Monday Dare: lessons of a temp of a temp of a temp

Every Monday, I’m picking from the List of Things to Do, Places to Go, Possible Acts that Help and Possible Fun to Have. It’s a list I made before The Project started and I’m still adding to it. If you have suggestions, please, feel free to throw them my way. I’m calling the list my Monday Dares, as I get overwhelmed just looking at the word “challenge” or “goal.”

This week: Think ahead.

Working a series of low-paying jobs taught me some useful skills. I learned how to pretend to give a shit. I learned how to not maim or kill get along with all types of people.

The year before I started dating my husband, I took a job as a gift wrapper to earn extra money for Cal’s birthday. I stood eight hours a day in a downtown warehouse wrapping expensive children’s toys for an online retailer.

Every morning, I made the 50-minute trek to downtown with my boyfriend. Each ride required a certain caution-to-the-wind mentality. The suspension on his car needed attention. The car, as a whole, needed attention. But, with my newfound success in getting this soon-to-be ex-boyfriend to brush his teeth before bed every night, I wasn’t going to press my luck by bringing up the sorry state of our transportation.

He genuinely enjoyed our new morning time commute together. As we inched along the freeway, he opened up about his childhood, his numerous experiences with incarceration and amoral women, and his love and respect for diamond jewelry. Every morning, he dropped me off with a warning to “keep my time card straight.”

A short-term hire, I arrived to replace the temp…of a temp. From what my keen ears gathered as they strained to hear the gossip, the original hire only lasted one day. She declared it was too damn cold in the warehouse and quit. That hire’s replacement only lasted two days. Something about boyfriend drama. Something about a broken car window. I don’t know. Even my ears have their limits.

I especially enjoyed wrapping the last-minute “shit, I forgot it’s my kid’s birthday again gifts. One such order requested six wooden vegetables, priced between $2.50 and $3.00, to be wrapped separately. Since the company charged $5.00 to wrap each item, this forgetful, yet repentant, parent paid $30 in wrapping plus $30 in expedited shipping to send out $16 in gifts.

I’m not judging. I refuse to think ahead on a regular basis. This shit gets uncomfortable, and worse, it leads to some unseemly short-term solutions.

Didn’t shower? Stick a dryer sheet in your underwear. Didn’t pick up the elderly shut-in for his weekly shopping trip? Say you did and stick to your story. Didn’t go grocery shopping? Try to convince your family that string cheese and Bagel Bites qualify as a hearty dinner.

Enough. I’m thinking ahead.
Up next: How working at a dry cleaners taught me to think ahead. 
Y’all had any odd jobs?

photo via

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  • Prima Mama

    Motherhood is one giant odd job.

    But, and I can’t say it qualifies as odd, but the most awkward job I ever had was as a clerk at a video store that had an adult section… and seeing your high school’s ROTC teacher come in, during school hours, WITH HIS UNIFORM & ID ON, to return “Hot Tiju@n@ Males” makes for an uncomfortable experience. It was, however, great fun reading the titles of the new releases every Tuesday. The ones that really bothered me were the ones who would rent something first thing in the morning and then be back in the afternoon for more.

  • Marinka

    A dryer sheet in your underwear?! Take that back right now.

  • Audubon Ron

    All my jobs were odd…and the people there.

  • Kelli

    I worked in a dry cleaner-as the cleaner. It wasn’t pretty. Also, I suck at cleaning. I’ve also been a ‘sandwich artist.’ Maybe not odd, but if you ticked me off, I squished your sandwich right as I was putting it into the bag.

  • MOV

    Worked a lot of jobs, but all were garden-variety. However, I did work at a frozen yogurt place in high school and my (then) boyfriend and I “invented” a special shake they ended up putting on the menu and naming it the “Sweet 16” (the shake was coffee flavored frozen yogurt with Oreos mixed in, I know, so *original* but this was the 80’s, people, so maybe it was original then). Anyway, the store would close at 10PM and the owner was a stickler that you could not break down and clean the milkshake machines until AFTER we were closed (it was time-consuming). Fast forward 8 years and I no longer work there (same owner though). I go in and order the “Sweet 16” shake at about 9:45 PM. The girl has the nerve to say, the shake machines are put away….. oh, no, she *didn’t*. I told her I invented this shake and that I would be happy to call the owner Jane and let her know this breaking news of pre-10 PM clean-up policy. I got my shake (maybe with some spit in it though?).

