1975 Nappy wetter (Tasmania, Australia)
My father wrote this for me on my immigration form as we came into Indonesia, because the border guards would not allow the Occupation field to be left blank.
1982 Crossing guard, Jefferson Elementary School (Corvallis, OR)
Mrs. McCann promised that we'd get hot chocolate on cold mornings, which to my knowledge we never did. My sister alleges she was given the same story two years later.
1982 Food Server, Jefferson Elementary School (Corvallis, OR)
For one week in March, 1982, I touched the food and served it to all the 1st-5th graders coming into the Cafetorium (Auditeria?) One day, the menu said `salad bar,' and I thought this would be a frozen bar, ice-cream-style, but with lettuce and tomatoes instead of ice cream.
1983-84 6th grade Cafeteria, Highland View Middle School (Corvallis, OR)
Rowdy talked me into working (a total of one day) at the cafeteria during 6th grade. He was convinced that it was extremely profitable by the hour, because we got a free lunch and a small amount of cash for 5 minutes' work cleaning tables.
1983-86 Substitute Paperboy, Corvallis Gazette-Times (Corvallis, OR)
The major bonus of being employed by the newspaper was the wholesale rates on green rubber bands. Several other carriers and I purchased them by the caseload, in a sixth-grade effort to construct the world's largest rubber band ball.
1985-86 8th grade Cafeteria, Highland View Middle School (Corvallis, OR)
At some point, Rowdy quit and I started working in the cafeteria full-time. I sometimes sprayed down the trays using a high-pressure, high-volume sprayer, which was extremely exciting. The cafeteria during this time transitioned to serving chicken nuggets and square french-bread pizzas.
1985-1990 Floppy Disk Sales (Corvallis, OR)
I enthusiastically bought 5.25" DSDD floppy disks from MEI/MicroCenter (still in business!) for $0.29 a piece and resold them for what turned out to be usually around a quarter. I did a great volume -- thousands served annually! -- but never turned much of a profit. Still, I was definitely the one to go to around school when you really needed that floppy. One of my main clients was subsequently featured on the front page of the New York Times for his work in cryptography.
1986 Field Representative, Mason Shoes (Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin)
Responding to an ad in the back of Popular Science, I signed up to sell shoes door-to-door from a mail-order company based in Wisconsin. I successfully sold one pair, to my sister (and I can still picture them today... a pair of soft, grey suede boots with a cheap gum rubber sole).
1986 Field Representative, Texas Refinery Corporation (Fort Worth, TX)
I responded to another Popular Science advertisement, and was recruited to sell asphalt sealant and roofing tar to churches, lodges, and home-owners throughout the mid-Willamette Valley. No sales, but they sent me cool free samples.
1987 Babysitter (Corvallis, OR)
Two engagements. Played Careers (board game).
1986-1990 Soup & Sandwich Bar, Corvallis High School (Corvallis, OR)
I found a calling at the Soup & Sandwich bar for four years straight; the skills learned there remain with me today. Written up by supervisor for eating chips on the job.
1986-88 Served refreshments, Parker Stadium, Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)
This was part of the Orchestra's fund-raising scheme. Allegedly, the orchestra was not invited back after one violist was identified pilfering cash from the register.
1986-89 Music editor, Corvallis Youth Symphony Association (Corvallis, OR)
Although I remember putting together music handouts and editing scores, the conductor tells me that I am most remembered for reprogramming the keys on his keyboard to random configurations.
1987-89 Served refreshments, Corvallis High School basketball games (Corvallis, OR)
Surreptitiously made money for the Science Club, funding M31 posters and Physics Trivia Bowl entry fees by selling Kit Kats & Chick-o-Sticks to impressionable 9th graders.
July 1989 University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
1990-92, Vernier Software (Portland, OR)
Wrote a state-of-the-art oscilliscope program for (as of 1990) a 12-year-old and dying computer system.
1990-94 (7 semesters) Dining Services, Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA)
Acheived a record of being written up for seven warnings within one semester. I visited Grinnell several years later, took an apron and cap off the wall, and took my place at the tray breakdown (TBD) area, where I competed with current Dining Services students at racking glasses, sorting silver, and loading and unloading the dishmachine (a stunningly beautiful Hobart).
July-August 1990 Private Instructor, Cello (Corvallis, OR)
As of 2002, my 57-year-old mother has 64 violin students visiting her weekly, and she's highly competent at giving them the usual individually-tailored lessons. However, at age 17, and with a total of two students, I was unable to keep track of their respective names. (One of my students subsequently switched instruments and has a CD available with his current operation, Lunar Vibe, which I highly recommend.)
