August 1, 2016

"My sister had a summer job on a farm in France throwing small amounts of earth on to trays of organic potatoes destined for the supermarket..."

"... presumably in order to make them look more 'organic.'"

BBC collects descriptions of the most boring jobs... and the jobs are interestingly boring, but I was surprised that they all involve repetitive physical motions. When I think of boring jobs, I think of jobs that draw on the mind.

64 comments:

Sebastian said...

"When I think of boring jobs, I think of jobs that draw on the mind." Zen teacher? Phil Glass performer? WNBA announcer? Or, God forbid, Constitutional law professor?

PBandJ_LeDouanier said...

"When I think of boring jobs, I think of jobs that draw on the mind."

Duh.

You're a lawyer w/ a blog focused on avoiding the uninteresting.

rcocean said...

Dullest job has to be a repetitive detailed mental task that just takes just enough effort to keep you from thinking about anything else without being of any interest.

Adding up columns of numbers or proofreading comes to mind.

rcocean said...

Physical labor isn't really "dull" but can be very hard. Ever had to pull weeds when its 42 degrees and raining?

That's work.

wildswan said...

At Christmas if you work in retail you have to listen to one same CD of Xmas music from Thanksgiving until Christmas six, eight, ten hours a day in the store. They could have more than one but they don't. You can't bring your own CD for a change because your Xmas music might mention the J word or in some way cause a lawsuit. I can't describe how bad it used to become but nothing else - crowds, rush, noise, fatigue, nothing - even approached hearing "Silver Bells" remorselessly starting up - again and again ... and again and again and again ... and again. And tomorrow - again and again and again. Each time exactly the same. And again. And again. Exactly the same

Howard said...

Boring logs are the worst. Messed up boring logs caused New Orleans to flood after Katrina. No doubt the geo was bored out of his mind.

traditionalguy said...

Assembly lines are stressful, noisy and demanding of attention. But getting paid so you can marry a woman and raise kids always made them seem worth while and the worker seem worthy in his own eyes too.

Bring in the Robots.

YoungHegelian said...

One misbegotten summer job in college, I worked at an aluminum/copper tubing factory in northern Alabama.

The foreman liked me, because he could give me an explanation of how to process the tubing through a specific type of shaping machine & I could do fairly good work in a short time.

But there was one machine, the twister, that took a long "star" shaped aluminum rod & twisted it so that it could be used inside a copper cooling tube (see here, the tube on the right. well, they showed me how to do the twister, which had a trick: you had to twist it six times, & when you twisted it just right, you could look down the tube with your eyes about six inches above it, and it would gleam just exactly so.

Me & this other college student were put on the twister for that shift. And the next night. And the next. I asked the foreman "Why are you putting me on the twister every night?" "Son, because when you do it the rejection rate is one out of ten, & when the other guys do it, it's 50%"

I got to know the twister very well that summer.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Is it the repetition? Or the feeling that the product being produced is not worthwhile?

Anglelyne said...

wildswan: At Christmas if you work in retail you have to listen to one same CD of Xmas music from Thanksgiving until Christmas six, eight, ten hours a day in the store. They could have more than one but they don't. You can't bring your own CD for a change because your Xmas music might mention the J word or in some way cause a lawsuit. I can't describe how bad it used to become...

Dear God, that's torture. I can't even stand most retail stores as a customer, any time of the year, because of the viciously bad music they insist on playing, at ever louder volume, with the same no-talent caterwaulers in constant rotation, everywhere. (Has the same effect on me as would a sign at the door saying "fuck off, we don't want your money". Fine, my wallet and I will fuck off then.)

I've never been in those places without thinking "This has to have a very negative effect on the mental health of these poor employees. How do they stand it?" Cruel and unusual...But shitty Christmas music? That's a whole new level of sadism.

rcocean said...

Young H - just to riff off your comment. In shop class I had to weld something together. (BTW, does anyone take "Shop class" in the 21st Century?)

I welded it together, and was told it was done wrong.

I did it again and was told it was wrong.

I did it again and told it was right.

Even though I couldn't tell the difference.

I gave my me more respect for Rosie the riveter.

MikeD said...