  • Sue W.

    Best “odd” job, hands down: Knott’s Berry Farm as ride operator in Fiesta Village (Merry-Go-Round, Mexican Hats, Dragon Swing…) when it didn’t belong to Knott’s but to a more lax owner, Hurlbut’s. When I quit, I threw my sash on the ground and walked off. Drama Queen.

  • Miranda Kaye

    Man I feel I totally suck, I haven’t had any odd jobs. An awesome job was working as “security” at a concert venue down in Houston. LOVED it. I got to see my fave bands for FREE.

  • Becky

    Great story. I think that I would actually enjoy wrapping presents. I don’t know about the standing in the warehouse part though.

    My oddest job was answering phones in a medium security prison. Kelly temp services sent me there. It was one of those for-profit jails that counties are outsourcing, and they offered me a job as a guard. No kidding. I turned them down but I still think about the road not taken.


    Worked as: Old Man Assistant, AT&T Rep who put paper in the fax machine for $14 an hour, Nanny, Karate Instructor, Hospital Kitchen Dishwasher, and, my favorite, Bridal Consultant.

    Oh, oh the stories I have from working with Brides.

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    prima- sweet jesus, i would work at a video store FOR FREE if i could see that kind of mess.

    marinka- even if i took it back, sadly, it wouldn’t make it any less true. i’m sorry your pefect image of me is shattered.

    audubon- ron, i really wouldn’t expect anything less from you. OF COURSE all your jobs have been odd. you’re ron!

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    kelli- dry cleaners for you too, ay? must be the first stepping stone for women of greatness.

    sue- seriously, drama queen. =) i love all drama queens. if you can’t quit with flair, it’s a wasted job, i say.

    miranda- consider yourself lucky. funny you should mention the concert thing. every time i pay to see a concert, i always see the event employees and think, “man, i should do that.”

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    becky- standing in a COLD warehouse. good times. good times. man, i’d take a job as a prison guard any day. all of those hoots and hollers and marriage would do wonders for my self esteem.

    noa-personally, i think a bridal consultant position would be the bee’s knees. I like catering to stressed, ungrateful, mean, vicious drama queens. Also, i hate myself. those two things make be related.

  • TheBabyMammaChronicles

    Haha, dryer sheet in underpants! Good one lady! I haven’t had any particularly interesting jobs like those . . . yet anyway, there is still time :)

  • sophie

    I think my oddest job was the first one after babysitting. I answered the phone at the rectory (for those who escaped growing up catholic, the rectory is the part of the church where the priests lived). I watched television between phone calls, memorized the mass schedule, and got really, really irritated when one of the priests came upstairs and changed the channel from “Dallas” to “Masterpiece Theater.”

  • areyoukiddingme

    Most of my jobs have been kind of odd – I worked in Marriage Court (where people go to have civil ceremonies), I worked as an usher for sporting events and concerts, I worked for the federal government moving files around for an entire summer, I worked as security (sort of) for trade shows, where I got my picture taken with Snoopy and Elsie the Cow, and now I’m a forensic scientist. Of course, I’ve also had some normal jobs – I was a supply clerk in a law office, I worked at Wendy’s, and I was a QA analyst for a pharmaceutical company.

    During one of my interviews, they asked me what my coworkers would say about me, and my response was “I’m not sure, but I think they’d have to say that I’m always polite.” So, I’d say, I’ve also learned how to get along with people.

  • Staci

    I don’t know if I’d consider it an odd job but the worst job I had was at the swimming pool as a pool guard/cashier when I was 17. We had to determine someone’s age to know whether to charge them an adult or child admission and then at the end of the day count up each 50 cent or 1.50 admission fee against the tape on the adding machne. Nope–no real register. Pool guard basically meant wash down the tables and bathroom floors and stalls with a giant hose and be sexually harassed by the lifeguards. Oh what fun that was! BTW, I emailed you on 12/30. I resent it again a little while ago.