January 1994 Luggage Courier, McCarren International Airport (Las Vegas, NV)
I had a 24-hour layover in Vegas between Portland and Des Moines. After being interrogated by airport security and told not to sleep in the airport, I happily left, scored two quarters on video poker, watched maritime battles with a Hungarian woman sipping narancs jus, and returned to the airport the next evening. The 1994 Consumer Electronics Show had just ended, and close to billion suits were leaving that day. Apparently I had that baggage-boy sort of look about me, as two separate people handed me their luggage carts and gave me their departure gate & time information. I met them at their gates and got $5 tips from each one.
1993-94 Lab Assistant, Grinnell College Physics Department, Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA)
One lab involved using liquid nitrogen to verify the PVnRT law. One duty of mine was making Coca Cola runs for students in the class. After getting a Coke for a student named Dave, I thought it'd be interesting to see what happened if I put his opened can in an LN dewar. Temperature drops, CO2 is forced out of solution, and the can starts foaming large bubbles. The bubbles then freeze in the LN, and the dewar is left with a floating layer of marble-sized frozen brown bubbles on top. Dave was blamed for this instead of myself.
I tracked down and interviewed a living colleague of A. Einstein, who had collaborated (with Einstein and nuclear figure Leo Szilard) on invention of a refrigerator for home use in the 1920's. Published!
I rated the saccharine quotations on the box bottoms, I rated the Norman Rockwell-esque paintings on the fronts, I rated product concepts for pre-packaged energy drinks, but only once in five years did they ever ask me to taste tea.
I answered an ad in a paper and was employed as a `Mystery Shopper' at a local Taco Cabana restaurant. It was my job to go to the store, order a meal according to my directions (`You will not be reimbursed for meals over $7, nor for any alcohol purchased'), and surreptitiously check out the place. (`Is the music pleasant? Heavy Metal is not allowed.') For whatever reason, they sent me a reimbursement check after the first visit but did not contact me again. That particular building (next to Video Station, on 28th) has since then housed a sequence of 4 chain mexican restaurants, and is currently re-incarnated as an IHOP.
1995-2000 Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics University of Colorado (Boulder, CO)
Solved secrets of the universe.
Wrote a show script; interviewed celebrity astronomers. Played God without even being a cosmologist.
Although one might believe from the title that this position would be prestigous and well-compensated, my offer letter from the U of A president stated 'You have been approved for this position, without salary.'
During a refueling stop at Omaha (from Ottumwa en route to Denver), I was a guest of the cockpit and navigated and operated a fully-loaded passenger train (the Amtrak California Zephyr) approximately three inches in the forward direction. This was a volunteer position.
Wrote scientfic papers and performed data analysis, spacecraft engineering, and sequence planning for the nation's largest employer, Manpower, Inc. (Free copy of my thesis for anyone who can name the nation's #2 and #3 employers.)
Given my experience in the field, it was natural that I be hired as a babysitter again. Instead of playing Careers and making off with Twinkies, I am now usually left with a pack of Heineken and given the admonition: `Whatever you do, if the baby cries, IGNORE IT. She/he will shut up eventually.'
I made my professional musical debut accompanying for the Oregon State chapter of the SCA.
My legal debut came as I served in the case of Sarah Morales v. Jason Hrobsky. According to popular belief, having too many degrees often disqualifies potential juror candidates; the PhD laser physics professor from CU was in fact the first to be ejected. I believe that I managed to not be kicked out of the pool by sounding a little bit dumb in the juror qualification interviews. (Certainly being employed by Manpower scored a major coup for my credibility as a highly-desired, uneducated juror as well.) After 3 days of testimony and 11 hours of deliberation, we found for the plaintiff in the amount of $9250. I was paid $50 for my services, plus a free sandwich on deliberation day.
I responded to an ad in the Camera, which apparently by itself qualified me for the job. The 19 other focus groupers and I spent nearly 20 minutes discussing the newspaper's table of contents (`Page one, or page two? Verbose, or abridged?') and the slogans the paper uses to advertise itself (`My Camera!' v. `Your Camera!'?). At the end of the session, we very briefly touched on journalism and how the Camera might improve, although by that point people were already packing up ship. Interestingly, my bank account bulged more from one panel at the Camera than from all of my previous work at Celestial Seasonings and Taco Cabana combined.
After passing two drug tests in four days, I was deemed qualified to perform scientific research related to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
I reviewed several books for Astronomy. I note that this magazine has a circulation of 455,000, while scientific papers I wrote at the same time were sent to Icarus, which has a circulation of 1700. No doubt a greater fraction of those 455,000 are actually read than the 1700. Pays more too, and the color figures are free.
I was not paid for my employment (which consisted of two days of climbing), but the contract I signed stated that the Federal Government would provide me with benefits, including Worker's Compensation, insurance, and equipment (but not a retirement account).
Last modified 1-Aug-2005 / Henry Throop