Sun readers share their worst job stories

A pickle factory, pest control, getting yelled at in the bathroom? That long commute doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

  • Readers' dirty jobs included working in a pickle factory.
Readers' dirty jobs included working in a pickle factory.
September 01, 2012|By Kit Waskom Pollard, For The Baltimore Sun

Cookouts aside, Labor Day is meant to celebrate the American workforce, and its achievements. But these days, even though people are more thankful than ever for their jobs, there's still room to gripe about the absurd, the mundane and the nearly unbelievable things they've done in exchange for a paycheck.

Whether it's crazy responsibilities or a terrible boss, everyone seems to have a job-related tale of grief and woe.

We invited Sun readers to share stories from their worst jobs. They range from ridiculous to gross. But they have one thing in common: A few years separating the employee from the job makes the work misery seem a lot funnier.

On tomorrow's return to work after the holiday, remember that no matter how tough the commute, things could be worse. These stories prove it.

Identity crisis: "My last boss (at a job selling frozen fish) insisted I go by 'Matt' because there was another 'Steve' in the office. It was a full week before I told my co-workers my real name." (Steve Giblin)

Speed trap: "One summer when I was in college — I think it was 1975 — I worked at a pickle factory for three weeks on the assembly line/conveyor belt. The jars went into a machine that put the spears around the outside edge of the jars, so they looked nice. Then they continued to me (and the other "ladies"). I had to take spears floating in water and put them in the middle of the jars. I had to be careful to have just enough pickles, while the jars stayed on the belt, whizzing by, with only inches from one to the next. It was like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate company. I worked like a madwoman — extra speedy — from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. I'd also get beaned by flying pickle spears from the college boys working the belt behind me. I guess they wanted my attention. Once a huge pickle-hurling fight broke out between several stations. What a hoot." (Karla Little)

Hot topics: "My worst job ever was steaming clothes at a uniform shop — not just because of the burns. Every third day, I had one hour of work that had to be done first thing in the morning. Which got me into work at 4 a.m. and out by 5 a.m. It wasn't even worth the gas to get there." (Heidi Hornyak)

No explanation necessary: "Pest control. Gnarly." (Trevor Colvin)

Driven to distraction: "In college, I drove a cab for three and a half weeks (I worked for one and a half, then put in two weeks notice). I made less than minimum wage and wasn't really cut out for it. I grew up in New York City, so I learned to drive late — when I got the job, I'd just gotten my license and I was 20. I didn't have a car, so I had to get cab rides to the dispatch. And I didn't know where anything was, so I always had to ask for directions. I was a terrible driver. In those three weeks, I got in two accidents (both with fence posts). I actually learned some amazing shortcuts and saw a lot of the town I never knew existed. But I had to quit before they fired me." (Josh Wenderoff)

Them's the breaks: "I once worked for a doctor with a lot of quirks. He was a great doctor and overall it was a good job, but he didn't want his employees to be too comfortable. So our lunch table faced a wall and only had two chairs so we couldn't all sit at once. And it was very common for him to knock repeatedly on the restroom door and yell, 'What's going on in there?' if he thought someone was taking too long." (Missy Hall)

A bad fit: "Selling vacuums door to door — and I had allergies!" (Chris Acosta)

Cut it out: "About 20 years ago, I worked for a pathology department, filing pathology slides. The slides are small, like the ones you get in high school science, to look at under microscopes, but they have smears and biopsies on them — all these organisms. The filing room was filled with cabinets for the slides — and tons of printers that were constantly going off. It was so loud. The filing cabinet drawers were exactly the size of the slides, so there wasn't a whole lot of room. The slides would crack and break and cut my hands. Eventually, I was tired of getting cut — my hands were a mess — so I asked my manager for a pair of gloves. She winged those gloves at me and hit me in the eye! I quit that day."

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