John, over at Learn Me Good, has tagged me for a meme. This makes me happy, actually, because unlike a lot of people, I LIKE memes. Well, most of them! This particular meme: What was your WORST JOB EVER?
I have held a lot of jobs in my life, in, among, and around the teaching. I started babysitting (this was close to being my worst job ever!!) when I was just a kid, but I got my first real job at 16: clerking in a dime store downtown. I have worked ever since.
Before that, however, there was the Gun Club.
My siblings and I pretty much grew up at the Gun Club. Dad spent much of his life there, and we all got to know every nook and cranny of the place at a very young age. The two outdoor toilets especially fascinated me, even while they terrified me. I think those outhouses were the last evidence of the Gun Club, once Public Service took the property, tore the Gun Club CLUBHOUSE down, and turned the whole field into a scene from “War of the Worlds.” Even when we were just little kids, Dad used to take us all out to the Gun Club and make us pick up wads. This wasn’t hard work; it was just really boring. Dad needed the wads because he loaded his own shotgun shells. I still remember the sounds that big reloader made, especially when the shot came pouring down into the shell. There were always tiny bb’s all over the floor by the reloader, it seems.
When my Other Sister and I were pre-teens, Dad put us to work at the Gun Club. Other Sister did great; she was smart and fast and had no trouble at all pushing the button to release the clay pigeon, and recording the results. And where was I?
I tried to do her job, but I just couldn’t do it. I was too clumsy, and I could never hear the men yell “Pull!” After a few disastrous attempts, Dad put me down in the traphouse.
This was the worst job ever.
The traphouse is that little concrete-block hole-in-the-ground at the far end of the shooters’ grid. Inside the traphouse was a machine in which the trapsetter placed the clay pigeon. When Other Sister pushed the button, the machine would hurl that clay pigeon into the air with the force of a bullet from a gun.
I sat, alone, not really very old, down inside the traphouse, on a metal stool, in about six inches of murky water, trying not to notice the frogs, lizards, occasional snake, inserting clay pigeons into the machine the very second it re-set itself after a hurl. The machine was electric. I was on a metal stool in high water. With livestock. One miscalculation and that machine would tear my hand off above the wrist. I was terrified.
However, I could do this, and I did take pride in that fact. I just never dreamed I’d have to do it again and again and again until I had dreams about setting trap. Nowadays, some parents would have a fit over child endangerment, or some such thing, but the fact is, even though I was scared and even though I hated that job, I was very proud that I was trusted to do it and that I was good at it, too.
What I really wanted to do was learn to shoot the clay pigeons. Dad never did let me try, and I still wonder why. One of my dead boyfriends and I used to go out behind his grandmother’s house and shoot targets, and hang out at the IU Gun Club and shoot, and I don’t mind telling you that I was pretty darn good.
Sometimes I dream about sitting down under the ground in the traphouse, setting trap in that scary machine, kicking away frogs, in the water, with electrical wires over my head.
The next-to-the-worst job was in an electronics factory one summer, between college semesters. I stuck it out, because my parents’ kids are not quitters, but the tedium pretty much did me in. When I dream about the factory, I’m always exhausted in the morning, not refreshed. I never feared for my life there, although I did once see a woman faint and land on top of her soldering iron. It had melted through her shoulder clear to the bone before anyone realized what was happening. But I knew I was more careful than that. She was careless, we all knew it, and such things happen to careless people. The sissy.
The factory was also where I learned dirty words. And all about dirty people. Wow. And, wow! I did love the factory hours: I worked from 5 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. It was perfect for me.
But as far as worst jobs go, setting trap in the underground hole was the worst. It wasn’t a regular job, as all my other jobs were, but it still wins the “Worst Job Ever” award.
I’m glad I did it, though. I believe that every job we stick with, in spite of everything, makes us stronger and better people. If we whine and pout and throw up our hands and quit, wahh wahh wahh I hate this! we are denying ourselves the feeling of accomplishment and the seldom-found-anywhere-any more- pride we are allowed to feel only when we look back on a good job well done. There is no pride in a good job found boring or hard so I quit.
Besides, nothing ever bit me and I never saw sparks. I am many things, but “coward” is not one of them. (I am more than a little bit backward and often shy around people, but that is not the same thing as ‘cowardly.’) My job was to go down into that dank hole and do the job, so I did. Period.
And since I finished the job, I’m allowed to bitch about it.
P.S. My Dad was one of the best trapshooters in the world. I mean to say, he was FABULOUS. A record-breaker.