The Boringest Bits

In health news, uncle Robber is feeling a little better today, so it looks (fingers crossed) as if he might finally be on the mend.

In other news, I read the news, and I felt so disheartened by it, I have decided to ignore it in favour of this article on Some of the World’s Most Boring Jobs that my friend sent me today. She sent me the link via an e-mail with the title: ‘I think we’ve done most of these between us.’

She is indeed, right. Or jobs that are scarily similar. I even have a friend who did the filling pork pie cases with jelly job that is actually featured in the article. He did it one summer while we were at university, and became a vegetarian shortly thereafter. He said the job gave him actual nightmares.

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don’t.

I did hope, after university, that I would be visited by some lightning flash of inspiration that would show me the way into a shining new career. This did not happen. Instead, after being unemployed for several months, the Job Centre allowed me to go on a course where I learned to touch type, work a computer and do double entry book keeping. Then I was forced by a competent friend to sign up to several temping agencies and find my way in the world of jobs.

At this point I thought that if I did enough temp jobs, I would finally find a job which would give me that lightning flash of inspiration.

I didn’t.

Instead I just went through my years of employment, hopping from one weirdly boring job to another. The longest I was ever gainfully employed was just over a year. It turns out that I am one of the world’s worst employees. It’s not that I can’t do the jobs. It’s that I get bored, and then I get creative. Then I generally leave before I get fired.

Here is a selection of some of the worst jobs I’ve ever had.

Writing begging letters to the families of rich corpses who had left large sums of money to ‘charity’ in their wills. This was for one of the big London museums.  I had to be sympathetic and yet grasping. Not an easy task.

Working for a pharmaceutical company doing 18 months of back filing in a month. They took me and two other people into a room stacked to the ceiling with paperwork. It was like Rumpelstiltskin’s spinning straw into gold moment. We did the job. In later jobs I did stuff like this and watched my peers stuff papers down the radiators and into the back of filing cabinets to get rid of them. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this.

Harvesting thistles for a biology department project in Bavaria. The leaves had to be measured and cooked. The smell was terrible and I developed an allergy to the latex gloves.

Being an audio typist/telephonist/receptionist at a solicitors in Highgate, London. It’s very hard to hear with audio headphones on, and quite often I would answer the phone with a line from the tape I was listening to, or type a line from a caller into a will.

Working for a company who made diabetic implant rods for a pharmaceutical company. Their admin system was byzantine and used DOS when everyone else was using windows. It took me three hours to figure out how to type a document about wearing beard nets on the factory floor and I quit in tears at lunch time from a payphone at a nearby McDonalds.

Being sent to do an urgent job creating powerpoint slides for a conference on bowel cancer, despite having no experience on powerpoint at that stage and not even being able to turn on the computer because it was a Mac and I’d never used one before. Being used to being sent to do jobs I was not qualified for, I thought I could wing it, until I had to confess I didn’t know how to turn the Mac on. I sat and drank tea for eight hours until the one bus home arrived. Surprisingly, they didn’t want me back the following day.

Working in a clothes shop as a ‘bouncer’ on the changing room floor. My job was to stop the tough girls in the neighbourhood stealing jeans, which they did by wearing very baggy jeans into the shop, taking a pair of jeans into the changing room, and coming out wearing two pairs of jeans. They were all hard as nails and I was a wimp. I never stopped a single pair being stolen. In this job I also broke the till, and managed to nearly sever my finger with one of the label guns. Fun times. I got paid £10 for 8 hours work, during which time I was not allowed to sit down, as I had to be on constant jean alert.

Working at a ‘communications office’ for a well known high street bank. The  communications office was a boiling hot loft space above the bank proper in which me and a death metal fan sat and worked the switchboard for the whole bank network. The machine was about forty years old and all the labels had fallen off the switches. There were two pairs of Walkman headphones to ‘listen in’ to calls. One of them was broken. I got the broken set. The phones never stopped ringing so the Death Metal guy had no time to teach me what to do. By tea break I was in tears. As I left he patted my shoulder consolingly and said he was impressed I’d lasted that long. I didn’t go back.

Putting out tenders for potted plants and stab vests for the police force. I confess that in this job I stole two toilet rolls and mailed them to my boyfriend who never had toilet roll in his flat. I forged a letter from the Chief Constable to accompany them. One day I will no doubt go to jail for this, or at the very least be exposed in the Daily Mail. You heard it here first.

There are so many others, but I have to go and do real life now.

Tell me about your worst/most boring jobs.



31 responses to “The Boringest Bits

  1. Oh I went straight from taking my A levels to working in a Sainsbury’s staff canteen. Seriously. I could not believe a] the crudity of my middle-aged women co-workers to my naive 18-year-old-mind [this was 1975], b] the mind-numbing boredom of wiping tables and washing up all day long, c] the sheer relief of just walking away and finding another job to fill the year before I was due to start Uni. Unfortunately, sitting at a desk and sorting files and writing down lists of numbers and working out sums was my next job and just as boring – no computers, see?
    I now have a job I love, and I didn’t start trainng for it till I was in my 40’s, so chin up, your ship may not have sailed yet….

  2. One summer I worked in a butcher shop. My job was to wash the dried blood off of the walk in cooler walls. Also make hamburger in a grinding machine. It was mostly fat trimmed off of cuts of beef. I stopped eating hamburgers for a while. I also sliced cold cuts for customers. I was always afraid of slicing the tip of my finger off. I ate a lot of free cold cuts. The corned beef was really good.

