Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Factotums and Odd Jobs

I've worked a lot of odd jobs over the years, usually in between or in addition to the "regular" ones. Worked at a Burger King, for instance; one of the assistant managers there was a doctoral student in Zoology at Duke. I briefly dated the primary manager's daughter -- she worked there, too. It was a circus.

Worked for a week at a carnival. A Gypsy-eyed woman (she was not a Gypsy, but she could have played one in a movie, with her piercing eyes, glittery spangles and long black hair) grabbed me and convinced me to give it a shot. This job was also a circus, figuratively, collecting dollar bills for bottle tosses and stuffed animal contests.

Worked for Manpower doing various temp jobs, putting up giant tents for a British-American festival, and for an Eno River festival; driving small trucks between dealers; moving filing cabinets; moving people's stuff into U-Haul trucks. Mostly grunt work.

Worked for Kelly Services. Supervisors would send our time sheets directly from North Carolina or Pennsylvania to 999 West Big Beaver Road, Troy, Michigan 48084 on Wednesdays or Thursdays and we'd be paid on Fridays. I was always amazed how fast they processed paychecks. Between Kelly and Bettinger, I worked as an office assistant at Family Health International in the Research Triangle for several months, and for the National Park Service in Old Town Philadelphia; for ELF/ATOCHEM; for Pennsylvania Blue Shield; for Wheels, Inc.; for Lippincott (now Lippincott Williams & Wilkins); and for the Curtis Publishing Company.

I've also done very brief gigs like watching a game store that was normally run by Mely Hodges in Durham, North Carolina (above are her detailed instructions -- obviously she was worried I'd bungle it. Ha! And that was before we went on a comical date . . .). Incidentally, Betty Hodges, Mely's mother, was the literary/book editor for The Durham Morning Herald over a period of several decades.

There was temporary coverage for Nga Mai's Café Diva in Center City, Philadelphia (I lived in a small apartment across the street, 12th & Spruce Street, to be exact). The hardest thing was to serve homeless people, balancing compassion with wit.

Of all temp jobs, my favorite was interviewing an Armenian couple and transcribing the resultant tape for one of their sons and the rest of their family. It was through them that I learned a ton about the Armenian Genocide and all sorts of other things, too.

In any case, in today's economy, odd jobs are becoming much more the norm, no question. It's factotum time, maybe from here on out. No worries -- I'm ready for just about anything. How about you?

Finally, how could I forget working for Bob Sheldon at Internationalist Books in Chapel Hill, or delivering pizzas for Pizza Transit Authority?

Today's Rune: Growth.


Charles Gramlich said...

Never worked at a fast food place, but I washed pots and pans at a military base for a few years. weirdest job I ever had was managing chicken houses.

the walking man said...

Strangest job I ever had was the one I worked at longest, working for the City of Detroit. Best job I ever had was road testing Porsche's right off the truck.

Adorably Dead said...

I've always wanted to help out at a fair at one of the little booths. I think it would be fun.

The translator job is just way to neat.

I haven't had any really strange jobs, but the grossest one was when I worked at a laundromat. Along with our usual income we also got 10 percent from any clothes we washed from customers. I swear some of the cleanest looking people would turn out to be pretty crummy. I would wear latex gloves and do a load and by the time I got to folding them they'd be stained yellow. *cringe*

Anonymous said...



jodi said...

Erik was a carnie, Erik was a carnie! Cool beans, dude. I will blog sometime about my various "career choices"-you have inspired me!