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The Absolute Worst Working Environment? 1716

goodEvans writes "As I write this, there is a window open behind me with a small jet engine outside. This is supplying vast amounts of compressed air to the aircraft undergoing heavy maintenance in the hangar right outside my door. There is a 6-inch diameter air hose going through the office and out the door. All this requires that I sit at my desk wearing a body warmer to keep out the cold, and both ear defenders AND ear plugs to keep out the noise! And this will go on for half a day once a week! What are the worst conditions you have ever had to work under?" Can you top that? (If top is the word ...)
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The Absolute Worst Working Environment?

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  • by vpscolo ( 737900 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:55PM (#8044804) Homepage
    lying flat on my back for 12 hours straight sorting out some underfloor cabling with a laptop next to me which I had to type using one hand, by torchlight in a 2.5ft gap. Fun

  • try this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sickmtbnutcase ( 608308 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:56PM (#8044835)
    20 below zero (F - that is) spreading cow manure using a tractor(John Deere 2630) with no cab on it. Not to mention there's a 10-20 mph wind.
  • by rtkluttz ( 244325 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:56PM (#8044837) Homepage
    I worked in an office inside of a manufacturing facility where raw fiberglass insulation products were being processed (read pounded into submission by 300 ton presses) that caused much of it to be ejected into the air.

    Many people who started work there rarely made it past lunch time the first day.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:57PM (#8044848)
    During the .com boom I was a consultant to an ecommerce startup that was in a warehouse with picnic tables. Problem was that they had nails and staples sticking out of them. After one or two injuries we spent a couple of days repairing picnic tables before we continued coding.

    I also worked as a consultant at a oil comapany that put four of us in a printer closet. We actually had to enter and leave in a certain order so we could all get in. If you had to pee you had to announce it so everyone could file out and back in in the correct order.

    Finally at another oil company I spent 2 months with workman grinding on the outside of the building directly in line with my office. You learned to ignore it but it would vibrate your desk and you had to find a different office to hold phone calls.

    Those sucked but I'm not sure I can top a jet engine.
  • GAS! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:57PM (#8044860)
    Try working inside a chemical weapons plant, wearing a gas mask that you can barely see or breathe in, with chemical agent alarms going off and people evacuating upwind.

    "No, you have to stay and secure the servers."
  • Tacoma Narrows! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:58PM (#8044883) Journal
    This certainly doesn't top your story (what's a body warmer?) but at the time of the Northridge earthquake, I was working in a lab in a catwalk connecting two medical buildings, with a road underneath. We had frequent, strong aftershocks for weeks afterward and the floor would twist and flex like that movie of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse.

    Apparently it was structurally OK but the drywall was completely ripped away at one of the building junctions. You could see plenty of daylight and pigeons started nesting in it. It took UCLA three years to bother to fix it.

    Still better than this job, though...

  • True Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ellem ( 147712 ) * <ellem52 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @01:59PM (#8044906) Homepage Journal
    They put me in the server room once.

    The server room was the HVAC room and it was about 30 degrees in there at all times. The AC was so loud I had to use a phone outside the room and I only knew it was ringing by a red light hooked up (by me) in the HVAC room. When the AC clanged on it would suck papers off my desk, and pulled my hat off more than once. When I told them they had to move me the told me to quit.

    I did.
  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:00PM (#8044924)
    I had a server room at an old factory that I admin'd at. The room had a partly failed Liebert line conditioner that powered the circa 1970 HP 3000. It made a tone loud enough to prevent going into the room more than a few seconds without hearing protection.

    The unit was so old that the Liebert rep had never even seen one before, much less find it in his manual. The electrician couldn't order the part to fix it himself (he knew what was wrong with it) because the whole system was due to be replaced in 18 months and they didn't want to sink money into it.

    As a result I got hold of the maintenece head and asked him if I could borrow his decibal meter. He asked me what for, and followed me into the server room.

    This was a plant that had hearing protection in different areas, beyond the typical hearing plugs due to OSHA and worker safety concerns (they had to undergo anual hearing tests to monitor for damage). I ended up with a several hundred dollar pair of 40db rated earmuffs - that I was to wear over normal ear plugs, the very next day.
  • by ozbon ( 99708 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:03PM (#8044996) Homepage
    I can't top the original poster, that's for sure. I've had two vile working environments, though.

    The first was an office, writing SGML. (Bad enough) The office was actually a corridor, no windows, linoleum floor, and rather than desks, the working area was a length of kitchen worktop down one side of the corridor, where I worked with three others. The corridor had used to be a fire escape, 'til an extension was put on - so at the end of the corridor was a door with a sign on it that read "NO EXIT". Demoralising isn't in it.

    Before working in IT, I did some warehouse work. This was the second worst working environment I've dealt with - working for a supermarket chain, this particular warehouse simply cleaned the green plastic trays that held vegetables and fruit in the supermarkets. So yes, there was plenty of opportunity for rotting fruit/veg too.

    The actual work consisted of two jobs - you could either load the trays onto the cleaning machine, or load them off the machine and stack them. Soul-destroying.
  • by polished look 2 ( 662705 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:04PM (#8045001) Journal

    I worked at a mental health agency that a few years prior diagnosed me with schizophrenia - hearing voices, seeing visions, etc. Anyway, I quit my meds and my brain began working overtime so naturally I make a great programmer. While working at the agency I find out that they're embezzling money and after a while they realize they can't trust me. So what did they do? They started simulating the symptoms of schizophrenia. Totally serious - they'd go by my cubicle and blurt out words such as "nigger" or blame things I had nothing to do with on me.

  • No, But I'll Try (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ed Almos ( 584864 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:04PM (#8045005)
    My last contract was as Senior Support Engineer at a software company. I worked on the 'Hotline' answering all the really sticky calls from clients.

    My boss was French and her management style consisted of screaming instructions at the top of her voice so that everyone in the room could hear. Sometimes it was management by fear, other times she just seemed to make it up as she went along.

    Just to add insult to injury the bonus scheme the company ran was so skewed that nobody ever qualified for the full amount even if they worked eighty hour weeks and cleared every call. What finally made me quit was that the product we were supporting sucked, big time. There were so many bugs that the fault reporting system couldn't cope and used to crash on a regular basis.

    In the end I just quit and promised myself that I would never again work on telephone support or for a French boss. I sleep every night now and the gray patches on the beard are almost gone.

    Ed Almos
    Budapest, Hungary
  • by So Called Expert ( 670571 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:04PM (#8045011)
    I once worked in a warehouse made out of corrugated aluminum, with no insulation. Not only did it get very hot and very cold (which made humans and machines unhappy), it was located next to Boeing field. Most of the time, it was tolerable, but every once in a while they'd test the ol' jet engines and you couldn't even hear yourself think.

    But I can't blame anyone for this: I was one of the owners of the company. Cheap bastard.

  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:05PM (#8045026)
    My worst experience was pulling fibre-optic cable through a 1M diameter unventilated conduit which was infested with venomous snakes, in 110 degree heat. In a combat zone. Not exactly what I was trained to do...

    Nothing beats military service for unsafe working conditions. I'm just glad that's the worst thing I had to do; I got off pretty easy compared to a lot of the people I know.

  • Yup - can do (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ColdBoot ( 89397 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:06PM (#8045031)
    1972, Loring AFB ME, mid-January, temperature -30F before wind chill. I was working on a B-52. I didn't have it bad. When I got done I could go back inside. The security cops had it bad. They had to stay outside and when it got to -35, they took the dogs away from the cops because it was cruel to leave the dogs outside. Cops had to stay

  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:06PM (#8045037)
    One summer, I worked in a stable, literally shoveling s*** all day. It was a large concrete block structure with a tin roof. On hot days it would easily top 130 degrees inside the stable -- too hot for the horses; but, Noooo, I had to work.

    My job was to shovel the s*** and the old, wet (use your imagination) bedding into a wheel-barrow, then push said wheel-barrow outside, up the hill (a literal pile of old, decaying(-ed) horse s***) and dump the contents.

    If that won't teach you the value of higher education, nothing will!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:08PM (#8045072)
    Many hospital IT shops are an afterthought especially the ones in long established buildings. The worst I've ever had to work was located in the basement of the hospital, right next to the morgue. There was a constant smell of chemicals used to 'dress' the bodies, in addition to the humid musty smell of any basement. To top it off there was a strong magnetic field from a generator room next to us that caused severe ghosting on all the monitors.

