It occurred to me as I was sitting on a tour bus last week watching the Peruvian countryside flash past; I’m currently in the longest stretch of joblessness I’ve had since I my first job at 14.
My last day of work was April 22, which means I’ve almost reached exactly 6 months of ‘funemployment’. After 12 years of working consistently that’s quite a break.
This prompted me to look back over some of the more bizarre jobs I’ve held since I was a young teen.
The slave wage paper round
My first paid employment was delivering junk mail. It was miserable. On a Tuesday afternoon mum would take me to the junk mail Queen’s house to pick up bundles of catalogues for stuff no one wanted or needed. I would then spend the rest of Tuesday evening sorting the catalogues into manageable bundles to put in a granny cart, which really put a dent in my Better Homes and Gardens viewing.
On Wednesday after school I had the pleasure of dragging the heavy cart around our neighbourhood shoving junk mail in peoples’ letterboxes. I was paid per catalogue. The most I ever made in one week was $20, for about 6 hours work.
I wish I could say I learnt some kind of valuable lesson about money and hard work, but all I learnt was that I hated it and it was stupid and once I skipped an entire street and just dumped all the catalogues in our recycling bin.
Once I was the requisite 14 years and 9 months old (the bizarre age you must be to get a ‘real’ job in Australia) I quit the paper round and took over my sister’s old job at the local Thai/Vietnamese restaurant where I made $8 an hour. I felt like a high roller.
The geriatric photographer
In the summer between high school and university a family friend gave me a job at a very small pharmaceutical company doing mundane admin jobs like stuffing envelopes.
Eventually I was trusted with more serious work and they sent me, armed with a crappy digital camera, to nursing homes to take photos of all the residents. The photos were used alongside the names on medication boxes in the hopes that the right pills would be given to the right person.
There are few places sadder on this planet than aged care facilities. It’s hard enough going to visit your own relative. Now imagine you have to go into every single room and visit every single person, whether they want to see you or not.
I actually preferred the slightly grumpy residents. It was the lovely elderly people whose faces lit up when I walked in, suggesting their visitors were few and far between, that broke my heart.
I saw beautifully decorated rooms with photos and flowers. I saw stark empty rooms that smelt terrible.
I started to think my parents must have secretly organised my unique photography job in order to ensure I never shove them into a home. Well it worked.
The beauty pageant judge
This was a one off volunteer position I did with a very close friend of mine. I still have no idea what our perceived qualifications for this role were but we were asked to judge a beauty pageant. Thinking it would be like a hilarious episode of Toddlers and Tiaras we went along. How wrong we were.
The youngest contestants were in nappies and the oldest were just a couple of years younger than me at the time. The youngest category was the easiest, because there were only three contestants, so each of them got a tiara they could barely keep atop their infantile heads.
After that it became gut wrenching, having to rank children on appearance, public speaking and confidence in front of their earnest little faces. We spent far too long deliberating and tried to spread out the side prizes (best smile, best dressed etc) as far and wide as we could. But at the end of the day, I walked away feeling like a terrible, terrible person. Not to mention a bad feminist. We were offered the job again a year later but were ‘out of town’. Never again.
I want to know, what’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?