The worst job I ever had was not actually the worst, but it was exceptionally stressful in my 20-year-old mind that cared too much what other people thought.
It was a thankless job — the kind of job you keep a secret. The kind of job you lie about and claim you’ll be busy studying when you’re actually scheduled to work a shift. The kind of job you swear your friends to secrecy about.
Was I a stripper? A drug dealer? An operator of a webcam sex site, as an RA in my dorm community was found out and fired for? Please. All of those are far more socially acceptable on a college campus than what I did.
I worked for parking services.
Yes. I wrote…wait for it…parking tickets!
Potential social suicide, but you try finding a decent part-time job in Athens anywhere near campus when you’re deathly afraid of waiting tables (never been a waitress because I don’t have to try it to know I would suck at it–I’m sorry. I just realized I wasn’t listening when you ordered. What did you want?)
The job was so easy. You were assigned specific lots to monitor and given a handheld device to check plates. I had to make sure the proper parking pass was displayed and then run the plate for other violations if it wasn’t. If the machine barked at me, yes, literally barked, I had to radio my supervisor for a boot. It was great because we were specifically instructed to sit in our cars during class changes. We struck as students were getting their learn on. So suck on that, kids trying to get educated! I never ceased to be amazed how many students were on a first name basis with my supervisor. They’d rack up the tickets, get booted, daddy paid, then get the boot removed. They literally drove themselves door to-door.
My saving grace was that my assigned lots were graduate student and faculty. I did not want to work commuter lots under any circumstance as that was where I was most likely to encounter other undergrads that I might know. Then one day, my supervisor radioed me with a horrifying request that I monitor the commuter lot near North Campus where all the business majors park. In my time at UGA, it seemed like everyone majored in business but me, the journalism major. All my friends parked there, which was fine, because my good friends knew my secret.Problem was, a whole lot of casual friends and acquaintances parked there, too. It was like a stealth operation. During class change, I fought the urge to hide in the trunk and slunk down in my seat. As I made my rounds, I was prepared to throw myself over hoods to go into hiding.
But then I heard it. “Becky? What are you doing? You work for PARKING SERVICES?” Oh, crap. Busted by guy I knew from my dorm days. I saw him quite a bit because he had a crush on one of my friends. I went into my usual ramble for when I would get outed, “Blah blah, never heard back from The Gap blah blah pays more than the library…”
“That’s cool,” he lied. Lied, most likely, because he then pointed out that he wasn’t parked in an actual space. This lot was infamous for filling up quickly and forcing people to trek all the way out to the Ramsey gym lots and take the bus back in. He was worried I would write him a ticket. I assured him I wouldn’t, but I also warned him my shift was almost over and that I couldn’t make promises for what would happen then. He seemed satisfied and went to class.
When I clocked in for my next shift, my supervisor asked me into her office. Turns out jerkface got a ticket later that day. And what did he do? Complained to parking services that I had told him it was okay to park there. I assured her that I warned him he was taking a risk by parking there, and I had not made him any guarantee that he wouldn’t be ticketed. They were actually pretty nice in the department and understood that I wasn’t going to write a ticket on the car of someone I knew, especially face-to-face. But he could have lost me my job telling them I was giving permission to park illegally. I should have let him have it, but the on the few occasions we ran into him downtown, I just ignored him and walked away.
There was a big giant bright side to the job though. Remember how I mentioned I patrolled faculty lots? I had one particular English professor that I hated. She was a writer. A writer from Hah=vahd. She went so far as to let her students know how much better Harvard was than Georgia — then why didn’t they hire you? She was like the female version of the guy in Good Will Hunting that likes apples, but doesn’t get Minnie Driver’s number. She supervised a study abroad program in England I was on in which she asserted her superiority daily in class and scheduled a mandatory activity every Thursday night, even though classes ended early Thursday and we had Fridays free to travel and this prevented anyone from going very far. Almost two months after we returned, my two roommates and I received an e-mail that the laptop we were assigned was “broken.” It worked when we turned it in, but now we were expected to pay for it. However, we were not to be defeated in a battle of wits by a professor that was still dumb enough in 2000 to post students’ social security numbers on her door, so once she was directed to contact our lawyer (a roommate’s dad) we never heard another word.
Not long after all this drama, she busted me in the faculty lot she parked in. “Ohhhh, I didn’t know you were a meeeeeeeeter maid,” she sneered in a condescending tone. I just smiled. “You move fast. I think you wrote me a ticket last week. I parked on the lines because I only had to run in for a minute…” I don’t remember what I actually said, I only know that for a few seconds I debated my options. She still had the ticket with her unpaid. I could offer to take it, and possibly get it taken care of. Generally, parking services doesn’t do that, but they might if I explained the awkward position with my professor. But no. The sarcastic “meeeeeeeeter maid” played over in my mind. So I walked away after carefully studying her vehicle. I vowed I would ticket it every opportunity I got (sadly I never got one).
I still take joy in that ticket. It was worth every bit of stress.
Nonetheless, I took a 50 cent pay cut the following year to shelve periodicals at the science library. It took less of an emotional toll.