I had my favorite shitty job the year I graduated from college. I'd had many a shitty job before that, and have had many since. But none did I enjoy as much as my year long stint in the Chemistry department at the university from which I'd just graduated.
I found the job on a flyer in the student union. "Administrative Assistant Needed," it read. "Filing. Microsoft Word. Slow typists okay."
The job description pretty much captured the sum total of my abilities.
Even though I'd been an English major, I'd never learned proper, all-fingers-on-the- keyboard typing technique. While writing long papers had vastly improved my hunt-and-peck style, I was nowhere in the league of career secretaries. A "slow typist," I was, indeed. And what with the "Filing," it seemed the perfect job for me.
What was I going to do with an English degree anyway? Friends who'd majored in communications or film already had cool, interesting jobs lined up, thanks to the cool, interesting internships they'd completed during undergrad. The extent of my extracurricular activities had been seeing how many mixed drinks I could hold down, once combined with a late night bag of Cheetos.
And these activities continued during my employment at the Chemistry department.
One morning, in a stall in the ladies' room, as I loudly and uncontrollably vomited up the result of the seven Amaretto Sours and half a bag of Cheetos from the night before, I heard someone come in.
I peeked through the crack of the stall door. It was Agatha, the pinched, anemic-looking head of the department.
Agatha had a Dorothy Hamill haircut and carried a tote bag that read, "It's All About Chemistry!" Underneath which was a picture of two beakers meeting in a kiss.
I pressed my hands to my mouth and tried to suppress my dry heaving, to no avail. I retched, and a loud torrent of liquid Cheetos projectiled into the toilet. I wiped at my mouth and bent and peeked down under the stall. Agatha's Easy Spirits were directly in front of the door. She was, presumably, peering at my feet.
Which really wouldn't have been that much of a problem had they been simple black or brown shoes. But they were green and blue leather, Bozo the Clown boots. They were unmistakably mine.
I could only hope she'd tell my boss that I'd been puking up my breakfast because of bulimia, which was a Personal Problem, instead of Cheetos and Amaretto Sours because of a Binge Drinking Problem. Which was a Lazy, Useless, Slacker Sack of Shit Problem.
When people had Personal Problems at work, they'd send them to the university clinic for counseling. And that meant at least an hour away from the office once or twice at week.
Plus, having Personal Problems meant you never got fired.
Case in point: Dr. Grokln, who'd been on "sabbatical" for the past two years. The "sabbatical" had, of course, been a forced one, as Dr. Grokln was completely and utterly off his fucking nut. His Personal Problems had become glaringly apparent right around the time he'd submitted a paper entitled, "Sponge Bob Exists: A Gravimetric Analysis."
Like many nervous, paranoid, delusional nutcases, Dr. Grokln chainsmoked. In his office. Even though it was a non-smoking building. During his "sabbatical," I used the master key and chainsmoked to my heart's content in his office, with the door locked.
This would have been a lot more relaxing if his nonsensical scribblings about the electromagnetic radiation of Rice Krispy Treats and Nerf balls hadn't still been tacked up to the wall. Still, as I'd blow out a long plume of smoke, I'd bless him for his cancer stick habit and hope that wherever he was, the electroshock treatment and metal restraints were treating him well. And that the Thorazine drip hadn't altered his belief, based on "empirical evidence" and "extensive testing," that Sponge Bob did, in fact, exist.
One of the other perks of my job, besides a darkened, smoke-choked chamber filled with disturbing chemical diagrams that mostly proved the existence of various cartoon characters, was that I had complete, unlimited access to purchase anything from the Staples catalogue.
Since I was so broke, this meant that most of the foodstuffs in the cupboard of my apartment were ordered from the Staples Office Kitchen section: Ramen noodle cups, cocoa, gummi bears, pretzels, gum, vanilla wafers, and mustard packets. To this day, the smell and texture of gummi bears reminds me of the days when most of my sustenance was procured through a catalogue other people use to obtain White Out and Post It notes.
Besides ordering office supplies, one of my other responsibilities was to approve the time sheets of several work study students under my supervision. Three of them were a year younger than me; the other two were grad students several years older.
All of them came in at least an hour late every day. And none of them did any work.
One of them, Zoe, I hardly ever saw. Although she'd fill out a time sheet each week that claimed she'd worked every day. I heard from one of the other work study students that Zoe had blown her boyfriend in the department's third floor conference room one night after their roommates had locked them out of the house.
It didn't matter. Without exception, I'd hit "MAXIMUM HOURS WORKED" on their online time sheets and go back to fashioning my ever-expanding paper clip sculpture.
If they were work study students, I reasoned, they needed the cash more than the university, with its coffers swollen with dough from prep school rejects and hard partying Euro Trash.
And who was I to judge, anyway? When I wasn't chainsmoking in Dr. Grokln's office and staring at chemical diagrams of the Smurfs' extended family tree on his wall, I sat slack jawed at my desk, watching videos of animals doing people things and making long distance phone calls.
So I didn't give a shit that Hamlin, who washed down his morning Ritalin with a giant cup of black coffee, spent almost every day on the label maker, typing up stickers like "PHONE" and "STAPLER" and "FOLDER" and then pasting them to their appropriate objects. By the time he graduated, there wasn't one surface in the entire front office that wasn't covered.
And I didn't give a shit that Mina, who was supposed to type up fliers for upcoming Chemistry department seminars, couldn't spell or proofread worth a turd and once posted a sign that read, "Know for Sure: Treatment of Anal Lical Data."
And I didn't give a shit that Andy, a mild-mannered senior, would come in for his shift, check his email and then announce that he was going on a mail run.
"Okay," I'd grunt noncommittally, knowing that he wouldn't re-appear until fifteen minutes remained of his shift. And that when he did, his eyes would be glazed and vacant from the pot he'd smoked on his three hour long "mail run."
Once I realized this I'd have Andy go to Chinatown for me, to pick up my pot from George, my dealer.
I suspect that Andy pinched from my bag but it was worth it not to have to interact with George who'd once confessed to me that if his pot trade didn't work out, he had an escort service lined up and ready to go and did I have any friends who'd be interested in making a quick buck or maybe I'd be interested, seeing as it would be a strictly classy venture, no weird stuff, just blowjobs and fucking. Maybe some anal, sometimes. But only if the guy looked clean.