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    babymamma- remember the dryer sheets when you’ve been studying all day and baby Kaia is teething. you can thank me later. =)

    sophie- like there’s any difference between Dallas and Masterpiece Theater. I guess they just liked the uptight-ness and maybe the accents.

    areyoukiddingme- my husband was once fired from arby’s. that makes you a better person (you weren’t fired from wendy’s, were you?). don’t tell him i told you. you have had the most interesting slew of jobs…ever.

    staci- sometimes, i get sexually harrassed at the bar. you got sexually harrassed at the pool, but they paid you. man, i get jipped left and right, don’t i?

  • Amanda

    Does it count that I’m a nurse? I’ve seen and done some really disgusting things. I’ve put tubes in all kinds of orifices! I’ve put people in all kinds of funky positions. I’ve paralyzed people (temporarily). And I usually don’t vomit!

    And I worked at McDonalds for 4 years before I got out of nursing school. I only saw one hamburger dropped and given to a customer.

  • Jill

    I’ve worked since I was 12 and have had so many random jobs. None too terrible, just random. I worked for a renowned professor in college and he used to pass gas all time in the office and pee all over the toilet seat. Not sure what I learned from that though ;)

  • mommie2lea

    So feeding my daughter microwave popcorn for breakfast because I had nothing but condiments in the house due to lack of grocery shopping can be forgiven?

    I called it a “special breakfast”. Now she asks for it all the time. I really do suck in the planning ahead department sometimes!

  • Debora

    I once worked as a soda jerk in a ’50-style diner. Photographic proof:

  • Sara @ Domestically Challenged

    Yes, I am the queen of bad jobs. At every single job I’ve had? Also been sexually harrassed. nice, huh? I need to brush up on my ninja skills.

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    amanda- it counts as the angel work instead of an odd job if you have to stick things in sick people. mcdonald’s? so jealous. man, i’d work there just to get a free filet o fish. that shit rocks.

    jill- i used to know someone like that. but i was dating him and so it wasn’t like a smart dude with bad eye sight and a bean addiction. the dude i knew was just a loser.

    mommie2lea- we tried to have a “special dinner” tonight, but i couldn’t even scrounge up any condiments. takeout for everyone!

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    debora- i don’t think those boys were coming in for french fries and cokes on your shift.

    sara- i tried to work on my ninja skills once. epic fail. now, i’m thinking about carrying a hot mug of coffee around. hard to harrass with a burned hand.

  • Tracy

    LOL, love your writting.
    I moved out at 16 so I had alot of crappy jobs. One where the boss told me his porsche was in the shop and then asked me who paid my rent. I think he wanted me to spend some extra time on the job, his job that is.
    Ya I quit that evening, lol.

  • RollerScrapper

    When I was temping I worked at the chiropractors office. I was working the front desk. What they didn’t tell you was that part of the quackery included using these electrode things on peoples backs, which required the application of a gel. Part of my job was to remove the electrodes and write the feel off of peoples backs so it didn’t get on their clothes.
    That was probably the oddest, especially because I was not allowed to read between appointments, as that might make me seem unattentive… Never mind that I was touching peoples backs! ew!

  • RollerScrapper

    Sorry, I meant wipe the gel, my auto correct thought I wanted write the feel…lol

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    tracy- sorry to hear about your sucktastic boss. and serious awesomeness for quitting right away.

    roller- my autocorrect called my gf Hanna this morning when I was trying to write HAHA. I hate autocorrect. But, not as much as I would hate wiping gel off of people’s backs. Ewwww….

  • Mrs. Tuna

    I once worked in a deli, had to join the stupid meatpackes union, sliced open my hand on day 5 and drove myself to the hospital. All without fainting until after they stitches. Does that couunt? Thanks for commenting on my post today, love me them comments.

  • Amy

    Why haven’t I been told about the dryer sheet idea before this? Woman, you are genius and will go far!

    Loved this story!

  • Helen

    I have worked in many different jobs but most of them mundane and boring office type jobs. However, the people can get interesting no matter where you work.

    Thanks for stopping by Spike and Dru today to see George. I love the idea of your Project and can’t wait to see it to completion.

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    mrstuna-holy smokes, that is some serious hazards in the workplace. makes me rethink bitching about picking up clothes at the teeny bopper store.

    amy- also works for pets that need a bath. just tie a sheet to the collar.

    helen- true dat. true, true dat.

