Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Big Thirsty

You have likely heard about the Duke student who is doing porn.  If not, some information is here and here.  I've done some extensive, ahem, background research about this subject but the Blogger terms and conditions prevent me from sharing that.  Anyway, one of our frequent commenters has a post coming tomorrow about that story so stay tuned. 

Today's Big Thirsty is loosely related to the Duke story.

What's the strangest job you or one of your students has held? 

"Being a professor" is not an acceptable answer.

18 comments:

  1. One of my grad school classmates was an "exotic dancer." She made "crazy money" on weekends and kept urging me to quit my job in an academic office to "make big money." I never took her up on the offer to "hook me up" and managed to get through "PhD School" without resorting to flashing anyone for money. I also have massive student loan debt to prove this.

    Alas, my jobs have been menial and tedious, but the strangest TASK I ever held was as a student worker in a department. My task (beyond grading quizzes and whatnot) was to escort job candidates to the restroom and back (in case they got lost on their way to and from the restroom). This awkward interaction basically entailed my walking them to the restroom on the 2nd floor and then asking if they would like me to wait to escort them back to the meeting rooms. I felt like a prison warden. It wasn't like our restroom was particularly difficult to find, but the chair was convinced that these individuals needed to feel welcomed and that a student escort to and from the bathroom would do the trick.

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  2. Translating Soviet military journals for an entity called "The Customer."

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    1. Concocting fake articles for Soviet military journals.

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  3. Driving taxis in Chicago and operating the nuclear reactor on board a submarine in the U.S. Navy. The first was much more dangerous.

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  4. Labeling refurbished pagers. Sometimes about 2,000 a day.

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  5. My strangest: printing autopsy photos for a law enforcement agency far from the city in which I lived. They didn't want to risk tainting their local jury pool, or having evidence leaked.

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  6. Drilling turkey butts out of dead turkeys at a poultry processing plant

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    1. I worked in a cemetery one summer. Wasn't too bad. It was probably more pleasant than the turkey butts.

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    2. Well of course working in a cemetery wasn't too bad, 'cuz everybody's just dying to get in, much unlike a college full of modern students who sullenly don't want to be here.

      That's a sobering fact: a college full of modern students shows more life than a cemetery.

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  7. "more life than a cemetery."

    Only if the set of "college" includes dorms, frats, and wherever they do those frisbee and other sports things.

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  8. I was a temp in a mailroom for the lobbying arm of Philip Morris...the day I defended my diss I took a long lunch, rode the subway to campus, defended, returned and then delivered the afternoon mail. "Dr. Mailboy" was my email signature for a week or so.

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  9. I worked the metal detector and X-Ray machine at an airport, pre-9/11. Once I found a hand grenade and had to push the silent alarm. Some idiot forgot his demo grenade was in his carry-on (he was military). It was a scary moment, was this a real grenade that was gonna blow-up in front of me or a test by the FAA?

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  10. I was anointed "Chief Testicle Shaver" at a veterinary hospital. After the animals were anesthetized, I would prep for surgery by shaving and sterilizing the area.

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  11. This is a response for Lucrezia Lurker, who has sent me a few comments through the anonymous posting form. Since I don't know Lucrezia's email address, I'll post my reply here.

    No problem. I'm surprised about that aspect too. I guess nothing beats porn.

    That is all. Carry on.

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    1. If Lucrezia is wondering why we're all talking about our own jobs, rather than our students', I suspect that it's because, while most of our students work, the jobs they do (or at least those they disclose) are mostly pretty mundane.

      tl;dr version of my own post below (which probably badly buried the lede): 99% of my students have pretty boring jobs, but I once taught a sword-swallower.

      A related, if sad, fact: most jobs (including, most of the time, college professor) are pretty boring and mundane. When they're not, it's often because they're stressful or scary in some way. That, of course, is why this place exists. And why many of us drink.