    Don't get me started on the time one of the waste pipes burst through the ceiling onto the VAX.
  • Two stories (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mononoke ( 88668 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:09PM (#8045095) Homepage Journal
    What are the worst conditions you have ever had to work under?
    1. In the middle of a crowd of 5000 bikers (Hell's Angels, etc.) when the headlining act (Steppenwolf, famous for Born To Be Wild, etc.) tells the crowd that there will be no concert because the idiot keyboard player set his laptop-controlled sequencer rig up in the sun, where both laptops proceeded to melt down. Crowd is understandably pissed off.
    2. 8:00 PM in a mexican ballroom in Texas: The crowd has been drinking since they were let in at 6PM. They were told at 8PM that the band (from Mexico) that they had paid $50 to see had been deported and would not be showing up. Took me less than 20 minutes to do 75 minutes worth of work getting my equipment back into my truck and getting my white ass out of there before bullets flew.
    Some days I'd rather be in a cubical. Luckily, the feeling passes.

  • Re:windows 98 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:10PM (#8045102)
    I had to work on a customers server that crashed in 2001. It was running Windows 3.51 NT (yep! 2001 people!) This was for a major retailer, and there credit network was support by 3.51!!! When I got on-site I was flabergasted when I was led to the maintence closet and was told "welcome to our server room". The only computer in the closet, was on the floor (carpet!) UPSIDE DOWN! The hard drive was going clunk-clink-clunk over and over. I flipped the thing right side up, and bingo, the noise went away! And to think, I only charged them $1400 for the solution of putting a computer the right way up. :P
  • by ILL Clinton ( 734169 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:10PM (#8045113) Homepage Journal
    I used to stand in front of FAO Schwarz's flasgship store on 5th avenue in New York. I was dressed as a toy soldier and wore a giant black furry hat we called the dirty Q-Tip. I had to wear two layers of thermal underwear in the winter, and smile for the tourist's cameras all day long.

    I was paid $12 per hour.

    The one good day was when instead of being a toy soldier I had to dress up as a teddy bear. Lots of pretty girls gave me big hugs.

  • by carn1fex ( 613593 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:11PM (#8045119)
    I work for NASA and I was doing sattelite verification work, where we strap all sorta shit to the belly of a P3 Orion aircraft that basically mimics a sattelite, fly over the ocean and compare the data with the sattelite to see it matches. So we fly through thunder storms in the P3 which is a 4 prop, unheated hell chamber. Fly high and the temperature suddenly drops to nothing and we all wear thermals, then we drop back down to the deck and the temperture jacks up, we sweat buckets and the terbulence sets in. Couple this with the instrument im in charge of going on the blink so there i am strapped to a metal chair in this flying gas can with a radiometer ripped open, doing voltage equations, multimeter in hand, writing code to do tests, sweating my ass off then suddenly freezing in my own sweat, having to get up and the terbulence is dangerously bad star-trek level insanity with people flying thru the air (i almost got knocked out at one point). Now throw in the sound of all the korean grad students barfing their brains out and smell of tuna fish vomit smackin me in the face like a can of beer in a pillow case while i try to do calculus that has to be correct enough for me not to blow the whole package up when i go to test something out. Fun.
  • by pnuema ( 523776 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:11PM (#8045127)
    While I was in college, I worked construction for a Harvestore agent in Nebraska. You know, those blue and white grain silos you see all over the Midwest.

    One time the construction crew was required to go take down two silos that had been used to store bone meal (basically all parts of an animal you can't feed to humans ground up to be made into dog food) at a defunct rendering plant so they could be moved to the plant's new location. Off we went.

    We arive at the sight, and drive down what looks like a gravel road, next to a nice little lake. Evrything was fine until I stepped out of the car. When I did, I realized that the road wasn't gravel; it was bone, and the lake was blood red. I was so shocked I stepped off of the road and into six inches of rotten grease that had turned rancid in the Nebraska summer sun. I won't even bother to describe the smell.

    It averaged 102 the three days I was there. Everything looked like I was watching a bad TV with static on it, because flies were everywhere. You couldn't walk without tripping over a horse's leg, or a cow's tail. Part of my job was to be inside the silo (omg the smell of rotten bone meal) pulling out bolts while another member of the team used a blowtorch to burn the carcinogenic caulking off of the outside to loosen the bolts. Inisde the silo it was probably 130 degrees, filled with black choking smoke, and the stink...

    Those three days, more than any other, convinced me to finish my college degree.
  • by missing000 ( 602285 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#8045186)
    I used to change tires at the Firestone cold weather test track in West Yellowstone Montana.

    We would get out there at ~3AM or whenever we hit low temp, typically -30 degrees fahrenheit, and try to keep tires on cars driving fast on a deiced track.

    The wind would bite, the hours sucked, and if you've never had to emergency jack an SUV at 50 below at 3AM, you've never felt true cold before.
  • by Theatetus ( 521747 ) * on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#8045191) Journal

    An unrefrigerated morgue in the desert. Some of my utilities still have that smell in them...

  • House Calls (Score:5, Interesting)

    by niko9 ( 315647 ) * on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:15PM (#8045195)
    Being a Paramedic in NYC, our "work enviroment" can get interesting:

    An HIV+ patient (who also has Hep B/C) in cardiac arrest face down in a pool of his own vomit. The SRO (single room occupancy) he lives is described as follows: The walls are yellow from filth. Roaches are EVERYWHERE. The floor is non existant, it's just one seamless sea of garbage. None of the lights work, so we are using our Surefire Tac lights and the ambient light from a LifePak 12 to wrok the arrest. There's no ID anywhere that can be found and there are pill bottles dating back years.

    He's in asystole, but not rigor, so we can;t realy pronounce him dead. He's on the floor, so one of us has to get on the floor to try endotracheal intubation, without getting said vomit, blood, feces on our uniform.

    The poor soul hasn't showered in months and the apartment reeks of bad body odor and dried vomit. It's to narrown to work him up in the hallway, so in the apartment we stay. Doing CPR in a sqaut/sittting postion isn't very comfortable after 5 minutes. Trying to find a place to rest the drug bag without it tipping over is a pain in the ass. Keeping track of all your sharps and making damn sure they are properly disposed of in the sharps box.

    The heat is truned on so high, you feel like you in a pizza oven and the windows are painted shut from years of paint being applied layer after layer.

    So after about 20 mins of working this patient up you have/are:

    Sweating profusely with a severe case of sweaty balls.

    Your uniform has come in contact with dirt, dried feces, mouse droppings, rotting food, roaches, dust balls, urine/blood soaked rug.

    Your drug back asunder all around the apartment. Intubation kit is a mess with a dirty handle and used bristo-jets everywhere.

    Oh, and just in case you patient does get some spontaneous rhythm back and you happen to be on the fifth floor of said SRO with no elevator, guess what prize you get???

    Show 'em what he gets Johnny!

    You get to carry this guy on a flat longbaord down five flight of poorly maintained staircase!! That's including stopping at every landing to give a few squeezes to the BVM (bag-valve-mask) on the way down. Sometime they weigh 100lbs secondary to severe weight loss, somtime they can way upwards of 200lbs.

    But it's worth it in my book. Plus after a call like that, we hit the diner for some rare burgers with a side of chili.

  • by zulux ( 112259 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:17PM (#8045227) Homepage Journal

    I have a clinet that decided that the men's restroom would be a great place for the telephones - and slowly by surely, we've added all the internet-facing computers to the same room.

    About a year ago - I stopped thinging that it was a burder, and now I think it's a benefit...

    I can sit on the crapper with a Thinkpad on my lap and administering the servers, and pooping at the same time.

    I'm multitasking!!!

  • by FreshFunk510 ( 526493 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:17PM (#8045235)
    Well isn't that why we pay taxes?

    Think of it this way. You could either be one of the things you mentioned or:

    • Owner of diamond mine who gets cheap labor.
    • Connected official in third world country.
    • Mama-san or Russian Mafia who runs a brothel.
    • War lord.
    • Sweatshop owner.

    You get the idea. Anyway, Homo Homini Lupus ("Man is a wolf to man."), even in America.
  • by LDorman ( 543715 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:18PM (#8045256)
    I was working as an electrician's apprentice when we had to do some major electrical work in a dead animal removal/processing plant, while the plant was in full operation, in the summer (100 degree plus days), with no AC...

    One could smell the stench for miles before actually arriving at the job site. The floors were constantly covered with old blood and such. In one spot there was a hole in the floor the size of a semi trailer where they would shove off all the junk they couldn't even use to make dog food. Definitely walked carefully near there...

  • ship (Score:2, Interesting)

    by edwinstantonly ( 743944 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:19PM (#8045274)
    putting together a lan on a US cruiser in the mid 1990's, our server was secured to the deck with twine so it wouldn't slide across the room when the ship rolled. once, the ship's firefighting system was activated and the entire space was filled with 4 inches of salt water. our mail connectivity consisted of a 14.4 modem connected to a satelite phone which only worked when it was sunny.
  • dog heads (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:21PM (#8045310)
    My worst? Working on rabies emergency. First day on the job I was preparing specimens for the lab work - which generally involves some kid's dead puppy and a hack saw to the back of the neck in order to get to the brain.

    Creeps me out to this day.
  • by Pii ( 1955 ) <`jedi' `at' `'> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:27PM (#8045425) Journal
    Unpleasant, certainly...

    Back when I was running the network at MCB Quantico (Circa 1992-94), we had to inspect the campus fiber cable plant because the as-built wiring diagrams had been misplaced.

    This entailed crawling through tight tunnels all over the campus, through puddles from leaky or venting pipes, in pitch blackness.

    Did I mention that these leaky or venting pipes were full of steam? (Back when Marine bases were being built, centralized steam heating was all the rage. USMC: Doing more with less since the very beginning.)

    Did I mention that the temperature in the steam tunnels frequently exceeded 130 degrees?

    Did I mention that because they were installed during Quantico's primary expension, in the 1930s I think, that they were wrapped in tattered asbestos insulation?

    Sorry about the crapstains on your jumpsuit, but I dread the day the a doctor looks at my chest x-rays, and says to me, "Hey, what the fuck have you been breathing?"

  • Amusment park (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stfvon007 ( 632997 ) <> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:27PM (#8045426) Journal
    I was a ride attendant at an amusment park and one day a group of people decided to set themselves on fire while in line for the ride I was running. (this was during a religous event that was happening in the park that week, and is the busiest week in the park)
  • by SmackCrackandPot ( 641205 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:28PM (#8045437)
    I shit you not, every time somebody would call on this line, a fucking klaxon goes off.

    I believe that. I used to work in the helpdesk of a large company back in the late 80's. At that time, Ethernet networks were fairly new to the company (cards cost $1000+ for 10 Mbits/sec). On occasions, the odd card would either start transmitting unrelentlessly (referred inhouse as jabbering), start sending out truncated packets (runts), or just not talking at all (sulking). We actually had two Ethernet backbones; if one failed, engineers would run relentlessly up all 15+ floors of the building switching lines until the network was restored and the offending PC was identified.

    The precursor to all of this was a single telephone call... Has anyone noticed that the network is dead?

    Quickly followed by an avalanche of a thousand plus callers, all asking the same thing.

    To keep the PHB happy, everyone had to run around frantically, to appear as if they were actually doing something. Sitting down quietly at a LAN analyzer and an Ethernet address map of the building was the last thing management wanted to see.

  • by phriedom ( 561200 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:31PM (#8045492)
    I have to back you up on the PCB fabriction plant. I'm a PCB designer and have toured a few plants. On the most recent tour, the Salesman, who isn't even in the plant that much sounded like he had half a lung left. He wasn't overweight, but he was huffing and puffing just strolling around the lines and talking to us. His skin didn't look right either. He commented that some people talk about the distinctive smell of a PCB plant but he had no idea what they meant because he hasn't been able to smell anything in years.

    Whenever things in the office are bad, I think about that guy, or the etch line technicians.
  • Re:Shit- (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:35PM (#8045567) Homepage Journal
    Not surprising, following the proper disposal methods for bio-hazards was always at the top of my "things done way wrong" list.

    Even hospitals rarely did it right. Used to inspect Tattoo shops as well, they were pretty good about it, because one bad report and they were out of business, but many other places just assumed their autoclave would take care of it, which it didn't (leaks, temp. fluctuations, etc. would frequently cause an autoclave to fail sterile testing) and few knew any different.
  • Bad table design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ich Bin Zu ( 737102 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:37PM (#8045596) Homepage
    I have to work in an environment where this kind of crap is very common: >desc table_foo; year number(4) month number(2) day number(2) > That's how dumb the "table designing department" people are. We are given tables like these to work on, and there is nothing we can do about it.
  • Entertainment (Score:1, Interesting)

    by CdnShaggy ( 683274 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:42PM (#8045669)
    Yes, I work in the entertainment industry. So, a lot of the time im no more then 40ft away from the 120db or so.
  • Re:Shit- (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:43PM (#8045679) Homepage Journal
    Let me tell you some other happy stories:

    The firm I worked for got a call about a cockroach. Big deal right? Well it was an albino and the size of your fuckin' hand!

    Now this wans't in some run down dump, this was in some very ritzy high-priced exclusive shops in an historic section of a major city.

    So we're out there looking around and the newbie (new trainie) opens a manhole cover, and out comes running *thousands* of huge albino cockroaches! Running to escape from the light, anywhere and everywhere, into the ice-cream shop nearby, the photo-mart near it, all over the place (including up and over the newbie)

    Seems a pipe had broken from one of the toilets, and was feeding raw sewage into a runoff designed for normal water only. Roaches had a field day there, and (pardon the pun) did the shit hit the fan when that was found out. *Serious* damage done to the tourist trade after that!
  • by rcpitt ( 711863 ) * on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:45PM (#8045713) Homepage Journal
    Back in 1974 I was "walkabout" in Australia for a few months. I was in Sydney for most of the time and ended up doing odd jobs for a local hiring agency - you know - a day sweeping and a day counting and a day digging, etc.

    One job we were sent on was to unload this freighter that had been in port for a couple of weeks but behind a picket line. The strike was over but the stuff on board had sat in the heat for far too long. The local longshoremen wouldn't handle these skins and other ex-meat products so they got us in there. We rotated being in the hold and out on the docks, but it really didn't matter where you were within a block of the place; it stunk so bad we were wearing masks to breath. I had to throw away the clothes after the week we were at it.

  • Explosives anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Big Bob the Finder ( 714285 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:48PM (#8045774) Homepage Journal
    I used to make explosives as a contractor for the government. Not just any explosives- we made stuff that the national labs wouldn't touch because it was too dangerous, all in the name of "terrorism research." We made stuff so sensitive that nobody in their right minds would make it. Fortunately for them, they found us.

    We used to make hundreds of grams of the stuff at a time, wrapped in Kevlar with ear defenders on and huge safety shields. Everything was by hand signals.

    Making things worse was the fact that we were working in a bunker in a remote part of a western state that only had one life flight helicopter for the entire state at the time, and no level 1 trauma center. The local hospital was 70 miles away from any major city, and really wasn't up to fixing anything more complex than hangnails.

    Miserable, wretched job- making explosives nobody else would make, under horrible working conditions. Fortunately, my boss was great. He and I made some truly dangerous compounds, and got away without so much as a scratch- a combination of skill and luck.

  • 2guys dept store (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:52PM (#8045836) Journal
    I published this elsewhere [], previously:

    My first amazing disaster Day Job was at Two Guys. Two Guys Department Stores don't exist anymore. They were too far ahead of their time, in a sad and evil way. They were huge -- truly enormous - stores that had everything from groceries to stereos to clothing to lumber to car parts- like a WalMart on steroids. Unfortunately, their merchandise was second rate and they treated their employees poorly, ultimately dooming the store to failure.

    For minimum wage, my job was to scrape bubblegum off the floor, and then wax the floor before the store opened. I would spend the rest of the day attending to emergencies as they developed. In principle, it was an OK summer job for a long haired arty musician type barely out of High School with no job skills. In practice it was a torture pit.

    The place was run by this monstrous and abusive asshole we called Ming - from the old Buck Rogers movies- Ming The Merciless. To call him a creep and a jerk would be an insult to the nasty fiends and sentient nodes of evil in our world and the next. He was simply one of the vilest creatures Mother Nature has ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of this Earth. Everyone hated him, and everyone hated Two Guys, even the people who shopped there. There was an underground river of merchandise leaving the store in the pockets and cars of the customers AND the employees. It was an enterprise so universal, the manager of the electronics department was even caught shoplifting- by Ming, no less!

    The thieving manager was pushing one of those giant tacky fake wood console TV/Stereo/turntable/Radio sets out the door at closing time. Ming saw him struggling to get it out the door, and asked,

    "Why don't you have one of the kids move this? Where's the customer's TRUCK to haul this thing away? Hey - isn't that YOUR VAN parked there with the door open and motor running???"


