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Illustration by Tina Wallace

A job catas-trophy

Despite phenomenal bosses, great pay, and flexible hours, I have to say that the worst job I ever had was at a trophy assembling shop. Many weekends of my youth were spent in an 8×10-foot room assembling the physical tokens recognizing other people’s achievements.

It wasn’t the monotony of assembling 400 identical house league trophies that got to me, or the wrist pain that comes from punching out the corners on 2,000 Bank of Montreal nametags. What made this job the worst was the way it completely isolated me from the world.

When other kids my age were working at malls and grocery stores interacting with other young people, I was left only with the voices of talk radio. But I shouldn’t complain. I did get fresh air on the much anticipated dumpster visits, in which I would play games tossing pieces of Styrofoam in different ways into the glorified garbage can. I developed quite the fade away.

But what my time at the trophy shop taught me is that no job is so bad that you can’t take something positive from it. It was within those walls that I learned to love the game of baseball, as each afternoon radio broadcast made my eight-hour shift fly by. I became so obsessed with the sport that I would purposely get my tasks from my bosses before the game started.

The job, in a strange way, was also inspiring. I quit the summer of grade 12 to go work at a summer camp, and from that point on vowed that no matter how low the pay was, I would always try to choose jobs I find both enjoyable and challenging. I’d like to think that attitude led me to the Fulcrum, and because of that I don’t regret a minute I spent at the trophy shop. OK, maybe a few of them.

—Jesse Colautti

Operation telecommunication 

I want to preface this anecdote by saying I am willing to put up with a lot of crap at work. I’m talking downright filthy shit here — pun intended. I’ve seen it all, from cleaning up feces at my local Wal-Mart to helping police officers in remove a passed-out cocaine addict from a Quiznos bathroom. These jobs were bad, but nowhere as emotionally draining as working as a tele-surveyor.

I worked for a market research company that pays sweet, easily deceived folks like myself slightly more than minimum wage to anonymously harass Canadians with surveys. Naturally, working in telecommunications is a tough gig as it is, but I was unprepared for the onslaught of profanity and anger from my clients. For my safety, it was recommended that I use an alias. It seemed a little unorthodox, until one man from Vancouver said he was going to “hunt me down, rip out my tongue, and use it as toilet paper.” I quickly adapted and stuck to the pseudonym.

Alas, my time at this lovely work place came to an abrupt end after three weeks of being told by clientele that I was an asshole and that I should kill myself. It got so bad that on my walks home I actually contemplated my own assholery, and began to believe what these strangers were saying to me.

There wasn’t one particular customer that made me realize I didn’t deserve this treatment. I simply just woke up one morning, worked my standard three-hour shift, and handed in my key as I left. There was no way in hell I was going to let strangers convince me that I’m an asshole. I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much.

—Tina Wallace

Scenes from a Thai restaurant

The year was 2010 and it was approaching back-to-school time. I was hunting for my first job before entering Grade 10. I noticed there was a new Thai restaurant opening up down the road in the spot that used to be a different Thai place, which was busted a few years earlier for some drug-related crimes. I decided to drop off a resumé and I soon received a call back. It was the dude that ran the tanning salon next door; apparently he was handling the interviews. I set up a time to meet with the owner at the not-yet-finished establishment. Everything went swimmingly and I walked out that day with my first job as a dishwasher. I was the first person hired and only had to wait a few weeks until the grand opening.

The day finally came, and I walked in to be greeted with confused looks. I came to the realization that they had forgotten they hired me. Just my luck. They sent me home and told me they would call when I was needed. In a week or so, I got a call that I was now a server and needed to come in, so I did. This would be the start of my journey.

Soon I was serving long shifts by myself, reeking of sticky rice, answering stupid questions, and getting way overworked and underpaid. I would typically get a paycheck, a cut of the nightly tips, and some free food until the day I got screamed at for a wrong order. It wasn’t my fault but as a result they decided that I would no longer get planned shifts.

Though it had only been about a week or so, I called in and quit. They understood, but tried to fire me on the phone. Then I determined I was getting shorted on my paychecks and was owed a few hundred bucks. After a brief argument, they finally paid up. It was hands-down the worst job ever, but I still go in from time to time. My pride has never trumped my love of Pad Thai.

—Spencer Murdock