That’s an easy question for me. It was working on a construction site during college.
I naively took the job, thinking I’d learn something about carpentry. A friend of mine helped run the job site, and that was his impression too.
But, no. My job, as it turned out, was carrying sheetrock up three flights of stairs at the apartment complex under construction.
Day after day, week after week, I helped tote sheetrock in the blazing Texas sun. I lost count of the number of 100-degree days.
A piece of sheetrock is 4 feet by 8 feet and a half-inch thick. Two pieces are taped together at the factory. To carry them, one guy gets on one end, another on the other end. You grab the sheetrock from the bottom and lean it against your shoulder.
The stuff is heavy – about 100 pounds for two sheets — and it’s hard to balance walking up three flights of stairs and making tight turns. Occasionally, one of us would drop our end, and a corner of the sheetrock would break.
The foreman, a former rodeo cowboy who cussed and spit chewing tobacco, didn’t like that. He also didn’t like us trying to hide in the apartment units and rest, lying on a stack of sheetrock.
“Get your asses up!” the foreman yelled from the parking lot, three flights below.
Here I was, having just finished my freshman year of college in 1978, and I was carrying sheetrock like a mule. I was going to be a writer, dammit! Turns out, none of the grizzled construction workers gave a damn about my education or dreams.
Haul more sheetrock – that was my job. And it was all they cared about.
I thought about this construction job recently, about the same time I left The Dallas Morning News after 27 years as a reporter. Maybe I was doing a mental inventory of all the jobs I’d held over the decades.
Carrying sheetrock was my worst job, but I had some other lousy ones too. I washed dishes and bused tables at a restaurant. I mowed lawns. I threw the newspaper, rising at 5 a.m. seven days a week.
All the jobs, I suppose, taught me something, although I’m not sure what. I will say, however, being a newspaper carrier fueled my interest in journalism and helped dictate my career path.
What was your worst job? I’d like to hear about it. Someone can probably top mine.
Ever watch that show called Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel? Man, those are some nasty jobs. I remember one episode about a guy who disposed of dead farm animals. Another time, the show featured a guy who repaired sewage lines. Talk about a crappy job!
Compared to those miserable jobs, carrying sheetrock would be a magnificent calling.
If you have a job in this miserable economy, be thankful. Sure, you could always have a better job. But you could have a job that’s much, much worse too.