Although the only true cure to a terrible job is to quit, temporary relief can often be found through the age-old art of bitching. Which is why, though the jobs I did for the book have all ended, I still enjoy complaining whenever someone asks me, “So, what was the worst job you did?”
Strangely, it wasn’t the time I looked like a germ-phobic serial killer, getting ready to carve up a body in a room that I’d already disinfected and covered with plastic wrap.
Nor was my worst job stooped over the lettuce fields of Arizona, or on the streets of New York City, biking through rain and snow while doing battle with cabs to deliver overpriced food to wealthy customers. Instead, my least favorite job involved:
Yes, by far my worst job of the year was to be found in Manhattan’s Flower District, the awfulness of which I hope is adequately expressed by the flower arrangement above.
Why so bad? For starters:
– Work began at 5 AM
– Boss criticized me whenever he saw me
– Boss saw me all day
– I don’t particularly like flowers
If I had to boil it down, I’d say that the second and third points were the key ingredients. Although the work itself was surprisingly hard, what made it truly terrible was the environment. At least in the other jobs, as punishing as they were, bosses usually left us alone; it’s another thing entirely to have someone following you around all shift and shouting. By the second day, I was actually feeling nostalgic about my job tearing up chicken breasts. Which says something.
Speaking of chicken, one of the very freaky aspects of the poultry industry is how much we’ve messed with their normal development. Above all, companies want chicken breasts: if they could figure out a way to grow chicken breasts in a petri dish–and some day they surely will–that’s what we’d all be eating. For now, their strategy is to pump birds full of antibiotics and breed them with gargantuan breasts that, on a human, would cause us to fall face first anytime we tried to stand up. In fact, that is precisely what frequently happens to chickens: their breasts are so large that their hearts can’t keep up, and they flop over and die from heart attacks.
But my favorite story about genetically altered birds deals with turkeys, and leads to what I would imagine to be another nightmare job. Turkeys, too, have been selectively bred to develop large breasts. One unfortunate side effect is that turkeys are no longer able to procreate naturally. Keeping with the human comparisons, it’s as if you and your partner both have such gigantic breasts that you can’t get close enough to one another to have sex. You could spend hours painfully smashing your swollen breasts into your partner’s swollen breasts, but that’s about as intimate as you were going to get.
Which is why humans have to artificially inseminate female turkeys. Which is one job that I would imagine could be pretty not fun. Once I started learning about all this stuff, I naturally couldn’t wait to tell others; I’ll admit that for a few weeks it was all I could talk about (this also coincided with Thanksgiving at the in-laws, which was fantastic). So when I stopped by the Prospect Park Farmer’s Market in Brooklyn and noticed an organic turkey seller, I casually sauntered over and asked, “So, do your turkeys have sex unaided, or do they need humans to artificially inseminate them?”
The guy turned to me with a look that suggested I leave. It probably didn’t help that at the time he was explaining the benefits of a “natural” turkey to a customer who in no way deviated from my stereotype of a farmer’s market customer. “No,” he said. “We have to help.” So: even all-natural-farmer’s-market turkeys are artificially inseminated with turkey semen. Something worth knowing.
With that in mind, have a great weekend. Bike safe, leave big tips, and say the opposite of whatever Lou Dobbs is saying.