Posted by: joha5 | June 29, 2010

How Many Weird Jobs Can One 28 Year Old Have Had? The Answer: More Than You

When I was a little boy I had big dreams.  I dreamed of being a professional athlete.  I dreamed of being President of the United States.  I dreamed of being famous.  As I got older I tempered my expectation’s to something more reasonable.  I dreamed of being in a relationship.  I dreamed of traveling to new and exciting places.  I dreamed of having an incredible job.  I dreamed of having close friends that would last a lifetime.  Overall, I have been succesful in most of these departments.  Not only that, but I am only 28 years old so I have plenty of time to succeed in the areas that I have not yet had the success that I long for.

There is an irony in all of this, however.  I have succeeded – or done well – in every job that I have ever done yet for almost every job that I have had, I never really wanted to do them in the first place.  Sure, a bunch of them seemed tolerable and acceptable to start off with and this also isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed any of the work that I have done.  I most certainly have.  But looking back on the history of jobs that I have I just can’t help but laugh at it all.

My first job that I ever had was working at a place called Hollywood Video.  I used to have to wear a tuxedo -sans jacket – with a bright red cumberbund and a clip on red bow tie.  I was 15 years old and it was 1997 which was before the DVD had really taken off for home entertainment.  As a consequence I used to have to pile up these old VHS cassette tapes in my arms and stumble around the store stacking them back on the shelves.  I also figured out that Hollywood Video had a shelf life policy for candy so I used to count the candy and then lie to the manager about the numbers so that he would always end up ordering more.  I would wait the requisite 3 months and before you knoew it he was dumping out boxes and boxes of candy.  Fortunately, I just always happened to position myself in the right vicinty to be able to ‘take them off of his hand’s’.  As a result for most of 1997 and 1998 I was basically running an illegal (?) Twizzler and Nerds ring in the Washington metropolitan area.

The Scene of the Crime

I used to teach summer camp when I was in high school as well.  I started off teaching classes that I was qualified to do such as tennis, soccer, and team sports.  But all of a sudden I found myself either teaching or assisting in classes like Young Inventors, The Way Things Work, and even Guitar.  I could fumble my around in most of them but considering I don’t play the guitar – and never have in my entire life – stumbling around trying to teach a bunch of kids the guitar was quite difficult.  I went to my good friend’s house who tried to teach me some chords and some easy songs to teach the children but my fingers began cramping up and blistering and it became next to impossible to even move my hands let alone actually impart knowledge.  Being resourceful I learned the chords that I needed and went to class the following day.  The kids wanted me to play them a song so all I did was play the guitar quietly while I shouted some Simon & Garfunkel song while constantly changing between the three notes that I knew on the guitar hoping that they wouldn’t recognize my obvious disability.  What I quickly realized is that it didn’t matter how the song sounded.  The only thing that mattered was that it looked like I knew what I was doing.  This has since been an applicable metaphor in the rest of my other jobs.

I then arrived at Dickinson College on the promise of doing a work study program to help fund my studies throughout my collegiate career.  There were plenty of jobs available after your freshman year but the one common denomenator was that all first year students doing work study had to spend time in the cafeteria.  Now there were plenty of options in the cafeteria – washing and drying the cutlery, dishwasher, tray cleaner, food server, and vacuumer are the ones that come to mind – but none of them were particularly appealing.  Even less appealing was the fact that I got stuck with the Friday morning breakfast shift and the Friday evening dinner shift.  I had to be at work by 6 AM so I could stand in the back room and get yelled at by these upperclassmen who really seemed to care about how you wash the silverware.  If you have ever had to get up at 5:45 in the morning so that you can be yelled at while touching boiling hot forks and knives then I know you will feel my pain.  The dinner shift was less of a physical burden but much more of a mental one.  I was the guy who stood with Lunch Lady Alice – or whatever the hell her name was – in a hairnet and an apron dishing up the main entree in the hot meal line.  The students would pass me their plate and I would slop on some macaroni and cheese or some mashed potatoes or something equally as splashy when you throw it down onto a hot plate.  It wasn’t so much that it felt demeaning or anything because I was happy to work for my money.  It was just that I had to serve all of my friend’s in this horrendous outfit and the smell…my God, the smell.  Fortunately it only lasted a year before I was able to retire from that job and move onto the more luxurious – yet equally as challenging – position of campus tourguide to prospective students.

Great school...just don't do work study if you can help it.

My next truly shocking position was working as a bartender in central London.  This in and of itself wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, I really enjoyed it for the most part.  I worked with great people and I enjoyed a handful of customers.  The only thing that kept it from being a good job were the ungodly hours, awful patrons, drunk rants, the spills, the smells, the yelling, the fighting, the music, and the egotistical bosses who think that running a bar in central London is the biggest achievement in the entire world.  Hmmm…maybe it was a pretty awful job after all.

After that I became an actor.  An actor.  You could not possibly imagine how I felt after I finished my theater studies program only to get signed to an agent when there were probably many better actors in my company who did not even get a second glance from agents.  I was literally on top of the world.  I had hit the big time.  I was going to be famous.  I was well on my way to success.  Unfortunately, I had to pay a price for that feeling of success.  I was initially cast as a mentally handicapped 15 year old boy in the play that I was in when I got ‘discovered’.  After the show in Piccadilly Circus one evening I was approached by a woman at the bar making an inquiry to see if I ‘actually was retarded’.  I have been asked this before in other contexts and these words are poignant and hurtful.  However, it was that one comment that gave me hope that I could still one day be an actor.  A couple weeks later I was contacted and asked if I wanted to sign up to Jigsaw Arts Management – a small acting agency located in north London.  I quickly signed on and then like to think that I became the best know mentally handicapped actor (even though I am not mentally handicapped) in all of London.  I auditioned for commercials – as a retarded teenager.  I auditioned for small plays – as a retarded teenager.  I even acted in an Australian play – as a retarded teenager.