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  12. I was an investigator for the Public Defender Service in a major city (fascinating experience for me, but not good news for the defendants, and justice generally, that the investigative arm of their legal "team" was a pretty naive rising college junior). I've also had a job somewhat similar to YY1's: I spent time drying off preserved bats (yes, the flying mammals; they'd been netted in various locations around the globe and pickled in formaldehyde) and noting minute details of their fur, teeth, etc., the better to further species identification (that was an unpaid high school internship). Other gigs include congressional intern, office temp, day care worker, itinerant speed-reading and study skills teacher, music librarian, and, of course, adjunct college professor (unquestionably a strange job in many ways, though not uncommon around these parts). I've also been a freelance writer of high-stakes tests (and have mixed feelings about those) and reference works of the kinds our libraries pay big bucks for (mixed feelings there, too). I've never been a waitress, which is a very good thing, since I'm fairly clumsy, and have somewhat limited social skills (which become more limited the more people I'm expected to deal with at once, and the noisier the room gets). I've never been anything like a sex worker, and am badly unqualified for the position on all kinds of grounds (starting with the limited social skills mentioned above).

    The closest to sex work any of my students have disclosed has been waitressing at Hooters; I've had two students over the years who mentioned that, somewhat to my surprise. There are a lot of nannies, personal assistants, bank tellers,receptionists at various kinds of businesses, retail/food service/hotel workers, and waiters. A few work for the TSA in various capacities. Back in the days of the real estate bubble, some were doing pre-screening of mortgage applications (which was probably a pretty good indication that there *was* a bubble, driven in part by poor underwriting practices). Since I've started teaching writing for scientists, I've had a fair number of working R.N.s (with AA degrees), as well as LPNs and the like, and a good many pharmacy assistants (that sounds like a pretty good job, by the way). The growing kinesiology department sends a lot of personal trainers and assistant youth sports coaches my way (and there are a fair smattering of students who don't officially work, but of course do -- the student-athletes, especially in marquee sports). Students with IT skills are often already working in their field. A good many students in all majors work in family businesses, from retail to food service to child care to more niche products/services. The strangest student job was probably sword swallower, but I'm not sure how much she was paid for that (she did, however, know, from working in variety shows, a burlesque performer, and had some interesting things to say about that -- a sort of retro form of sex performance that, at least in the context it was being done -- small shows essentially organized by the performers -- seemed to offer some of the opportunity for exploration of desire, and for sex/gender empowerment, that I doubt working for "big porn" really provides).

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  13. As a student, by far the best job, and worst job, I've ever had was being a janitor at a downtown office building. The pay was, at the time, about 5-6 times that of minimum wage. (I'm pretty sure now that I was the token non-wiseguy on the payroll of what was otherwise a mobbed-up contract). Given what minimum wage is today, even with my well-paying tenured position I make just slightly less than the equivalent of 6 times minimum wage (based on working 40 hours a week, which isn't the case...). Although it was only a part-time gig with 5 hours a week, it still paid me more than fellow students trying to fit in 20-25 hours a week at a minimum wage job. Even though it involve cleaning toilets in public washrooms, and mopping longggg linoleum-floored hallways (picture something out of a movie, where you are at one end, mop in hand, and you stare off into the abyss as a hallway that disappears into the far distance waits to be made shiny once again...), I was very sad to see that cleaning contract end...

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  14. When I taught at a tiny and highly corrupt little college in the middle of ChemicalPlantLand, I had at least one stripper, every semester. Heck, four I can still picture in my mind--not a lot of student faces can I remember, and, yes, I did see many of them in the local bars of ill repute.

    I hardly blamed them. There were like no job opportunities out there unless you wanted to work in the chemical plants. Naturally, that little college refused to offer any programs that would to get such jobs (because hiring people with those skills would cost, like, money, and that would cut into administrative salaries, and, besides, the Gender Studies courses had much greater retention).

    One semester I taught at a satellite campus. Even with no trees around, there were only 3 buildings for miles around: a chemical plant, the campus, and a truck stop/casino. Great fried chicken livers at the truck stop, at least.

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