Jobs are what you make of them; if you're a summer only employee there's no incentive to exceed! Back in the mid-60's I had to leave college for financial reasons (rent & food)& took a job w/a national grocery chain. Said job was in-store inventory, also known as counting cans ($105 a week hourly). Eight years later I was the accounting manager for the $800MM sales per year D.C. division ($48K a year).
BTW, most manual labor jobs have a certain degree of danger associated with them (from working logging/lumber mills & and a cement plant you'll stay alert), which explains feminists avoiding said jobs & why males die on the job way outta proportion to the workforce. Disparate impact on survivability, where's Lynch & DoJ?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

wildswan,

Amen to that. I never suffered through that particular Hell, but I did work the music/video desk at the Emeryville Borders (of not-so-beloved memory). There was a big video screen up opposite the registers, and on it were played exactly two movies: Mars Attacks! and whatever the latest Bond film was then. I saw both dozens of times. (And I do mean "saw," because the relentless music -- mostly R&B/hip-hop at that location -- drowned out the soundtrack completely.)

buwaya puti said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNtP413g2lE

Planting rice - really, you don't want this.

William said...

I worked as a picker in a ribbon factory. The job consisted of taking small boxes off various shelves and then putting the assembled boxes in a larger box. I liked the job. The dullness and simplicity were part of the appeal. I could pretend to be hard working and competent without exerting too much effort.

MikeD said...

Before I get flamed, sorry for the punctuation errors in post! I've placed myself in the VR pillory!

buwaya puti said...

A little more - graphic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TgQ0aagls

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Angelyne, somewhat OT, but your comment on "ever louder volume" brought it to mind: Is anyone else alarmed by the volume of movie theater sound these days? I mean, to kids reared on rock and the like it might be fine, but I'm no kid and my music is classical (granted, it does get loud too). My husband and I just took a small road trip, during which we caught the latest Jason Bourne movie. I won't talk plot, except to complain that the constant blurred, rapidly shifting camera effects took up at least a third of the time. But, oh God, the sound. My ears were ringing hours afterwards.

rcocean said...

For some reason picking fruit and mowing grass wasn't boring. Nor was delivering stuff.

In fact, if you'd paid me enough money I probably could've spend my life as a delivery man. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, even though it was an incredibly minor one.

One day I was taken off delivery and put to work on a machine that copied reams of papers that had to be then put into a box - now that was intolerable.

Freeman Hunt said...

I had a summer job once that consisted of taking a list of towns, finding them on maps, and marking them with dots.

PB said...

Once you've got the repetition down, it actually frees your mind. Kind of like a long drive on the highway.

Quaestor said...

People who are stupid enough to buy "organic" produce are certainly stupid enough to be fooled by dirty potatoes. My guess is that girl's wages were well spent by the farmer who employed her.

Tari said...

Michelle, I bring earplugs to movies, when we bother to go (once or twice a year, usually). It's painful otherwise!

Quaestor said...

"Organic" whatever is a modern faerie tale, complete with magic, wizards, heroes, villains, and damsels distress. It's entirely within the minds of its willing victims who spend twice what they should for food, primarily for the virtue signals such purchases send to other idiots. In mindless praise of organic this-n-that the foodies have invented categories and qualities like "wholeness" and "natural", which they themselves cannot define. Watch Penn & Teller expose their foolishness.

Rt1 Rebel said...

@ rcocean: My 33 year career in the chemical manufacturing industry ended a few months ago with a RIF. The work was very high paced, strategic, with lots of moving parts and fires to put out. I've had time to think about it, and decided that I don't need to make as much, and don't want to do as much for the rest of my life either.

I'm doing my best to land a job with the USPS as a postal carrier, it sounds perfect for me.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

...said someone who obviously never had a physically repetitive job.

My main job-- standup-- challenges my mind... Is boring only in short spurts, and can be revived into a gig that is exhilarating when I'm ready for that.

I had a recent eight-week gig that was not standup-related but drew on some of my skills acquired via standup. Looking back, the best part was where I had to solve problems.

Problem-solving bathes the brain in good chemicals. If we can look at whatever we do in terms of problem-solving, we can avoid boredom.

Dad said...

Quaestor, recent milk prices:
1/2 gallon organic in NYC, $5.99
1 gallon "non-organic" at my local upstate walmart, $1.69

It's expensive to be a smart sophisticated urbanite.

chrisnavin.com said...

I washed trucks for a summer for a company with its own fleet.

-Driver so drunk he stumbled out of the cab. We got the manager. Fired on the spot.

-Old Herman with his own gospel tapes and he'd get out and help you wash and ask you questions about yourself and your future. A genuinely gracious man.

-'Running Man' who loved strippers and told very colorful stories but in a very cool way to a 19 yr old. He also asked you questions about you and 'how you livin' and he'd actually listen. Jesus Christ, those stories!

Physically draining. Good people. Hard job.

walter said...

No McDonalds refernces?

traditionalguy said...

The Oregon sweet pea canneries were a many splendored summer job. Let me count the ways:

Boxer at the end of the line

Cook at the retort controls.

Brine man in the Brine room.

Can man at the can receiving and loading machine.

Vine Station fork man.

Driver into dark fields of the field trucks.

But work was 12 hours 7 days a week with union wages includingg overtime and double time on Sunday's and holidays until the harvest season was done.


readering said...

For my first white-collar summer job I was part of a group of 2 dozen or so. We had to take stacks of old 3 by 5 cards from hundreds of drawers to use to proof-read the typed names on new IBM punch cards. Quit after one week.

Quaestor said...

It's entirely within the minds of its willing victims who spend twice what they should for food, primarily for the virtue signals such purchases sent to other idiots.

Damned fingers.

Alexa Wood said...

For 9 months I stood at the end of a coffin shaped box and sanded the shit off turkey eggs as they rolled out a little door. I win.

tim in vermont said...

I deleted that post because the turkey egg post is the thread winner.

Humperdink said...

I worked in an auto assembly plant in material control (most would say out of control). I would go down to the line on occasion. I watched one guy lift and install the left-side tire/wheels on the moving car. 600 times/day. I was so thankful for my job.

lgv said...

"When I think of boring jobs, I think of jobs that draw on the mind."

The repetitive motion, non-strenuous job does just that.

Apparently people think that "inorganic" potatoes aren't grown in dirt. The job should have been to throw manure on the trays of potatoes, or just an organic manure fragrance.

Original Mike said...

"Inorganic" potatoes must be silicon-based.

Original Mike said...

I had a job ripping the front covers off of paperback books. Boxes and boxes and boxes of paperback books. The books were unsold and the covers went back to the publisher for credit (a lot cheaper than sending back the entire book). Boring, but the cool thing was (besides getting paid) I got to keep any of the books I wanted. To this day I have shelves of paperbacks sans covers.

rhhardin said...

All my kid jobs paid for flying lessons.

AllenS said...

It wasn't a job that I wanted, but when my unit got to Viet Nam, I had to burn shit. That's right shit. You had to reach into an area under the latrine, and pull out about 1/3rd of a steel barrel (there were many barrels on that side of the latrine). Then you had to pour into the steel shit barrel, fuel oil. Shit won't burn once you light it on fire, so you have to stir the shit/fuel oil mixture with a "shit stick". When the fire quit burning and you still had shit left, you repeated the process.

AllenS shit burner

AllenS said...

The year was 1967, and I made $1622.36 that year. Paid Fed tax of $141.48, and FICA tax of $73.22.

exhelodrvr1 said...

My mom worked in a creamery smelling eggs to get the rotten ones. (This was in the mid-1940s, small town in North Dakota.) Eggs coming through on a conveyor belt, the potentially rotten ones would look different under the light. Those got the sniff test. (Apparently you can smell them while the shell is still intact.)

tim in vermont said...

I was once employed throughout a summer as "someone to talk to". It was a small architectural company that only had three employees. When I queried why there was so little work to do they told me it was just refreshing to have someone else to talk to and discuss ideas with.

I guess these guys never heard of web commenting. Anyway, I had a job when I went back to school in the '90s. I had to sit in an air-conditioned room behind a desk, in an office with a big glass window that looked out onto the factory floor. There a man feed blocks of steel into a milling machine. My job was to call 911 if he got hurt. I got a lot of homework done, a lot of novels read.

