    I worked in a factory that made plastic plant pots and my job was to work the granulator next to a massive extrusion machine. There was a huge pile of reject pots that I would feed into a granulator that had been altered so it pretty much had all of the safety devices nullified (so we could work faster). The granulator would grind the reject pots back into pellets and those same pellets would go back into the machine to make more reject pots that would be added to my pile. You never felt that you were winning… it was just a never ending cycle of plastic fumes and tiny pellets that somehow even made it into your underpants.

    I really want to get into 3D printing, but I wonder if the fumes will trigger granulator PTSD. 🙂

  57. I think my take on “worst jobs” is not that they were horrible but that they were educational to me. For example, a job that I had for one summer was at one of the huge coal burning power plants in the days before the EPA started to really pay attention to the pollution. My supervisor looked fifty years old but was mid-thirties. Walking high steel or walking into the “coal pulverizer” in full respirator and my only advice was “if you hear this alarm, just run as fast as you can.” Point is, it was a summer job during my college years. I knew it was only for a few months and I could stick it out. My “education” was that most jobs should have a sense of pride and that my privileged middle class background allowed me to work all kinds of jobs while I earned my experience in the music world. Of course I had jobs that lasted only hours but my situation allowed me to quit and find another job.

  58. I`ve been very privileged with jobs. So I really have not had very bad ones. Maybe except at a callcenter for customer service for a phone company, really bugs me how they (tried to) train us to sell new products when people call for help.

    My experience is with dirty jobs. I`ve been covered head to toe in fine powder that will be turned in to aluminum. Had to wade through the stuff when rebuilding the electrical system in a large factory I worked for. Great and hard work I really appreciated. The powder is so fine though, that my fingers where not clean until 6months after I changed work.

    Also, working on top of furnaces so the shoes melt if you stay still for too long, that`s an experience for live 🙂

    How about a segment about the costliest error you have made at work? I`m myself in the unofficial million-dollar-club at my old work. Unscrewed the wrong terminal for some 12v electrical system and just heard the silence booming. The whole part of the factory went down. Yiikes, lucky I had a badass supervisor that just smiled and told me to put it back, and that was all I ever heard 🙂

  59. Worst job ever was working (for the third time, no less) in the IT group for a large, soul-sucking, west-coast HMO. The first time I worked for them, I got there right as HMOs were taking off, and no one knew any better about how they would eventually lead to rationed care. The culture of the organization was still intact, we still had fun, and we all felt like we were genuinely improving the quality of care for our members.

    My wife and I left Los Angeles for six months after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, then came back with our tails between our legs and I was fortunate to get my old job back, due mostly to the fact that I had a GREAT boss who never once said “I told you so…” The culture of the company was waning, though, as it had already gone through two corporate changes. I finally left about a year later.

    Then, in the mid-2000s, I left a biotech company and went back to this HMO for a third time, mostly at the urging of a colleague I trusted who was building a new team to tackle the Medicare Part B challenge. He lasted less than a year, and I wound up analyzing and designing “improvements” to the claims system that would make it even harder for members to submit and be reimbursed for their claims. I had become Satan’s helper.

    I was able to leave after three years, and now I am fortunate to have a great boss within a great organization. I also have a great work/life balance that allows me AMPLE time to pursue my interests (theatre, puppets, design, hacking, etc.)

  60. Hand weeding a Christmas Tree plantation in near constant rain, my arms shook for weeks afterwards, calluses and blisters on my feet and hands. Only eight hrs a day but I could barely stay awake each night long enough to have dinner.

  61. My “awful job” wasn’t one that was filled with hateful employees or sub-par working conditions. Rather, it was one that affected me deeply in its questionable ethics and morals, and I found it very hard to go to work everyday and exploit people (because that was, in effect, what we were doing).

    You see, I worked at a for-profit university that caters to online degrees. There are so many of these types of universities these days, and the truth is that they are all just businesses that found a clever loophole to make money off of government federal student aid. Very few of them, if any, are interested in the student’s academics. In fact, most of these schools have graduation rates of less than 20%. It is all a big scam.

    What bothered me so deeply about this job is that I would spend 8 hours a day basically cold calling their target demographic for students: Poor, lower-class income families in the south. Most of the people we called were minorities. We would spend our days convincing these people, who clicked a button on some website to get job information (which were our own bullshit websites created to generate leads), that they needed an education. Their response was always the same:

    “I can’t afford college.”

    Then, we’d swoop in with our go-to line of, “Did you know there are grants available for school that can help you get started with no money out of pocket?”.

    It was horrible. We were convincing students to go to school and rely on federal financial aid, convincing them it was in their best interest. We were encouraged to use heavy sales tactics and pressure was on us to get a certain number of enrollments a week. It was “Boiler Room”, except the commodity was people’s poor decisions.

    The sad thing was, most of these students would not continue on past their first course, which was a very simple orientation course, but long enough in the federal government’s eyes to allow a financial aid disbursement to go through, thereby getting the school (read, the business) paid. That, very simply, is how they would make their profit. Most of the students would not continue on once they received any residual money from a Pell Grant or other financial aid, as they were not good candidates for college to begin with. They would simply take their refund check and run.

    Eventually, my integrity wouldn’t allow me to convince one more poor individual that college was the answer, when we both knew it wasn’t. I couldn’t quit the job, however, because I had bills to pay. Therefore, I purposefully became lax on my sales tactics and only enrolled those who showed serious interest in college (there was the occasional surprise individual who was motivated and ready, but that was extremely rare). Finally, my performance was so bad, I was fired. But that was my motive all along, as I used the cushion of unemployment compensation to give me the peace of mind I needed while I got my own business going, working as a comic book writer and artist.

    It should be noted that the school nearly lost its accreditation and, in the few years I’ve been gone, the school has had federal intervention to the point that they’ve cut way back on the heavy sales tactics and the verbage they are allowed to use when encouraging candidates to go to school. The university is now more or less trying to be a legimate school, but not before the company went IPO and the CEO cashed out with more than $10 million dollars.

    I told you it was a business.

  62. My job was more terrifying than bad. I Worked as a train driver for a steel mill during the summers. My job was to transport the molten iron from the oven to processing.

    During the time of three summers i was almost killed a couple of times. Twice car and dump truck (the really big ones) drivers ran red lights making me almost crash into them with the train. Since you ride up front I would have been just a smear.

    Once I had to run through molten slag spray, luckily my jacked managed to stop the worst of it.

    I was moving down a ladder to stand on the platform while the train was moving but the bottom half of the platform simply weren’t there anymore (had gotten knocked of earlier and nobody told me) so I got dragged, holding a handrail almost getting dragged in under the train.

    And I am generally a careful guy and this was a modern steel mill. I won’t miss the dangers of that job.

    Have a nice day.

  63. Worst job ever was being an undertakers assistant and helping prep everything for a funeral. But I was 16 and was getting $20 an hour cash so I stuck it out for nearly a year. I had to bail after I was roped into helping with an exhumation.

  64. I am a few weeks away from opening my own brewery and getting a small business off the ground has been difficult, but a dream. For the past 8 years I have worked at Whole Foods and though the job has been good, the “dont work for time” quote is so relevant. And the closer I get to leaving retail, the more I see that. Great podcast!

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