Thursday, March 15, 2012

Most boring job ever

Late last year, in a post called Changing careers, I reeled off a litany of jobs I've held since I was eight years old. Some have been fun, others a grind. Which job falls where on that spectrum isn't necessarily where you'd expect.

For example, I had a great time working for McDonalds when I was in high school. The pay was laughable, even at the time, but we made a sport out of keeping up with the big lunch and dinner rushes: a kitchen-crew relay, grilling burgers, toasting and dressing buns, and assembling sandwiches to feed the hungry hoards. Every couple of months we organized a gathering of our crew's 3am bowling league at the local 24-hour alley: after the closers closed and before the openers were due to clock-in. Fun times.

Wire-wrapping circuit boards in my first post-college job was tedious, but it required close-concentration and manual dexterity, so there wasn't much room to get bored. As the company grew, my responsibilities diversified. Not boring at all.

The most boring job I ever had?

Hands down, I'd say it was a part-time data entry gig for the Alumni Association of a certain university. A friend was managing the data entry crew, and got me hooked up as a favor during a time when I was pretty broke but interested in a flexible schedule. We worked in a ground floor room filled with closely packed desks and terminals that gave access to awkward mainframe computer screens. Through the computer screens we could, awkwardly, update contact information for alumni. This was serious business, of course. We're talking fundraising efforts aimed at a population of hundreds of thousands of former students. Without leads they could actually reach, the fundraisers would have no one to ask for contributions.

The job involved sorting through piles and piles, endless piles, veritable seas of envelopes returned by the post office as undeliverable, or with forwarding-address labels applied. For each of the bazillion pieces of returned mail we were to locate the corresponding database record, and transcribe the information on the envelope: a dead address, a new address, whatever it happened to be. Where there was no new address on the envelope we were meant to consult alternate databases and/or the shelves full of phone books that lined the walls, making every effort to glean enough contact information from somewhere to put the touch on the "lost" alum, one way or another. (Needless to say, this was B.I.E., that is, Before the Internet Era.)

I'd take my place behind my desk, stare at my piles of envelopes, scratch my head over the awkward mainframe computer screen and ... presto! I couldn't keep my eyes open. Literally. Twenty, thirty minutes into a shift I'd start to nod off in front of my blinking yellow cursor.

I felt bad turning my back on the friend who'd gotten me hired, but after a few weeks I gave up and signed on as a Kelly Girl.

What was the most boring job you ever held? How long did you last?


  1. You'd think it would be as a security guard, but that was awesome: I read 90% of the time. I think it was for a few months when I had a temp job logging freight bills. They had to add up right, but the task was so boring that I would make simple, embarrassing mistakes.

  2. @Steven Long -- Any breaches of security while you had your nose in a book? Your description of freight bill reminded me of another boring one in my history, a temporary secretarial gig that was described as a variety of typing, filing, and what not, but ended up being endless alphabetical filing, this paper in that folder, 8 hours a day. When they asked to have me back because I'd done such a wonderful job (hey! he knows the alphabet!) I begged my handler at the Kelly Girl place (or whatever agency it was) to send me anywhere else.

  3. There was once a breach of security: I was working at a cookie factory and had to do rounds a few times a night. Once during my rounds I found a door propped open on the factory floor and reacted as any unarmed, $7.00/hour security guard would: I high-tailed it to my desk in the front lobby, went back to my book, and skipped the rest of the night's rounds. I've done my share of temping work, myself (that's what I was doing with the freight bills). I used to wonder, when I got praised, what the heck they thought I was doing there.