Nell said...

rcocean said...
(BTW, does anyone take "Shop class" in the 21st Century?)

They call them "Makers" Class now.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

In high school I helped out my neighbor's office cleaning business a couple times. One of my tasks was to spray an aerosol spray cleaner into each office. I wasn't cleaning anything, I was just making it smell like the office had been cleaned.

MadisonMan said...

This thread makes me want to check my privilege I guess :)

I don't recall any job I've had that was boring or tedious. Some of them did build character however. But you can learn in any job you are assigned -- even a Shit Burner. I was surprised to read how hard it was to burn it.

wildswan said...

In Wisconsin you can teach "shop" without an education degree, thanks to a law recently passed. (Yay, Governor Walker and the Republicans; Boo, the teacher's union and the Democrats which opposed it.) So if you are a fine arts graduate who learned woodworking or welding for sculpture or if you have similar skills from being a professional carpenter or welder (or auto mechanic, etc.) you can get a job as a teacher in Wisconsin. Full pay, all benefits. Move to sunny Wisconsin and help raise the next generation of skilled artisans. Leave egg sniffing to anti-liberal-arts graduates.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Cutting apricots to be dried. We stood at the drying trays at one end of the orchard while the pickers would bring bucket after bucket of apricots. Cut the cots in half and drop the pits into a slop bucket at your feet. When the tray (about 4ft x 8ft) was full, you got a new tray and more cots. Over and over and over. Later in the season the slop buckets were also full of the moldy and spoiled portions of the overly ripe apricots.

Your hand were orange and sticky. It was hot and sweaty. I swore I would never eat another apricot in my life. I broke my vow :-)

wildswan said...

Anglelyne said..
"Shitty Christmas music a whole new level"

Yes because I hear it every Christmas since. Though fortunately it was all secular so I still have all the carols.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...
wildswan,

"Amen to that. I never suffered through that particular Hell, but I did work the music/video desk at the Emeryville Borders (of not-so-beloved memory)."

Yes, you have to be force fed music to understand how bad an experience it is. At Radio Shack the movie we had was "Finding Nemo". Pixar puts in so much detail in their movies that it remained interesting. Then late in the day the guys (at Radio Shack) would put on semi-porn and we could dispute about that so that time was also interesting in its own way.

Harold said...

When I got out of the army I got a job with a private security company. My first assignment was guarding a pile of corn cobs next to a railroad siding 40 miles outside of town. The shift was from 10 pm to 6 am and I worked 4 nights a week. I lasted about a month.

dreams said...

The worse job I ever had on the farm was picking cucumbers every other day to sell to the local cucumber grading station. The dew was on the plants in the early morning so your clothes would get wet and then it would be very hot later and the plants were prickly too. You had to be constantly bending over to pick the cucumbers trying to find and pick the right size before they grew too big which were less desirable and sold for less money, a lot of them still were missed and got too big. It wasn't boring, it was miserable work.

The Gold Digger said...

But shitty Christmas music? That's a whole new level of sadism.

Laid off from my corporate job so got a Christmas job at Macy's, where they played the same Christmas music over and over and over (for $9 an hour). There was some horrible song from Anne Murray that has the line, "Snow! Snow for Christmas!" If I ever have to hear that song again, I will throw the radio out the window.

The Gold Digger said...

PS AllenS, I never had to burn shit, but when I was a lifeguard in high school and college, we had to clean the bathrooms at the pool. At the city pool one summer, some boys thought it would be funny to poop on the floor. The city would not let us lock the bathroom and give the key upon request, which we thought might prevent the pooping problem, so for about $3 an hour, I had to clean shit off the floor.

There is nothing like a job where you are literally dealing with shit to make you think that maybe college isn't such a pain in the neck.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"Blogger traditionalguy said...
The Oregon sweet pea canneries were a many splendored summer job"

Been there a couple summers in my youth.

"Oh, Mama
Can this really by the end?
To be stuck inside of Milton with the cannery blues again."

tim in vermont said...