  3. I was lucky to not have to do many unpleasent jobs. The worst was maybe a summer job in a metal processing plant where i had to feed washers into a giant grinding machine the size of a truck and loud as hell.
    That was only physicaly unpleasent though, the repetetive work was otherwise relaxing. Very different to some of the encounters i later had as an IT service technician. It is unbelievable what people expect you to be able to do. They get raving mad if you can’t pull a hat out of the rabbit.
    Best wishes to your brother.

  4. I was one of those hated people who stop folk in the street and try to get bank details for charities. I left after an old man stabbed my colleague with an umbrella.

    Most folk would find my current job boring but I love it. I do site security and sit, alone, in a portacabin in a field all night. 14 hour shifts. It’s great, I read and write a lot, surf the net, stuff like that.

  5. I proof-read the Taunton area postcode directory. Twice, for two editions. The overtime pay was good, though.

  6. Most boring job? The one I’m in today! Sitting in front of a PC checking numbers and datas, knowing that after that someone will check them again anyway.

  7. Shelagh in Vermont

    Laughed myself silly, Katie! Looking back over 65 years of working jobs, the only one I found totally boring was being stuck in solitude in the tiny office of “Manager” who was never there, and never gave me anything to do at all. I lasted three months and nearly lost all my shorthand & typing skills.

  8. I thought you’d written ‘Putting out tendrils for potted plants’ so I guess proof reading would not be a worthwhile occupation for me. Good news about Uncle Robber and such a relief for you all.

  9. So sorry to read about your brother but glad he seems to be on the road to recovery now. It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer and deal with the frustration of being unable to help. I spent a fair bit of time in and out of hospitals in the 80’s and early 90’s and it’s depressing to hear that they are as overstretched and under resourced as ever. My parents paid for some of my consultations and treatment out of desperation, for which I am eternally grateful, but that is no help for those who simply can not afford private healthcare. This government is trying to dismantle the NHS by stealth and Madam May’s protestations about a fairer society do not seem to have changed anything.
    Boring jobs, I’ve had a few….You would have to go a long way to beat the one counting traffic. Sitting on a windswept roundabout in Kent with a clicker (I believe that was it’s official name) for hours on end and noting down separately any heavy goods vehicles. Why I didn’t just go to the pub and frantically click for half an hour, God only knows. I obviously wasn’t rebellious enough and had some ridiculous idea that if you were being paid to do something you were morally obliged to do it, a bourgeois ideology that has dogged me all my life.
    I also worked, very briefly, for an employment agency. I passed the training course with flying colours, answering such tricky questions as ‘do you see this job as social work?’ with the contempt they deserved (this was the 80s – even social workers were discouraged from regarding their jobs in this unbusinesslike light). Typically you spent the morning ringing all the companies on the books to find out if they had any vacancies and the afternoons calling the people registered as looking for work. It swiftly became apparent that this firm specialised in trying to force square pegs into round holes and would have sent Dracula for an interview at a blood bank. After days of abuse from personnel departments, complaining about wildly unsuitable interviewees, and enraged individuals, demanding we reimburse their travel costs for attending interviews they hadn’t a hope in hell of getting, then being bollocked by my supervisor because we had to meet our targets, I reached crisis point. One morning I got off the tube at St Paul’s and spent an hour in the cathedral, then with Zen like calm found a call box and told them that I would not be coming into work that day, or any other day….

  10. Carefully ripping off the cover of cheap women’s magazines without tearing the inner pages, so they could eventually be sold again with a new cover. Seriously. I lasted one day.

  11. I once had a job putting phone books in bags. Every day, you had to sort 3 different types of books. 3 books to a bag. And in the afternoon you had to deliver the bags to a specific area in the city, and leave one bag for each house. Apartment buildings were a nightmare. And I’ve never had so many papercuts!

  12. My very first job after leaving school was in a very well known bacon factory – my job was to sit on a stool at a moving line of sliced bacon, while watching out for any badly shaped slices or, worst of all, any sign of cysts. The movement of the line made me seriously seasick and, at the first sign of a cyst, I promptly threw up!
    They transferred me to the canteen in the afternoon, which was a whole other story – and I wouldn’t eat bacon for many years afterwards 🙂

  13. Actually, my mind refuses to accommodate memories of boring hours as a shop assistant or office worker. I still remember my days on the Christmas Post with a rosy glow of satisfaction though- why can’t students still profit from this particular rite of passage? I was indoors, ‘facing’ letters the right way up, stamp to the top right, hour after hour after hour. It was great. Patronised, but in a nice way, by long-serving postmen, propositioned by reasonably handsome fellow-students, noise, bustle, teabreaks with the most astonishingly strong tea I’ve ever seen before or since – I’ve always felt I should have gone straight into the postal service, rather than muddling along rather like you, and in my case taking about thirty more years to discover what I really wanted to do when I grew up.

  14. I do love reading your blog – you have an uncanny knack of articulating what I often think but do not have the eloquence to express! My most unusual job was putting used nappies in a bomb calorimeter to calculate the energy value of poop. It was part of a study on energy balance and not as bad as it sounds, honest…

  15. i think my current job is the most boring job i’ve ever had — and that includes the time i spent at the “Bank Note” counting gas rationing coupons that never wound up being used. after years of being good at my legal work job(s) where i drafted documents, interviewed clients, and did real legal work…i am reduced to being a nanny to the attorneys i work with, making endless plane and travel reservation, which are cancelled or postponed, making sure they give me their receipts and nagging them to put in their time. and now, to add to my misery, we are cut off from our personal emails because all of a sudden the clients are worried we’ll send secure information to our home emails (i blame hilary clinton) as if our day isn’t boring enough, but we must re-read the 100 points listed in a securities trade agreement when we’re preparing for bed, instead of that simple cozy little mystery with the pretty hot sex scene we’d otherwise be forced to finish. my brain is wilting away..

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