As you can probably imagine, the parts for mentally-handicapped-who-are-not-mentally-handicapped-teenagers are few and far between and the auditions soon dried up.  I actually could see this coming from a mile away and I began to pick up more and more shifts bartending.  I was a bartender cum actor cum bartender.  I was back at square one.

Luckily, I answered an ad on Facebook (Facebook!) for a job at a PR and Marketing firm in central London.  I interviewed and got the job and off I went on my new career path in public relations and marketing.  At first I was learning how to write press releases, getting aclimated with clients, and just generally getting a feel for the business.  I had awesome clients to start off with – travel clients, technology clients, and even a public personality as a client.  However, as I progressed I realized that we had more clients that needed work.  We had a window cleaning company who made 50 foot water poles that could clean the sides of buildings without using a ladder.  We had a toilet brush company – the Dipsan 3000 – that needed tending to.  We had an RFID chip company that dealt in supply chain management and tracking devices.  We had a professional-strength vacuum cleaning company.  We basically had a handful of clients and products that you never even knew existed.  I felt like the only person that knew any of these things existed was me…that is, until I started going to the expos for these products.

I would travel off to central England for a day and go to the world’s largest toilet brush expo or some window cleaners association conference.  You simply cannot imagine how disturbing it is to watch people and to listen to them talk about how sublime a toilet brush is.  While I applaude them for the ingenuity in trying to create a product for their respective market, I always kind of felt that toilet brushes are more of a need based product rather than something you shop around for in stores or online.  But you wouldn’t have believed it to see some of the things that I witnessed.  I actually think it was when I started getting into the Dipsan 3000 and talking about it with a little too much passion and fervor that I realized I needed a change.  So back I came to Washington, D.C. to pursue the American Dream.

Only when I came back I witnessed American in the throes of being violently awoken by failing banks, CEO scandals, and skyrocketing unemployment.  Most of you who read my blog know the rest.  There was substitute teaching, awful job offers, and a long and frustrating period of stoicism mixed with wallowing…which brings me to today.

Yesterday was my first day back teaching at the same summer camp I had previously taught at during my high school and college days.  As mentioned, I had basically taught everything under the sun except for the class that I am going to be teaching for the next 6 weeks: Lego.

...And now I teach this.

I wish I was kidding when I tell you this but everyday for the next 6 weeks I will be giving the kids a new theme – Space, Underwater, Movies, School, Robots, whatever – and these kids will build whatever it is I tell them to build.  To make matters even more interesting I have a 17 year old assistant whose real name is Broadway and a 15 year old home-schooled intern named Jorge.  Why they are here and what purpose they serve is still a mystery to me.  If I am honest I don’t even really need to be here.  These kids are building Lego.  The only purpose that I serve is to walk around and ask the kids what they are doing and why they are doing it and listen to their incredibly imaginative stories.  This is probably the only fun part but even I have my limits.  After 5 minutes of listening to kids tell me about city defenders and bubble houses I get a little bit bored.

So this is my life and career.  Teacher of Lego, video store clerk, bartender, retarded actor, silverware cleanser, and purveyor of toilet brushes.  These jobs may have been painful, miserable, and painfully miserable yet I look back on my experiences proud that I have done them.  They have given me experience, they have given me knowledge of people, they have educated me, and they have definitely served as a catalyst to work harder than anybody else to work towards something that I actually want to do rather than something I feel like I should do just for the money.  Because, really, if I wanted money then I would never have signed a contract with any of these jobs or have gained the experiences that I have.  I remain stoic and I remain excited that my experience will pay off dividends.  And if it doesn’t then I will have a wealth of experience that will serve me well in some future capacity.  In the meantime I can use all of this as a motivation to work hard and I can laugh at myself simultaneously.  I’m making the best of a funny situation and nobody can argue with that.

If nothing else, I could write a good book, right?



  1. Well, I’m assuming… your life has been most interesting, to say the least?


    • I certainly haven’t been short on doing interesting (if not unfulfilling!) things. All of these things certainly add to my wealth of experience but other than being able to tell some really good stories at a cocktail party, I don’t really know what they are worth in the end. I suppose time will tell!

  2. Hi Jon
    I think you’re going to have to start a bit of bare-faced lying on your CV. Say you were an account exec at Saatchis, tell them you were head barman at Trader Vics, say you taught modern history at Eton. It worked for you with the guitar teaching.

    • Hey Bill! Good to see you here again! My CV is absolutely impeccable. I obviously speak very euphemistically and I highlight my education, my career in PR/Marketing and teaching, and other applicable experiences. If I started putting on Hollywood Video, Lego Teacher, or Valet then I wouldn’t be surprised if I stayed fully unemployed for the better part of the next decade!

  3. it sounds like very full life for someone who is just 28. I would love to attend your lego class…sounds like fun!

    • Haha! It is a very random life for somebody who is 28. I mean, I have had a ton of other jobs here and there like hosting at a restaurant, valeting cars, etc. I was just sitting in my lego class yesterday and thinking how (and why!) I have had so many weird jobs in my life so far. I don’t even like Lego that much!

  4. Nice to see what you’ve been up to since Dickinson days. Eclectic to say the least!

    • Haha! Eclectic but nothing permanent or even that stable or interesting. It makes for a good blog post but when you are 28 and still have a distinct lack of direction it isn’t so cute anymore! But don’t you worry…I’ll find something boring and stable soon enough! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: