My Vicious Cycle of Acquiring Bad Jobs: A Confession

A Chapter From Un-Crap Your Life

I’ve had some really bad jobs: security guard, assistant lunch lady, temp worker, cook, factory worker, car saleswoman, photo printer, tile glazer, food runner, waitress and doggy daycare worker. I’ve had some good jobs also: graphic artist, English teacher and prepress technician. I reached the glass ceiling in my good jobs and wanted more income. I’m college-educated and fairly intelligent, but I lacked self-esteem and common sense sometimes. I moved around a lot so I had to re-establish connections each time I relocated. I’ve lived in Japan, Arizona, California, Kansas and Missouri.

I come from an upper middle-class background and I never put any serious thought into how to make money. When I was younger, I assumed it would just randomly appear in my bank account. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth. I certainly never learned anything money-related in college. I was too busy memorizing Japanese characters, hosting slideshow parties and making odd films with my best friend. There was no class called “What You Do For Money After You Graduate.”

After college, my friend and I moved to Tucson, Arizona on a whim. We never put much thought into how we were going to support ourselves once we got there. After looking through a few days’ worth of want-ads, we found jobs at a Native American rip-off art factory called Tiessedre.

My friend became a miniature art painter and I became a decorative tile glazer. It started off pretty good as I enjoyed learning the craft of tile glazing. I took pride in calling myself an artisan. But the bad things began piling up fairly quickly after I’d learned the basics of my job. I didn’t much like the fact that the owners were white people who were ripping off the art and designs of Native Americans. The male owner who I’ll now refer to as Lil’ Asswipe, was verbally abusive to all his workers. My wages were so low that I was unable to buy food after the rent and utilities were paid. My rent was pretty low, so that did not account for my inability to buy food. The wages were the real problem.

Lil’ Asswipe would often start off our day by screaming at us, “I don’t want no sick babies tomorrow!” Most of the workers were women with children. His message was clear: don’t stay home with your sick child, get to work and let your child fend for him/herself. He also used to crack sexist jokes around us.

The first time he screamed at us marked the beginning of my intense and imaginative revenge fantasies. I knew I wasn’t going to let this bastard get away with treating human beings like worthless creatures. Every day I said under my breath, “Lil’ Asswipe, you are going to pay dearly for abusing us. I don’t know which day it will be, but it will come to pass.”

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My anger and hatred for this little man grew for months until I could no longer contain it. I had moved from the revenge fantasy stage into the revenge action plan stage. My first revenge plan was simple: I’d walk up to him and punch him in the face. But I didn’t want to go to jail, so I crossed that one off. My second plan was to walk up to him while carrying a tray of freshly painted tiles and “accidentally” trip, thereby spilling the wet tiles onto his face. The hope would be either the glaze or the sharp edges of the tiles would do some bodily harm to him. I rehearsed this plan for days and days and was very close to enacting it. I felt a rush of endorphins every time I rehearsed it in my mind. I practiced what I would say, how I would trip, and what I would say afterwards. But in the end, I chickened out. I didn’t want to go to jail and feared my plan would somehow backfire.

So, I created a third and final plan that I actually carried out. Here’s how it went down: I told my best friend about it and she agreed to go along. On our final day, we painted and glazed all kinds of morbid creatures on our work instead of the chintzy Southwestern designs we were instructed to do.

After painting and glazing these bizarre figures all afternoon, I decided the time was right to pay Lil’ Asswipe a visit in his office. I calmly opened the door and locked eyes with him at the first opportunity. I began speaking, “Dear boss of mine, I’m so sad to leave this beautiful, fun place you’ve created for us slaves. Today is such a sad day for me. I’m sad too, as I will no longer be helping you and your dear wife build your mansions from the sweat off my back. I’m glad you two can enjoy your leisure time spent in luxurious surroundings while your workers are traveling to various food banks just so they don’t starve to death. And your jokes, I’m going to miss those funny jokes! And I’ll never forget your words, “No sick babies”. I have a little question for you. Want to hear it? I thought you’d say yes. Do you know why I know how to make a killer bowl of ramen noodles? I didn’t think you knew the answer. There’s a lot you will never know. But, I’m not going to stick around any longer to enlighten you, you worthless piece of shit.” After I said the word, “shit”, I could sense his shiftiness and fear. I decided that this would be a good time to bolt out of his office. I didn’t let him say one word. I was gone just as fast as I had zoomed in!

After I walked out, I had a rush. A serious rush! I was alive, happy and not in jail. I returned the horrors and insults to the person who had created them. I had spoken for everyone and I had spoken the truth. Later that same day, I found out that Lil’ Asswipe had called my best friend into his office after I walked out. He asked her if I was organizing a worker revolt. It was genius! I had put the fear into his blood and now he was scared that his workers were going to revolt against him! I, the little person I felt I was, had scared a bad grown man! My job was now complete. It was time to move on.

This story is from a chapter of my book, Un-Crap Your Life. You can buy my book here on Amazon.

Leah Stephens is a writer, artist and experimenter. She writes for the Interesting Engineering website and other clients.