    Morale was non-existent. Employees would regularly sabotage the place just for the sake of something interesting to do that would irritate Ming. One fine afternoon, some whack job let all the gerbils out of the cages in the Pets Department. The fuzzy little guys, being hungry little critters, quickly hopped off to the Grocery Department, where they merrily tucked into the lettuce and surrounding produce. A little old woman with rhinestone cat's eye glasses rattled some celery at me and shouted in a thick Yiddish accent-

    "My boy- der's RATS in zee lettuce! Call zee Police! Do zomsink!"

    We chased them all into the back of the building and set up little food stations for them.

    One day, we, the porters of Two Guys, the lowest of the low, had had enough of Ming's white glove treatment of the crappy linoleum floors, and figured- we have to shut this place down. We took all the rubbish, display cases, boxes -- anything we could find- and packed it into the trash compactor room. A clothing rack was quickly heaved into the compactor, and in moments, the compactor's motor burned itself out. Then the trash REALLY started piling up. The next day, we anonymously called the health and fire departments for numerous violations. Yes, it was a stinking mess. Yes, they should have been fined and closed until it was fixed. Yes, we needed a day off. But Ming met the inspectors at the door with a case of booze for each of them. They never set foot on my polished linoleum. The reports of Two Guys's crimes against man and nature were never made, and the store opened as usual. Ming had us compacting trash by the afternoon.

    This kind of open warfare between workers and management (actually, the sides were unevenly divided into: Everybody versus MING. Even the department managers hated him, and would regularly work to sabotage him.) was a regular feature of the workday. As a porter, I had free range to the entire store. Regular retail employees were required to stay in their departments, so, I would cruise through the store and see w

  • Not a geek job... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ann Elk ( 668880 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:57PM (#8045912)

    ...and not my job, but a friend of mine had one of the worst jobs I've ever heard of.

    He worked for a factory that makes cement and delivers it to building sites in those big "mixer" trucks. Back then, the cement containers on the trucks were chain driven (I think they're mostly hydraulic now). Sometimes, the chains would break. If a drive chain broke while a truck was loaded, it had to be *quickly* returned to the factory to be unloaded.

    Sometimes, the cement would "set" before it could be unloaded. And thus, my friend's job...

    He had to crawl into the container with a jack-hammer, break up the cement, and throw it out. Just imagine the noise of a jackhammer operating within a giant metal trash can. There was also one additional hazard -- the "blades" attached to the container that mix the cement. The cement basically acts like a grinding stone and sharpens the blades until they are like razors.

    Whenever we would sit around at talk about really bad previous jobs, he was not allowed to play :-).

  • by kryliss ( 72493 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @02:57PM (#8045922)
    As a matter of fact, yes. I have been shot at and I returned fire.. All in All, I still think the tech support job I have is the shitiest job I've had and the Marine Corps was one of the best. If I wouldn't have been injured (different situation) I'd still be in.
  • by smchris ( 464899 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:03PM (#8045992)

    'ell, lucky sod! You had asbestos you could SEE!

    When I worked a night shift job at a hospital central supply, they told us the gas sterilizer's mutagenic ethylene was vented outside. Stole the key to the back of the sterilizers one night and saw that the "venting" was pointing the output pipe toward a floor drain with about a foot of free space. Should have kept the job back at the bed pan washer and been happy.
  • Worst Job Ever (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coronaride ( 222264 ) <> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:05PM (#8046019)
    When I was 16 I got hired by this African immigrant who was sending used clothes over to the homeland. I thought that it sounded like a good cause and I figured that minimum wage would be fine for that. Basically my job consisted of driving a u-haul truck around to the dumpsters behind thrift stores and emptying the dirty, smelly, nasty clothes (these are the ones that even the thrift stores don't want) into the truck's cargo area. When I had a full truck load (the big trucks, mind you) I would take it back to the warehouse where I would then unload it. I would then reload the clothes into a baling machine. I was the only one working and I would create about 8 bales a day that weighed well over 1000 lbs. each.

    And then it started getting bad...on my first payday the boss decided to buy lunch for me. I thought, "Hey! Cool!" Well, as it turns out, he did that only because he didn't have money to pay me. Again, I thought hey, it's not that big of a deal - it's for charity, right? Well, on the next payday the guy actually had a check for me! However, when I went to cash it, the teller said that she couldn't do it because there weren't sufficient funds. and then came the shoes..

    The guy's next project for me was to organize second-hand shoes. He takes me to this warehouse that was literally jammed full of shoes, from floor to ceiling. I had to sort the shoes manually, all by myself.

    Finally, I discovered that this was not so charitable of a foundation as I had originally thought. Apparently this guy was charging a LOT of money (even by modern clothing price standards) to these poor countries. I soon quit..
  • Worse than that. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobv-pillars-net ( 97943 ) <> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:07PM (#8046062) Homepage Journal
    Worked for a month in a grease-processing factory in Portsmouth, VA called Divers Processing. We were issued chemical-resistant boots and gloves once a week; they usually lasted a day and a half before springing leaks. Extra pairs came out of your paycheck. Workday started at 6am and ended when the boss said you were done. Sometimes that was 10pm or later, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Even the rats hated the place; they looked absolutely miserable. A big horsefly landed on my arm once and apparently got a mouthful of what I was shoveling at the time; it died instantly. I used to come home and run my clothes through four wash cycles before the water stopped changing color. It was two weeks after I quit before the smell wore off my hands and arms. Whenever the EPA needs some extra income, it sends an inspection team to assess a six-figure fine. The owner gladly pays because it's cheaper than actually cleaning up the mess.
  • by Mildew Man ( 718763 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:19PM (#8046212)
    That's nothing. Back in my teens I worked on a hog farm. You know, one of those massive commercial operations that has several 1000 ft. hog buildings with thousands of the oinkers inside each. Each building had slotted floors so the hog shit and piss could collect underneath in a basement holding pit. This slurry was pumped out on a continual basis through a series of pipes to a large uncovered holding pond (now I believe state law requires them to be covered because you can smell them for miles downwind).

    My job was to, once every six months, go under every hog building with another co-worker and blast the sediment from the basement holding pit with a high-pressure fire hose that pump liquid manure from the other end of the building. It took two people to hold the hose and if one slipped or fell down...look out. This all while the barn WAS FULL OF HOGS! Nasty, nasty, nasty!

    Every once in a while the subterranean junction box where the pipes from all of the barns came together would get clogged up. We would take the fire hose (that was pumping liquid manure) and shove it down in it to try and blast out the obstruction. Several times while we were doing this my co-worker lost his grip on the hose (it was slippery as shit) and I was forced to let go lest it lift me in the air and swing me around like a large snake. Liquid hog shit would rain down all over the place until one of us would run the 1000+ ft to the tractor that was running the pump and shut it down.

    And since farm workers were exempt from the minimum wage laws we did it all for $2.75 hour.
  • by dasmegabyte ( 267018 ) <> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:28PM (#8046327) Homepage Journal
    I once worked on a cable crew, installing several hundred miles of a backbone to the internet. Six conduits, a few hundred strand of fiber...sounds like a dream, right? All that bandwidth (most of which isn't even lit up seven years later, btw) in the palms of your hands...

    Except I was on the cleanup crew for this project. And we weren't union (they paid extra because we weren't -- a LOT extra). This meant mandatory 13 hour days, six times a week, followed by a half hour trip to a cutrate hotel that was also a brothel. We were working alongside a road, two hundred miles from home, with cars going by at 70-80 mph, and were not allowed to use U-turns (meaning going BACK a mile meant a 45 minute round trip).

    The machines we were using were run by a guy who spiked his iced tea with VODKA. We discovered this one day when they had used our water jug to clean a dirty rock drill bit, and stole a drink from his jug when it proved to be the hottest day of the summer. This was the guy who'd hollar at us to "get in thar' and grease that bit" while it was still spinning. This was the guy who'd spill diesel or boring solution, and yell at us to bury it before the environmental inspectors showed up. The boring solution was a sticky mass of silicate silt with a warning not to breath it. We breathed it every day.

    None of us were allowed to turn the key of these machines because we weren't trained on them. We had to travel ducked down in the bed of a dumptruck full of roadcones.

    Speaking of which, "laying down the pattern" was fun. Walking into a road during rush hour bumper to bumper traffic with only the authority of an orange flag between a speeding SUV and your flannel shirt takes BALLS. Especially when they're on cell phones. Oh, and some truckers like to play "baseball." That's where they hit your barrels and see how far they can make them fly into your site.

    Actual work was mostly mindless and consisted of using a shovel without stopping. Even if this meant digging a hole and filling it in again. Boss didn't want people calling to say that his crew wasn't working -- that was the inspectors' job.

    There were fun parts, though. Like the one afternoon where we all relaxed with our lunch and watched a car burn at the rest area. Or the way the superviser would call us "niggers," despite the fact that we were all white kids. Or guarding the machines at night from the local union, who would monkeywrench the project until we hired their boys. And nothing in the world is more satisfying than coming home to your girl on Friday, covered in dirt with tanned muscles bulging out everywhere. Doesn't matter if you got them holding 200 pound pipes over your head for a half hour while the welder did his thing.

    Oh, and being able to say "I built this internet with my blood and sweat." That's awesome.
  • Re:Shit- (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:31PM (#8046363) Homepage Journal
    That job paid *extremely* well, not to mention perks.

    Pics and all are available by the FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) because *each* and *every* report, inspection, writeup, fine, picture and drawing I made or took, has to be kept on file for 30 years. Federal law.

    I am now a computer geek. Same excellent pay, better working environment.
  • by fcw ( 17221 ) * on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:32PM (#8046385)
    I didn't have the following job, but an ex-colleague claimed he used to work with the people who did, and swore it was true.

    Anyway, apparently at least some sewage from a major inland city in the UK (Manchester, I believe) was routinely dumped into a barge during the 1980s, and taken by canal to the Irish Sea, where it was dumped. The journey took several days. Sometimes the doors on the bottom of the barge jammed, and someone had to swim down through the ripened sewage in scuba gear with tools to get the doors open.

    Now, imagine interviewing for this position...
  • cannot top but.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thomasa ( 17495 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:35PM (#8046444)
    I used to work in a laboratory writing code for
    data collection devices. We would test aircraft tires
    and landing gear. Occasionally we would test
    the tires for the Space Shuttle. The testing
    on the dynamometers was loud enough but every
    once in a while the engineers would deliberately
    blow one of the tires up by applying too much
    force to the tire. They would generally warn
    us beforehand though. When the Space Shuttle
    tires would explode the entire building would
  • by Drathos ( 1092 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:37PM (#8046462)
    Sounds familiar.

    I had a job in a DoD office once as a "Junior Equipment Specialist" (a/k/a warehouse intern). After I finished the inventory of computer equipment in the office and storage area well ahead of schedule (they didn't think I'd finish in the 3 months I was there, yet it took me less than 2 weeks), I was told I should update their "Inventory Management System" (a/k/a MS Access 2.0). I wasn't allowed to replace it, just update it (both data and functionality). By the time I was done, it was a relatively simple form based inventory that wouldn't require anyone to go to the tables for anything they actually used it for.

    At the end of the summer, they wanted me to teach one of the secretaries how to use it and I thought "No problem! It's nice and simple!" That was until I actually tried showing her the forms and she became fascinated by the arrow moving around the screen.. (All but two PCs in the office were 486/33s used mostly for DOS based apps. This was the only PC running Win95) The next day, I showed my supervisor and got him to show the secretary.

    He gave up and took over the inventory himself.
  • Re:2guys dept store (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:51PM (#8046715)
    "And that's the curse of the Day Job. You're only there for the money, so you're really just visiting -- this isn't your "real" life - and usually, you don't really care about the work itself, and sometimes you don't even care about the people you work with very much. But sometimes, you really do care. It's like being a tourist in hell."

    I work in a police department that is on the verge of being officially rated as operating within the most dangerous city in the continental U.S. And the attitude you've described is exactly that - a tourist in hell. Frankly, most of the officers I see everyday and work within this department I wouldn't trust with a drivers' license, much less a gun.

    I listen to the 911 tapes and hear the radio transcripts and listen to the uniformed personnel talk to one another. It scares the hell out of me if (and most likely when) this country becomes a Dictatorship; it will be these guys who don't really care that'll enforce The Rules whether we like them or not - and right now, they've already got the mindset of "I'm just doing my job and I don't care."

    - Desparately Seeking Another Job
  • Life in Dry Dock (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @03:51PM (#8046719)
    Imagine yourself on a navy ship ( a really big metal box) in dry dock in Portsmouth, VA during middle of the summer. Barnacles and other sea life rotting on the hull while the sandblaster makes its way from bow to stern. You have to wear a hard hat, respirator and hearing protection because the noise of the sandblaster will drive you deaf in no time.

    There's no ventilation (let alone AC), drinking water has traces of diesel fuel marine (DFM) that truly loosens you up inside (great with unsweeted tea). The doc tells you its within acceptable limits.

    You have the priviledge of sleeping in a state room directly beneath the black fight deck with, maybe, an inch of insulation between your space and the deck. Temperatures are 100 degrees plus well into the night with dust comprising of lead paint, sand, pulvurized sea life and lord knows what else that got into everything. There is no water for showering. Working toilets are few and far between due to the repair work in progress.

    During the day, you oversaw repair work to your spaces and equipment or did paperwork that was covered in drops of gritty sweat.

    Your day started at 4:30am with Officer's call at 5:30. It ended at 6pm (unless you had duty).

    Top it off, the enlisted guys had it worse.

    Fortunately, when the work was done and we put out to sea, the work was worth it and life onboard wasn't so bad.

    They decommissioned the ship two years later.
  • Portal to Hell (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amorpheous ( 733409 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:02PM (#8046886)
    I worked at a sulfur reclaimation factory in the early 80's. We had a mountain of sulfur and potash about the size of a small Hawaiian island that when it rained the runoff was sulfuric acid with ph of about 2. We used to have to go test the runoff and then spread crushed limestone in the streams to neutralize the acid. Back at the reclaimation plant we had this huge steam-heated bin (about 12 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 12 feet deep) that we dumped the sulfur and potash mixture into to melt and run through the filters to remove the impurities. This thing stunk like an old sour milk carten full of rotten eggs thrown into a pile of burning tires! If ever there was a direct portal to hell, that was it! It was truly awful yet it held your morbid fascination like nothing else. Through the length of this chaldron of hellish delight ran a conveyor belt made with iron links and held together with brass bolds. The conveyor was needed to keep the sedament stirred up and the brass bolts were needed to prevent sparks as the conveyor was dragged through this giant urn of demonic soup. Every week something would spark in the satanic stew and which would incite a hellish onslaught of sulphuric acid gas and fumes (you would think that satans minions would have used this orofice to enter our realm). We would have to go into this corrosive atmosphere of all-consuming fumes and scream incantations while dousing the beast with a firehose of near-holy water. It would inevitably succumb to our efforts after many hours and retreat to its netherworld lair while we went back and recharged our respirators for the next episode of battle. It rained alot so the sulphur mixture mixed with mud and made a sort of acid-armour on everything it touched. All vehicles had a coating of this substance that encased its victim while corroding it from the inside. Every vehicle that ever came out to the site got it on it and when its exhaust system would heat up, it smelled like you were driving around in a vehicle made of steel, rancid meat, rotten eggs, and butt-cheese. Over time the fenders of the vehicles looked like old moth-eaten clothes pulled from some old chest from the bowels of some ancient castle. Basically your personal property became consumed by the foul elements of the site. The sulfur permeated one's very pores. When you sweated, you wreaked of rotting eggs, when you showered, the run-off had a yellow tinge. You couldn't own a pet fish as the acidity of your very presence would foul its environment and bring about its untimely demise. Curiously though, no one who worked there for any length of time ever got sick, ever.
  • Re:2guys dept store (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kormoc ( 122955 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:09PM (#8046993)
    Dude, wow. If I was in that position of my manager abusing a specal person like that (I worked with one for 7 years, so I know what it's like and how cool they can be, just like anyone else), I think I would have intrupted, and when he turned around, nailed him in his god damn jaw... (/me grumbles about the mother fuckin assholes of the world...)
  • by buzzcutbuddha ( 113929 ) <> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:15PM (#8047083) Homepage

    I've had 27 different jobs in my life:
    groundskeeper, photographer, construction worker, car salesman, telemarketer, bill collector, restaurant manager, cook, pizza delivery boy, cashier, PC technician, project manager, software engineer, just to name a few.

    One of the worst conditions I ever dealt with was when I was doing groundskeeping work. I worked on the estate of a multi-millionaire businessman who owned several thousand acres in the Pennsylvania country side. He had acres and acres of pine trees he was growing to sell at Christmas. But he decided that he didn't like that idea any more, and so he wanted them all cut down and uprooted so he could put in his own personal golf course. So during one of the hottest summers ever, I would trundle out with the 3 other guys in my jeans, boots, t-shirt, flannel shirt, hat, and gloves to cut down pine trees with chainsaws, and then heave them into the trailer to be hauled away. I got heat exhaustion 3 times that summer, and so many rashes from the needles and sap, it was awful. We asked the millionaire if we could work 4am until noon, and enjoy some cooler temperatures, but he didn't want his sleep disturbed.

    Same millionaire would have us go out and wash his airplane at the local airport whenever it rained. No lie. It would be pouring and we'd be outside in the rain with brushes and soap scrubbing down the exterior of his jet. That, and when it rained, we'd go clean his turkey pens. He would throw lavish Thanksgiving parties and have fresh turkeys from his coops killed. So we'd go in and sweep up turkey shit and breath in all those nasty feathers and shit. I mean, literally, shit. Hourly pay rate: $4.25

    Worked in an office that used to be a janitor's closet, and it doubled as the server room. It was the width of your standard cubicle. Day-time temperatures of over 100 degrees. The company required suit and tie as well.

    The company I work for now is great, but the facilities suck. Mold growing up the walls and in the ceiling tiles, the roof leaks horrendously and we've had lights short out above us because of leaking water. There are crickets and mice all the time. The fire alarm just goes off at random, so you never know if you're supposed to get up and leave or not. For the entire month of December we had no heat at all, and they had to send us home some days. The other guys in my office bought a space heater to help us out, and it blew out a circuit. Now it's over 80 in here, and the heat's rising. You always think you're smelling something burning, but you can't be sure. There's only 3 toilets for over fifty men (on average), except the one's always busted, so we really only have two. They keep saying that they're going to fix the toilet but they never do. We don't have any windows, and no way to get fresh air. We'd like to turn off the lights overhead and use desk lamps, but oh, no switches to control the lights. This office used to be a chemical lab and there are still portions of the office that haven't been converted to "Class A" office space and still have drums of whatever sitting around. Love the company, but the location is killing us.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:19PM (#8047144)
    I once worked on a farm picking up dog shit, I kid you not, pieces of dried up Gordon Setter poop pucks, into a huge 2 gallon bucket. I would get $2 for each bucket. This while the farmer a few miles down the road was spraying his land with liquid manure. This didn't last long.

    I also worked in my dad's Dry cleaners store, in the summer time. Temperature averages 40 C (104 F) with very high humidity, and breathing in tons of carcinogenic Perchloroethylene [] (the stuff that smells like banana in dry cleaners).

    People would walk in and complain about the heat. I invited them to walk next to the machines spewing out skin-burning vapours, but they never took the challenge.

    There's also the time I worked putting asphalt sealant on driveways to keep the bourgeois driveways nice and clean. There's nothing like walking on hands and knees breathing the fumes of this tar-like substance and getting it all over yourself.

    I also worked tech support in the late 1990s in a Montreal ISP, right after the city was paralized with a huge power outtage for days. Generatoir power was going only to vital systems, and there was no heating. It was pretty cold, and funny to have to wear a down jacket and gloves in an office, and seeing vapours coming out of your mouth as you spoke.

  • Re:windows 98 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:20PM (#8047161)
    I work for a school district. Around 4000 computers, half of which are Win95. The high school campus is almost entirely win95, and has about 16 MB of RAM, except in labs, which have 32 to run Deepfreeze.

    I work in an office with an uptight, bitchy hispanic woman who makes a big deal out of everything, and constantly talks about how I'm never doing anything.

    And I'm thankful. Fsck me, I'm stupid some times.
  • by charliedog ( 688216 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:23PM (#8047202)

    I was part of a contracted three-man software development team that supported the Marines in Mogadishu, Somalia during Operation Restore Hope [] in 1993. We were there to make sure that a PC-based software application that provided deployment and redeployment support operated properly.

    Our office was out of the US Embassy. Unfortunately the Embassy had been gutted so there was no furniture, no windows, no plumbing, and no air conditioning. There was just concrete walls and ceilings. Our toilet facilities consisted of a public plywood outhouse with half barrels beneath the seats. Once a day, the barrels would be collected and some diesel fuel thrown in. The contents would then be burned, usually upwind. The smoke added to the smell of decomposing flesh since the Somalians buried thier dead under piles of loose rock. Many nights there would be firefights on the other side of the embassy compound wall to add to our joy and excitement. The sand was as fine as talcum powder and blew everywhere. It eroded our keyboard contacts and so we needed to make field repairs to keep up and running. We slept in general purpose tents at the embassy golf course that was nothing but sand since the irrigation system had been looted. We got showers about once a week and laundry even less frequently. We had to deal with dengue fever and quinine resistant malarial mosquitoes. Thank God I was young, then.

    All that said, it was an experience of a lifetime. We modified the Marine system to work with all four Services and that application is still around today. (Ported from Clipper to PowerBuilder/Sybase though) Gave me a real appreciation for the work that our Service men and women go through on a daily basis. We were only there for six weeks and it seemed like a lifetime. The Service people were there for months.

  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:40PM (#8047437)
    First half of last year, I answered a job in the paper asking for people with computer skills. I was told I would be coordinating some database backups and other miscellaneous things for local banks and ATMs. It seemed easy enough. It was a night job, from about 10 to 2 at the latest. I thought it would be fun to try. I was unemployed and needed the work.

    After the very first night, I came home freaked. The mainframe was a big IBM OS/2 machine, but connected to it were several absolutely ancient terminals running custom-written FORTRAN operating applications. These things were so horrible that I felt as though I had been transported back in time 20 years. Green and black monochrome screens, strange keyboards with weird keys I'd never seen, and lists of tabular data with no sane cursor control--for instance, to set an option for a certain batch job, you would have to move the cursor down through the list to the two underline characters sitting to the left of it and enter it there. It was a free cursor you could move anywhere over any text--apparently the software just checked if there were characters typed at a certain location on the screen.

    Along with that, you set things by typing in "P" or "Q" or whatever else into those little areas. There were entire sequences of function keys, letters to put next to jobs, certain ones to put in at certain times, and sitting beside these terminals a big tape drive machine. Behind me were two walls filled from floor to ceiling with garbled tape names like "PVADGH6," divided by day, week, and year. There was a sequence to these that I had to remember, or I would have to start all over. We're talking bank data here, so it would really fuck things up to get it wrong.

    Along with learning that, there was a huge, massive printer I had to learn, and during the process, I also had to go over to some Windows 95 machines and use batch commands to dial in and update ATM machines. I also had to go to other rooms in the building and type in arcane commands to do certain things there, but dependent on other things. I'm barely skimming the surface here--there was an entire four-to-six hour process literally consisting of step after step after step after step, all completely arbitrary and insane. The only break was one of about 45 minutes somewhere in the middle.

    The operator training me was a redneck guy who had been here so long, the entire process was completely memorized to him. He smoked smelly cigars, was annoyingly talkative, and was constantly making fun of the gay guy who worked next door and who would come in late sometimes to work on things. He kept trying to What's worse, he wasn't computer saavy at all--he had just had this process memorized, and it contained all his unintelligent quirks.

    On my last day, about a week into it, he had decided to let me start tackling things by myself. I get the first few steps down, because that's how you learn after just a week--the first parts first. I'm still trying to remember crap like "set all P jobs to J, but make sure GH828G6 is in drive A before pressing F8, but only after the SHEV jobs have gone through by midnight," and I totally start fucking absolutely everything up with the tape back ups, with the job sends, with everything. He actually gets annoyed with me, and doesn't criticize me directly but says things as he fixes them, like "Now we have to wait because all this other shit is running." I think I was there until 6 or 7 in the morning. The sun was up when I got to the car.

    I just didn't bother to show up the next Monday. I collected my check later and left. The boss handed me the check in the lobby, but before he did, he asked me if there had been any problems, if I had been treated nicely. I said everything was fine, but it made me wonder afterward why he would ask, as if he's seen this sort of reaction before. There was a young guy my age before me who also up and quit after a short time (the redneck loved to talk grudgingly about doubt I've joined that
  • Exodus! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vladkrupin ( 44145 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @04:53PM (#8047616) Homepage
    Oh, once you mentioned a corridor with no windows, I suddenly remembered my most-hated workplace. Exodus co-location facility.

    Due to the layout of the rack, I had to mount keyboard at just below my shoulder level when I stand up. I used to keep a really high stool there, so I could sit up high, but somebody stole it (So much for the false sense of security, thanks, Exodus!). So, I had to stand on the floor, typing at my shoulder level in freezing temperatures (that was back when their air conditioning at the Seatac location was still working). Keeping my hands up makes blood drain from them, making them very fatigue and tired; the cold temperatures accelerate the process. Gloves are not an option, because they slow me down making me stand in that freezer box longer than I absolutely have to. My knees and feet (and back) get really sore from standing in the same position on the hard floor for hours. I can remember the horror as if it happened yesterday! ... On a brighter side, these conditions "encouraged" me to do a good job, because when my servers worked well, I didn't have to be there!
  • by infinite9 ( 319274 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @05:02PM (#8047719)
    I once delivered a replacement rental computer (an original IBM PC-XT) to a phosphorus mining operation in florida. The black bezels on the floppy drives had been bleached to a light grey. There was a shower in the parking lot where you could wash off your car before going home for the day.
  • by chimpo13 ( 471212 ) <> on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @05:11PM (#8047837) Homepage Journal
    Sex with monkeys is why I work there. Hey monkey, is that a banana in my pocket or am I just happy to see you?

    There's vaccines they give you, and I've had plenty of other vaccines that aren't mandatory. I'm planning on riding a motorcycle around Australia and New Zealand. I was going to try to ride round the world, so that's why I've had so many vaccines.

    It's a state job, and it's hard to discipline state workers. I think that's why a lot of people don't follow precautions (not washing hands, not washing hands before eating, walking into monkey rooms without masks, sticking pens in their mouth that they used in monkey rooms, stealing tattoo guns from the quarantine monkey labs). Diarrhea runs rampant (bad pun intended). I'm pretty cautious myself, but there are ex-felons & drug users there.

    Imported monkeys (ie, Chinese monkeys) are kept in quarantine for an extended period and the folks in that group seem on the ball.

    You have to wear a uniform that stays there. When you go into a monkey room, you wear long sleeves, a face mask, a face shield, a hair cover and gloves. Some rooms (monkey AIDS) you wear 2 gloves, and a body gown. I've never been in the quarantine rooms when there's quarantine monkeys, but there you wear a suit that stays in the room.

    All and all, it's the best 12 bucks an hour I've ever earned.
  • by openartist ( 685989 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @05:27PM (#8048099) Homepage
    It was summer. No air conditioning. No natural light. Strong smell from the nearby margarine factory. I was sitting on a non-ergonomic chair, working on a 286 with 2MB of RAM, WordPerfect 5.2, amber monitor, sat on top of a wheeled trolley that I couldn't get my legs under. And what was I doing with this world-class equipment? I was sorting 5,000 entries in New Zealand Who's Who into alphabetical order. Had to create a whole bunch of small files and copy and paste endlessly.... And they were paying me $12.50 an hour, presumably because of my master's degree. Lots of you guys have had worse jobs but that was my low point. ___________
  • by YukioMishima ( 205721 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @05:34PM (#8048188)

    I worked one summer at the City's Department of Recreation. Turned down a job working maintenance at a water park (late high school/early college female lifeguards) because the Dept. of Rec. paid more. What a horrible tradeoff.

    The city manager's assistant who hired me was excited - not because I was in college, but because I still had a valid driver's license. All of our equipment was handed down from other city departments who no longer wanted/needed it. The truck I drove had been used to clear snow off of ice-covered ponds, until it fell partly through the ice. That stopped the 4WD from working, so they simply disconnected it. The Special Deluxe topped out a 30 mph, but I did have a yellow light on the top that alerted motorists to my presence on the city streets.

    The death threats: Not only did we have the worst crew (Supervisor demoted to Dept. of Rec. due to pending child pornography charges; the two other employees excepting me were permanent-part time, alcoholics who would pick up their first 6 packs on the 6 am ride into work - couldn't drive b/c no licenses) but the Dept. of Rec. also had work release convicts that did much of the work.

    The first death threat was from a convicted crack dealer from Bay City, Michigan. After I conveyed our supervisor's orders, he strode up to me, poked me in the nose, and told me that he would "kill me" and that if his brother wasn't in prison, his brother would also "come and kill me as well." I didn't point out the logical fallacy within his argument at the time. The second was a B&E (he stole guns and some money) convict from Alpena, Michigan. I wasn't as worried this time; he only wanted to use the truck, and it's not as if he had the guns he had originally stolen to fulfill his death threat this time.

    All in all, it was still better than selling Kirby Vacuums door-to-door. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @06:07PM (#8048638)
    I used to work in a chilled room as a butcher. Because I was an apprentice I'd have to process the chicken. Whole chickens come in vats full of ice so every morning I'd have to wait a few minutes with my hands in the ice to lose all feeling. I'd then proceed to cut up chicken on the band saw for hours and hours. I could get through about 150 boxes of chicken or about 1500 chickens in a day. One day I cut off my finger on the bandsaw and didn't even notice until one of the guys started yelling at me. Anyway I left the place after that and the comp settlement paid for my college education.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @06:34PM (#8048996)
    Ok, so it isnt that cold where I work. But nevertheless. I work as a garage cleaner/janitor 40 hrs/week. The garages can hold approx 500 cars each. And in Sweden there are no laws against throwing trash on the ground. So there is a lot of cleaning needed to be done.
    Imagine all the gases cars generate. Imagine all the small cancereogenic particles that swirls around each time a car passes me while I'm cleaning.
    But worst of all is to in this "environment" be forced to pick up poop left on the floor by heroin addicts. I also have to force them to leave. Unless they have blue tounges/lips - that supposedly mean they have used some kind of drug that takes away all kind of morality and compassion of the drug user. If so, I'm supposed to call our guard company.
    Well. I'm also forced to post this anonymousely so my controlfreaky boss wont google this and fire me for talking shit about my job. Litterally.
  • Re:House Calls (Score:3, Interesting)

    by good soldier svejk ( 571730 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @06:34PM (#8048999)
    You are a far better person than I am. I couldn't do it and I hope if I ever need help the paramedic is as dedicated as you.

    My brother in law is also an inner city paramedic/firefighter/emergency rescue guy. He doesn't really do it out of altruism. Rather, he is a hyper-competitive adenalin junkie. He doesn't care much for the victims/patients as people, but they afford him an opportunuity to perfect and demonstrate his madd people saving skillz. To that end he made sure to have himself transferred to the busiest firehouse in the worst neighborhood in the city. Having spent a little time around the firehouse, I have to say this seems to be pretty much the norm (in this busiest, worst station anyway). If anything, they seem to have a measure of disdain for civilians (although not nearly so pronounced as their antipathy to cops and ER/EU interns).

    That said, this he is definitely the guy you want pulling you out of a collapsed building and reviving you. He doesn't care about you as a human, but saving your life is unreasonably important to his self image. This is fine with me. OTOH, I think he really does care about your pets. He will risk his life to save your dog simply because he likes animals.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @06:40PM (#8049074)
    I sure dont have that beat, but I do have something to add.

    I gave 4 years out of my life to a game store. No, not VIDEO games, but card games (Magic, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc). I originally came on to manage thier Gaming LAN, which payed quite nicely. Then I decided to fill out my days with helping at the counter. Bad move...

    Easily you can assume the hell I went through with the hundreds of kids who "only stepped away for a second" and lost his entire collection and his soul, then has the parents blame us. One parent actually briefly started a boycott outside because his kid "lost his passion" when he lost his collection. She claimed we weren't doing enough, and even went so far as to accuse us that we were in on it and bought the stolen single cards. Don't ask me or any of the 2 people working the front to oversee the 100+ people roaming the play area AND sell people stuff.

    Anyway, that wasn't the worst of it. I had to babysit 40-year old kids to make sure they wouldn't cheat in tournaments. I had to manage an asinine inventory on a buggy POS software system (really, do we need 10 copies of the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' roleplaying game). When I became manager, I had to be responsible for the gaming network AND the store AND the employees under me. All this, for less than what i was making before (dont ask).

    To top it all off, I had to work under freshly 21 year old rich kid whos daddy bought him the store so he would get out of the house and work (the previous owners were not that much better, but the owners wife was HOT). Needless to say, he didn't work at all. I also had to work under a KID 2 years younger than me who got there 3 months into his tenure there because he was a friend of the owner (and a master brown-noser). No one had an opinion.

