Let’s face it; most of us need to pay the bills.  So we try for, if not the best, any job we can land.  Naturally, some are more desirable and better paying than others.  One of my least favorite gigs was as an evening receptionist at a mid-rise apartment building in southeast Washington, D.C.  Having just graduated (with high honors) from Gonzaga University in Spokane, I had headed east in search of the job of my dreams. 

This was not to happen for quite a few years. 


Clocking in at 5 p.m.—rush hour– I took control and buzzed in swarms of CAPITOL PARK TOWER residents headed home from work each evening with all kinds of complaints, questions, demands and dirty looks.  Aside from singles who freshened up and headed out for happy hours, dinner, more drinks, clubbing, whatever, not much happened over the next seven break- less hours.  I read, filed my nails, or drafted short stories and poems.  I always looked forward to 1 a.m. when I could frantically dash home to my apartment down the street, praising the lord each night as I locked the door behind me, safe at last.

Other not so prime work I did to help make ends meet took place at a drugstore in Maryland.  Although this job required me to show up at 6 a.m., the up side was I got off at approximately 6:30 a.m.–and made a whopping $15.00!  My official title was “Breather”, which involved blowing (without having brushed my teeth that morning) into a silver-dollar sized hole cut into a cardboard, makeshift wall.  After gargling with various mouthwashes, I exhaled 9 or 10 long breaths into the hole, where poor testers on the other side of the wall were forced to smell my stale, hot air.  Next they’d report on the effects, if any, of each oral rinse on my deadly “morning mouth”.  Again, I was paid $15 for less than an hour of “work”.

Yes, there are undesirable jobs.  But the WORST I ever encountered and was never forced to endure was in Hong Kong in the 80s.  Upon entering the ladies’ room in a fancy hotel on the harbor, a plump Asian woman in a starched white jacket stuck a small dish in my face with one hand, lifting a sign in her other:  “4 HK dollar to go toilet”.  Oh…she was a Restroom Attendant.  

Eeewwwww—tough, smelly work.

(I wondered what might happen if I did not have any cash?  Perhaps an accident?)

Many, many years later, I find myself in the airport in Charlotte, NC, when I feel the urge to use the restroom.  Hurrying in, I am greeted by a charmingly gracious woman who resembles Aunt Jemima, babushka and all.

She is wearing a crisp indigo blue jacket and bright red lipstick.

“Hi there sweetheart’, she chirps.  “Right this way”, as she directs me into an empty stall.

I notice she has two large glass jars on either side of the sinks, half full of bills, mostly ones but several fives as well… ”Really?” I thought to myself.

After relieving myself I half expect her to open the door and flush for me.  She doesn’t, but watches as I wash my hands, then passes me a towel, offers me a spritz of cologne and/or a mint,  and grins like she loves her job–and me.

Next I reach into my wallet, contemplate a five, but decide a one is a respectable amount to pay for “going #1” in a public facility. 

“Have a nice day, precious”, she drawls as I drop a bill into one of her jars.  “And God bless yawl”.

As I head back out to the concourse I notice Jemima spraying Febreze around the room while munching on a saltine.  I wonder if perhaps she feels nauseous…


One Comment on “ODD JOBS”

  1. Sandy says:

    Nansan. You do make me giggle xxxx S

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