Bad Jobs


The other day I was in the local grocery store. They have one of those wine kiosks where they sell Ontario wines — one of the quirks of the liquor business in Ontario. Anyway, they often have little wine tasting stands to entice the harried grocery shoppers. I haven’t succumbed yet though there are days I can’t wait to get home and start a tasting of my own.

Still, it’s a nice touch and they usually have a smiling young man or, more often, woman staffing the booth providing the come-on. Not a bad gig you might think.

But this store is in the heart of the city and not everyone who wanders in is a well-watered matron looking for sushi. This day, a very large, very drunk man swayed through the doors (did I mention it was 10:30 a.m.) and staggered over to the wine tasting station. When I say staggered I am not exaggerating. He could barely keep his feet. The manager — an older, larger gentlemen— immediately disappeared. Gone looking for security, I guess. He left a very small, very young woman to deal with the situation.

The funny thing was, the drunk was hyper polite as drunks often are when they are about to take the drink that puts them under. He just stood there waiting for the woman to invite him to taste a nice Niagara pinot gris. She wouldn’t meet his eyes. I left before the drama resolved but it made me think of the things we are often asked to do for very little money.

Some things are unpleasant — like drunk customer service. Some things are downright dangerous. There are lots of jobs that don’t pay particularly well that are very unsafe, like bike courier. Others are fairly unsafe (like firefighter) but at least people get reasonable compensated for it.

Some jobs are morally unpleasant. I’ve had a few of those — briefly. I remember, during my artist days when you were always looking for part time work to supplement the craft, taking a job to sign up people for credit cards. These were not high end brand name credit cards with air line points attached sold to customers in Sachs Fifth Avenue. No, these were store credit cards sold in the low end establishments where anyone can get credit if they are willing to buy cheap goods and pay 29% interest rates. They try to entice poor people to go into debt. Why? Because poor people often are desperate and, believe it or not, are no more likely to default than rich people.

I lasted a day. I can still see the face of the manager when I told her I was quitting because I found the whole thing morally repugnant. She’d never heard that one before. I think she felt insulted.

That was the worst job I ever had that didn’t involve telephones or shovels. But those are stories for another day.

Because that’s ten minutes.


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