First Person: A Memoir of My Worst and Briefest Jobs

By Jack Bragen
Thursday December 04, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

I worked as a stable cleaner when I was 23 years old, medicated on Prolixin, and underweight. The work was heavier than I was prepared for. It was a joyless and unrewarding job for the brief two weeks that I held it. It ended with me on bad terms with the ranch owner; I had to threaten to sue to get my paycheck. The rancher sent me a $15 check that was dirtied with manure, and a nasty note about how badly I had done.  

That person had not been nice to begin with. The rancher had me get on top of a roof [to do work] that was ready to collapse under my modest weight.  

The one redeeming point of the job was a chance to walk a horse back and forth. It was fun even though both the horse and I knew that I knew nothing about horses. The horse toyed with me by getting me to lean into him—as if I could physically compete! 

I worked at a car wash that was built on a steep slope and was staffed by hostile young men. This job lasted me a few days and deprived me of the chance of a hot date. I was treated harshly and couldn’t work fast enough.  

It was the last straw when a car went rolling down the slope and slammed into another parked car. I was unpopular after that even though the stop and start buttons for the conveyer weren’t clearly marked. (Who had the brilliance to put a car wash on a hill?) 

I showed up for work the day after this incident, and realized I wasn’t welcome. I was never paid for my time.  

I worked briefly as a telemarketer for a newspaper. My calls weren’t met with enthusiasm; in fact several recipients of my calls phoned in to complain about me. I didn’t sell anthing, and stopped showing up after a short while.  

I was rehired several times by a temp agency, and at one point got an assignment to do construction cleanup. In the ninety-degree heat, the foreman wouldn’t allow me to get some water. I walked off and went to a gas station and used their water fountain, and then I returned. The foreman wasn’t happy about this. I didn’t last the full day before I called it quits.  

I was hired as a photocopier repair technician by a company that was forty-five minutes away by car. The job was over my head because of the complex demands, and other stimulus that made it difficult.  

They were improperly storing chemicals and the fumes got into the ventilation system. I called Cal-OSHA without informing my supervisors of this. A month later, after I quit, I received a letter from Cal OSHA that said they shut down the company after warnings for noncompliance.  

I worked through a temp agency doing restoration of soot-covered files that were affected by a fire at the courthouse in Concord that took place in 1995 or 1996. I was the only one who opted to wear a mask that was marked as inadequate protection rather than the other choice (that workers were encouraged to take) of going without a mask and signing a waiver. My work after that kept being returned to me as inadequate. 

For a few years, I had a successful career in TV repair. However, a person who may have been on cocaine ran one of the companies I worked for. He surprisingly had some sensitivity to my disability without being excessively judgmental. Maybe this was because he knew he wasn’t perfect. I kept this job four or five months until the interpersonal baggage and dealing with him became prohibitive.  

When I worked as a delivery person of raw pasta to restaurants in the Bay Area, I had to call in sick one morning due to extreme neck pain. I had suffered whiplash nine months prior.  

Because I called in sick, the manager flipped out and believed I was going to run away with the delivery van. This may be because I was placed in the job by a mental health agency. 


Jack Bragen is a Martinez resident.