Do you remember THIS scene in the first Indiana Jones film (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) from 1981?
Sallah (portrayed by John Rhys-Davis) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) are talking about the Well of Souls, where information about the Ark of the Covenant lies. They are in a makeshift tent, and there is food on the table, including dates. A monkey reaches up and steals a date. Indy, knowing he may have secured the best information about the location of the Well of Souls, is jubilant, and reaches in for a date, tosses it into the air to eat – when Sallah, reacting quickly, notices the monkey has died, grabs the date in mid-air and tells Indy, “Bad dates.”
Funny, the dates looked fine to Indy. They appeared OK.
Every indication was they were, you know, just dates.
Reminds me of something.
Reminds me of all the places I’d been, and the jobs I took, thinking how benign and harmless they looked, how easy they would be to do, how the person interviewing me provided every indication the job was a good fit. Good dates.
Like bad dates, we’ve all had bad jobs. I could write a book, Bad Jobs We Should Have Avoided If Only We Knew What We Were Getting Ourselves Into. Or as Harrison Ford said in another incarnation, maybe feeling something bad about the place. If only.
Here’s my top 5 list of Bad Jobs, and, for nostalgia’s sake, guaranteed to make you smile. Or, perhaps, allow you to recall your own Bad Jobs and their associated pain. And there are some real doozies:
Number 5. Radio Shack. Right after college, in between jobs, I took a position with the Radio Shack-Tandy Computer Centers. There were two of them nearby, one in Lancaster in Park City Plaza, where a Borders store once was; and another in the area where there’s a Lowe’s Store, down Memory Lane in York. Sad thing is, Radio Shack had a lock on the personal computer industry at one time, with hundreds of stores selling the IBM PC-like machines. Their biggest, crucial mistake: they did not want to release the operating system software to second- or third-party developers. They wanted to control everything. They wanted to own everything, both hard- and software, about personal computers. It was their downfall and kept them from being a Microsoft. Or, as one customer pointed out to me, why do I want to buy from a company with “shack” in its name? One guy kept referring to the business as “shadio rack” every time I spoke with him. I simply quit. I kept thinking, will Radio Shack ever change its name? Will it ever learn?
Number 4: Science Press. I worked in the bindery, in Ephrata, Pa., for a now out-of-business printer when I was a college student. My boss was a guy named George. George hired me to work from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., when I had transportation. Midway into it, he said the hours switched and I had to report at 5 a.m. and sometimes work until at least 4. I thought, what’s next? The midnight shift? So I quit. The work was hideously boring, mind-numbing repetitive, backbreaking, exhausting, and dull. It would have been my worst job, except more “worst jobs” were to follow.
Number 3. The library at Temple University. This was a summer job through a Work-Study program in a warehouse east of the campus. I had to index video tape and film reels from TV stations like Channel 6 ABC Action News and the local NBC Channel 10. Trouble was, chlorine tanks were stored nearby, and it smelled like a pool, only worse. It was hot and miserable and oh so dull. Very easy to quit this job.
Number 2. My shortest job. Lasted a half-day. In between work some time ago, I applied for what was falsely advertised in the paper as an “advertising sales job, seeking new clients, outside sales.” I thought, OK, I can do this. It was the biggest lie in any Bad Job I had applied for. In actuality, this business had two components: selling inventory from special sales of gift items, like special sports club pillows, door to door. Also taking names from people at a local BJ’s Club for home renovation appointments. The worst part is, you had to “train” for a week with no pay. Compensation would incur the second week, based upon how many names you could obtain. I wore an apron and handed it back to our “supervisor,” a kid in college, at the lunch break the very first day. I had enough of the lies and the madness.
Number 1. Easily the worst job ever. My short stint, right after my first job, in between my own magazine, Entry, and my start at Lukens in the late 1980s. The company remains in business, so it will go unmentioned. My job: review electronic schematic diagrams and documentation as a technical editor. This job was so dull that every time I think of it, I am reminded of that song from the summer of 1984, “Cruel Summer.” Cruel Summer sums this job up: bored beyond tears, beyond recognition. The job was so dull it was a crime.
There you have it. The only difference between me and Indy is that Indy had Sallah. I, unfortunately, ate the date and suffered near-death as a result.
Want to share your Bad Job stories with me? I’ll print out the top 10 best. The one selected gets a free book – any one of those reviewed this issue. Just send me an e-mail to:
I’ll post the top 10 next time, if I receive enough.
Until then, my friend, pray we all have a Sallah!