The worse job I ever had on the farm was picking cucumbers every other day to sell to the local cucumber grading station. The dew was on the plants in the early morning so your clothes would get wet and then it would be very hot later and the plants were prickly too. You had to be constantly bending over to pick the cucumbers trying to find and pick the right size before they grew too big which were less desirable and sold for less money, a lot of them still were missed and got too big. It wasn't boring, it was miserable work.

Zukes and cukes! Tuesdays and Thursdays. I never minded it too much, but your forearms were covered in scratches from them. I must have healed a lot faster when I was a teenager though. I liked that job, to be honest. I don't think I have a "worst job" among my manual labor jobs, because I always liked the people I worked with, and we always made it fun.

tim in vermont said...

I once had a job where one of my duties was "Liquor adulterator" OK, that wasn't my actual title, but I would go into a closet full of liquor, take the "Dewers" bottle and fill it with "Dugan's Dew," etc, etc, for all of the brand name liquor but Jack Daniels. Boss said he never found a good substitute for that one. This was at a well known chain, too.

lgv said...

Blogger The Gold Digger said...
PS AllenS, I never had to burn shit, but when I was a lifeguard in high school and college, we had to clean the bathrooms at the pool. At the city pool one summer, some boys thought it would be funny to poop on the floor. The city would not let us lock the bathroom and give the key upon request, which we thought might prevent the pooping problem, so for about $3 an hour, I had to clean shit off the floor.

There is nothing like a job where you are literally dealing with shit to make you think that maybe college isn't such a pain in the neck.


I had to clean puke out of the bathroom every Friday night on the graveyard shift at a convenience store. Trust me, even if you were handing out the key, you would have still been cleaning shit. We are talking bathroom, they could have puked in the toilet, but no.

Quaestor said...

Tim got paid for adulterating Dewers? Peculiar job, that one... but good training for hauling coal to Newcastle.

AllenS said...

I can't be boring working at Planned Parenthood. You never know when one is pulled out alive. Sorry to say it, but it's true.

I'd rather burn shit, or clean up shit and puke.

mikee said...

In a teen years job at a restaurant I, too, had to hose/mop/wipe the bathroom. After several experiences similar to those in above comments, I asked my manager to come look at the bathroom he just asked me to clean, so he'd understand why I did not want to.

I got an immediate raise of half a buck per hour, which was not bad back then. And I still quick that job as soon as I possibly could.

Joe said...

Most boring job: flagman in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. (Paid good though.)

Dirtiest job: Spraying water on dirt being vibrated-steamrolled to create a firm foundation for navy housing.

Most aggravating job: my most recent contract where I was hired to do something technical and then criticized for actually doing it.

rcocean said...

Your hand were orange and sticky. It was hot and sweaty. I swore I would never eat another apricot in my life. I broke my vow :-)

My mother worked in a Date Palm packing factory when young.

She never ate another Date as long as she lived.

Todd Galle said...

Some years ago, my museum crew was assigned the task of cataloging and photographing an architectural element collection which was acquired over the years from historic Philly tear downs of semi-important and or interesting buildings. For the usual reasons, this collection was stored in a decaying chicken coop at an associated farm museum several counties away. Again, naturally, this collection had been stored there for around a decade before we were sent on our mission, which was scheduled for late July-early August in PA, not very considerate really. The amount of rat, coon, fox, cat and bat shit we had to deal with was quite eye opening, plus the termite dust and wood decay floaters. We got permission to buy masks after the first week. Just for kicks, we also cataloged and photo'd all the ossified and mummified dead mammals we encountered. We recorded two dead cats and a coon one afternoon. It became known as a 'chicken coop hat trick', playing off the old Gordie Howe Hat trick. Those elements are still there, but in a different coop, as they had to burn the original one I understand. Below my pay grade now, thank God.

JAORE said...

"Most boring job: flagman in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. (Paid good though.)"

Me too, Joe. Loaded rock trucks coming down a steep incline and across the road. They could not even slow appreciatively. Officially closed road to through traffic so the only traffic was to the 10-12 local houses. But, because of the rock trucks you HAD to have a flagger. Nine to twelve hour days with only a dozen or two cars. And almost all of those were am - off to work and pm - home again. The hours stretched exponentially.