  • Midwestern Mama Holly

    Ohh I can pretend to give a shit with the best of them. Its a skill I really should add to my resume. :)

  • Tracey – Just Another Mommy Blog

    An odder job than a SAHM to my kids? I can’t think of any…

    Dryer sheet in undies: have to remember that one…

  • Jennifer

    Hmmm… No odd jobs here – but over the years I have worked with some really ODD people!

  • ailinh harris

    jobs are always odd, especially being an asian girl i think. i once worked as a nurse’s assistant wiping booties and charting behaviors. oddest moment about that job? saving an old man who somehow managed to sit on his saggy balls on the toilet.

  • Kelly @ City Mom

    I worked in a chip wagon. I had to cut the potatoes each morning and blanche them, then as people came to order I had to fry,bbq and prepare really bad food.

    I guess it’s not the oddest job in the world but when I look back on it I can’t believe I did it.

  • Karen

    I was once a car hop on roller skates. You don’t know me I realize, but you might as well have put those things onto an ostrich…the bird would’ve stayed upright for longer stretches, and not flung so much food around. Oh and the name of the place…The XXX Hamburger Stand…and no, we weren’t hoochie mamas!

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    mamaholly- i should put it on my resume too. then, id two things on there. 1. im good at yelling at small children 2. im good at pretending to give a shit

    tracey-dryer sheets. just another way to say “i love you. i want to smell nice for you.”

    jennifer-i hear ya. anyone who worked the jobs i did would have to be odd.

  • Elizabeth – Flourish in Progress

    ailinh-yes. i am a korean. i worked at a dry cleaners. nuff said. =) if ever anyone needed to hear about how one person’s job made a difference, i need to tell them your saggy balls story.

    kelly- priceless. just priceless. but also, slightly jealous that you know know how to blanche.

    karen- i will pay one fajillion dollars if you have pictures that i could take a peek at. i bet you were hot stuff in those skates, flying food and all. =)

  • Wendi

    I was a gift wrapper at Macy’s for one day, but they had to not charge for my services because my wrapping “mad people sad.”

    Great writing.

  • Mary Sue

    My series of bottom-of-the-totem-pole jobs has also taught me that you don’t have to be a genius to figure out how to replace the toner cartridge, ship a package, or open a file on your computer. Spend five minutes and figure it out instead of asking the youngest person in your office. Then, next time you won’t be in this mess, will you? Oh, I ranted… didn’t I?

    Let me know how thinking ahead works!

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    Wendi-omg. this cracked me up. also, i suddenly want to challenge you to a wrap off.

    mary sue- this thinking ahead business has been an epic fail. please let me know if YOU figure it out.


    I swear, I was JUST telling my friends the other day that I couldn’t imagine a more horrible job. If there was a disease called Giftwrapophobia, I would have it.

    But to be forced to commute with a halitosis-inclined boyfriend and listen to him talk about such thought-provoking self-involved shit first thing in the morning? You just went from being my twin sister to being my Dalai Lama.

  • Karen@OneStrangeChick

    Elizabeth, this thing is awful. Go and get yourself off it! There’s a site called that’s a new online USA phone book w/personal information: pics you’ve posted on FB or web, your approx. credit score, address, home value, income, & age. Remove yourself by searching for your name, copy the URL of your page, then go to the bottom right corner of the page and click on the Privacy button to remove yourself.

  • Kernut the Blond

    Sadly, I’ve had many low-paying service-oriented jobs, but not one has taught me to be tolerant, or given me the ability to pretend to give a shit. I do think ahead, but probably waaaay too much.

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    justmakingconvo- becky, i will be your dalai lama any day. does the dalai lama drink martinis? just figuring out what i have to give up here.

    karen- thanks for the info. i took myself off of their list and im asking my husband to do the same

    kernut- actually, i was giving myself too much credit when i said i learned tolerance. yeah, that one was pretty much a lie.

  • Elle Case

    I was bored in the late 20thc and so took a job as a stripper for a while. Talk about cultural anthropology. It was fun, like a pajama party every night. Or at summer camp, when the boys come across the lake + panty raid. Fun.

  • Elizabeth-Flourish in Progress

    elle- i will give you a dollar to tell me a good stripper story.