My good pal Kate recently wrote about some of the weird and wonderful jobs she’s had and it’s inspired me to share some of mine. I worked part time throughout the later part of high-school and university (and beyond!) and while the jobs themselves were for the most part pretty normal, I still have a lot of “interesting” stories.
1. Body Shop sales clerk.
I worked at three different Body Shop locations throughout university, but the one that made for the best stories was the Toronto Eaton Center location. Our store was located on the bottom floor of the Eaton Center — a busy, sprawling downtown mall, dubbed by many “Toronto’s armpit.” Smack dab in the middle of downtown and next to multiple subway stops, when it came to people watching at my former job, there was rarely a dull moment. A few of the highlights:
- The store had a large makeup section with lots of mirrors. On a Friday or Saturday evening, it wasn’t uncommon to see people come in and do their entire face. After seeing what people do to makeup testers I will never, ever use them — not even on my hand, if I can help it. Shudder.
- The store also had a large sink intended for sampling shower gels and soaps. One day a man came in, filled the sink, dunked his head in the water and proceeded to wash his very long, filthy hair. Then, instead of toweling dry, he stood up and shook his head like a dog, spraying water everywhere before casually sauntering out of the store.
- Maybe it was the ubiquitous smell of fruity soap or the fumes wafting in from the food court, but something about being inside The Body Shop compelled customers to tell you all about their bodies. From bikini waxing mishaps, venereal disease symptoms to a man who needed something for what he called his “XXX parts” (very itchy recently shaved balls), I saw and heard things that can never been unseen/heard.
2. The sketchy designer jeans store.
My first job when I moved to Toronto was working at a store that sold Diesel Jeans (and other brands du jour) on Yonge Street. The store was called Soul and when I saw the help wanted sign, the wide-eyed eighteen year old me thought it was destiny (I mean, I love Soul music. So, what could go wrong?) In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the whole operation was a drug front. We rarely had any customers and every two weeks they’d pay me with cash out of the till. I didn’t mind because they gave me a sweet discount on a pair of Parasuco sparkly denim flares (the jeans had a shimmery silver sheen that made them sparkle in the sun. Like glitter. Oh dear.) In my defense, they made my ass look amazing.
3. Ghostwriting erotic fiction.
When I first started freelancing, I scored a gig creating content for an SEO company that specialized in the adult industry. For several months I wrote a series of “real life” blog posts as “Ginger,” a law student turned cam-girl with a penchant for sex in public places. It was fun & hilarious & weird (and I would totally do it again). FYI, SEO strategy is infinitely more interesting when your keywords are things like “ass cheeks,” “rim job” and “money shot.”
4. The Hungarian deli.
For a very brief period in 2003, I decided to embrace my Eastern European roots and apply for a job at the Hungarian deli near my house in Toronto. The manager looked like a Slavic stereotype straight out of central casting. Olga wore a white butcher’s coat, a hair-net and a grim expression that made her seem utterly terrifying. Even more terrifying: learning to operate the meat slicer. I was too tentative, which lead to a lot of thickly sliced Tziganskaya (which even I know is a total abomination). I never got called for a second shift.
5. Candy Girl.
My first real job in high school was working at a movie theater downtown. I was initially hired to work at the concession stand. However, I never quite mastered scooping popcorn (notice a pattern here?) so, I was promptly moved over to the bulk candy station. The owner — an older, red-faced man that had a voice that sounded like he’d swallowed a bucket of gravel and washed it down with a whisky chaser – had a mental block when it came to remembering my name so he just called me “Candy Girl.” He told me, “I hired you because you put on your resume that you know how to use a computer.” So, when things weren’t busy, Old Gravel Mouth would bring me up to his office where he’d dictate emails. They were always addressed to a woman named Tammy, who wasn’t his wife.
6. Flight Attendant.
So, yeah. That happened. After graduating university, I thought it would be really cool to get paid to travel. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t (at least for me). I spent two months in an aggressive training program learning all about airplane safety, watching videos of airplane crashes, and doing simulated crash drills that always took place at 4am in empty airplane hangers. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly help with my then un-diagnosed anxiety disorder. I did one flight before turning in my resignation. However, if you need help dragging a body from a burning wreckage (we practiced!) or zip-tying an unruly passenger to their seat, I’m your gal.
7. Coat check.
In third year university, I spent a winter working at the coat check for a high-end night club/cigar lounge. Oddly enough, this is one of the best jobs I ever had. I made an hourly wage, plus tips (usually about $100-$200 a night). The clientele was a lot of pro sports players, C-list celebs and other high-roller types. The money was good and the people watching didn’t disappoint. Annnnd, at the end of the night they’d give us free sandwiches. I’d always leave work with cash in my wallet and a handful of sandwiches stuffed in my purse, that I’d eat for lunch & dinner the next day. Because, #studentlife.
8. Peddler of fancy old lady clothes.
Home for the summer after second year university and desperate for a job, I spent a few months working at a boutique that sold high-end designer clothes. From ten seasons ago. The clothes were brand new, they had just been in the store forever. The rest of the stock looked like it was pulled from the wardrobe department of The Golden Girls. My manager reminded me of Kris Jenner, only more evil and with a raging cocaine habit. She would frequently yell at me because she didn’t think I was selling enough. (IT’S NOT MY FAULT THAT I CAN’T MOVE THIS PAIR OF SUN-FADED SHOP WORN YELLOW VERSACE JEANS, SUSAN.)
9. Managing a Co-Op residence.
This is by far the worst job I ever had. You can read about it here. And yes, I still have nightmares about the van and the never-ending demand for toilet paper.
10. This job.
Being a freelance writer that mostly writes about sex and relationships is weird & wonderful & I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get to interview porn stars, travel to nude resorts and share my feelings with the internet, all in the name of work. I like to think that all of these other jobs in some way prepared me for what I do now, which often involves writing and speaking about things that make other people feel uncomfortable. “Itchy balls” guys of the world, I solute you.
What’s the strangest or most memorable job you’ve had?