    Oh, the times I contemplated mass murder when someone I barely remembered comes up to me with fucky breath wanting to show me his "new deck tech".

    Its things like this that made me start my own company.
  • by oh ( 68589 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @08:05PM (#8050036) Journal
    Hmm, sounds like as AS/400 system. Guess what I was just working on? (like 5 minutes ago)

    You were trained badly. Or rather, you weren't trained at all. Sure you can move the curser all over the screen, but hitting TAB (or the key that looks like it) would move you to the start of the next field. There was even a reverse tab, that would move you to the start of the previous field (it was a separate key, not SHIFT-TAB like you have to use if you are on a PC keyboard).

    About 5 years ago I was a call centre operator for a fast food delivery service, and it used an AS/400 back end. 200 operators with green screen terminals, with a call time target of 55 seconds. We found out most of the tricks, there was even a key that cleared the filed from the current position to the end.

    There were some quirks to the as/400 (now called iSeries by IBM), but they aren't that different to a regular computer once you understand how they work. Trouble is, by the sounds of it there was know one who knew anything to teach you.
  • by rark ( 15224 ) on Wednesday January 21, 2004 @10:08PM (#8051128)

    from the movie

    Been there, done that.

    First (and the only 'official' time) was because I was having 'delusions' that my parents were abusing me when I was a kid. And they got a psychiatrist to agree with them and level me on anti-psychotics. I very nearly did not graduate high school because of this (anyone who has never actually been on anti-psychotics has no clue how evil the meds actually are. I can actually see arguments for hallucinations being less debilitating).

    Eight years after leaving them (and coming off the drugs), it's funny...I haven't had problems with delusions or hallucinations. In fact, there's only been four times when my sanity was called into question. In all four cases it was done by people who knew my history and were being abusive (three towards me and one towards a child) and sadly, all four times I allowed myself to believe that I was hallucinating and delusional and thus the abusive situation continued until someone else stepped in and pointed out to me (or, the first two times, spent quite a bit of time convincing me...) that I was not crazy, and they had seen the exact same things I had (even though I was being told that these things had not happened).

    In all four cases physical evidence that I was correct in my viewing of the situation also existed. In all four cases, the person accusing me of being schizophrenic also did things other than the actual abusive behavior to convince me I was crazy, like moving things around or changing things and denying it, or claiming that I did things that I didn't and that I must have forgotten or been in some sort of psychotic fugue state, or hiding a radio and claiming they coudln't hear and and thus I must be 'hearing voices' (maybe the first person in history to have one's voices announce callsigns and read advertisements :) ).

    It *royally* pisses me off that people who are doing things they shouldn't be (whether that's abusing a child or adult, or embezzeling, or a million other ways humans screw up) can completely discredit people who are trying to blow the whistle on them by getting them labled as 'crazy' -- either directly (mental health agencies, psych hospitals and the doctors and therapists themselves are in the best position to do this, and sometimes they do) or indirectly (as abusive parents and spouses sometimes do. I really do wish that I was the only person that this had ever happened to, but I'm not). Particularly when they then use tactics that emulate actual mental illness.

    Schizophrenia is an awful disease. Statements to the effect of 'it can be treated now, with minimal side effects' are inaccurate. Anti-psychotics are harsh meds that shut down thought and make it difficult to move, and can have lasting effects. They are also not nearly 100% effective, closer to 60%-80%, generally, and I don't entirely trust those numbers, as many of the studies I have read tend not to take into account the fact that schizophrenia is an episodic disease. An untreated schizophrenic has a good likelihood of no longer being symptomatic after several weeks, though there is a good chance that symptoms will return. OTOH, there's also a good chance that symptoms will return even with meds, and most of the schizophrenics I know (a fairly large number, because I socialize in some odd spots and because I've been researching schizophrenia for years, though I am not a professional) are still delusional on their meds, though they don't seem to hallucinate nearly as much and the delusions are 'more likely' (believing that, say, anti-spammers are hacking into one's computer and putting viruses on it that report one's free speech activist activities back to them -- actual example here :) vs believing that the NSA is forcing one to think particular thoughts -- the former is at least sort of physically possible). But these folks are medication 'success stories'.

    At best, anti-psychotics are probably a more humane way of dealing with those who become violent due
  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Thursday January 22, 2004 @12:33AM (#8052142)
    I used to install computer instrumentation for a chain of dairys. They had this milk fat testing lab where farmers would submit little samples of raw milk, the little cups would go down a conveyor, under a little sample tester, then the probe would lift out, shake itself off and fling raw milk on everything within a 3 foot radius. The wall near the tester was caked with rancid fat about an inch deep. The smell was so bad, I'd retch and want to puke after just a few minutes. To this day, 25 years later, I cannot stand even the SMELL of milk.
  • cold cold world (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2004 @03:14AM (#8052507)
    I'm a freelance designer. I work in an unfinished basement. No windows, the air quality is less than perfect. The basement is split by a plywood partition -- the other side belongs to the neighbors, who have a cat whose litterbox is apparently right next to the partition. Fresh cat shit smells wonderful.

    Let's see, there is a washer and dryer about eight feet from my desk. If my wife is running both, I have to turn off one of my computers, or the circuit can't take it. There is, for some bizarre reason, only one circuit in the basement, and I've got a ton of equipment plugged into it.

    And finally, it gets down near freezing in the winter. I have to work in longjohns, three shirts, a coat, gloves (with the fingers cut out), and lately I've had to wrap a blanket around myself as well. I have a space heater, but I can't use it when either the washer or dryer are in use, and in any case, it doesn't help much.

    But, I get to set my own hours and spend more time with my daughter. So, no complaints. Or, not many.
  • Not absolute but, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by marcovje ( 205102 ) on Thursday January 22, 2004 @07:43AM (#8053402)

    Certainly not the worst in this list, but it was annoying anyway.

    We had an huge NMR and MRI room on the place where I did my traineeship.

    Of course we were warned (already at the uni) that NMR has a tendency to corrupt electronic devices, and even can be dangerous if it attracts keys through your pants, but that is usually not as bad as stated. However one of these baby did eat stuff.

    The expensive machinery (several millions each, had 3) was shared with a different institution and heavily used, so we made it a habit to come in an hour late, and stay an hour longer to use the NMR stuff after normal hours. Of course we were in a rush to go home, and you sometimes forget to empty all of your pockets.

    Watches, any card with a magnetic strip, PDA's, totally wiped out or dead. One trainee left keys
    in his pocket, and he lost the pocket of his levi's when changing a probe on the machine.

    We all bought "Seiko Automatics" (these are the older, fully mechanical eq of Seiko Kinetics) watches because they were mechanical, but while it seemed to work at first, after a while they were dead also. Probably the magnetic field twisted the delicate mechanical parts after a while. While Kinetics lasted the longest, they were also significantly more expensive, so we were back at roaming the fair grounds for cheap watches :_)

  • M$ tried to kill me (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dameon ( 72340 ) on Thursday January 22, 2004 @08:02AM (#8053450)
    My previous employer was involved in stress testing large diesel engines. They hooked PC's up to the Engine's Computer, and ran it through various test cycles.

    Well, it was not uncommon to have VERY specific testing criteria for these simulations.

    So, one day over the Christmas break (I came in for the Holiday Pay, plus OT -- good stuff), there was a test running. The PC driving it was running NT4.0. This holiday shutdown, the guys at corporate thought it would be brilliant to push SMS out to all my lab computers. Bad idea. The test was running with very low oil, and constant RPM shifting (to simulate hilly terrain). It BSOD'ed during an incline, and the PC forgot to tell the engine to shut-down, so the RPM's kept increasing. They called me instantly, and I came out as soon as I could. Right about the time I got there and found out what caused the BSOD, the engine exploded. Shrapnel went everywhere.

    And it was about that time that we found out the blast-proof door wasn't so blast-proof. We all hit the deck, and hot engine flew everywhere. It is a miracle that none of us got hurt any more than we did.

    That was about the time I started playing with Linux at home ... so I think it was all a M$ Conspiracy.
  • by ender_pete ( 412285 ) on Thursday January 22, 2004 @08:31AM (#8053563)
    i would have to say being in 125 degree heat in full mopp gear(Chemical biological weapon protection gear) under heavy artillery fire and missle bombardment. I was setting up and maintaining field networks so the officers could sit in their air conditioned tent and look at pc screens. that was a screwed up time.

Given its constituency, the only thing I expect to be "open" about [the Open Software Foundation] is its mouth. -- John Gilmore