Tell Us About Your Oddest Job!

I’ve had a number of odd jobs over the years. In my time, I’ve been an ice cream scooper, a movie theater doorman, an HR generalist, an Army private, an independent bookstore manager, a muffin shop jerk, a gardener for the ultra-rich, a TV watcher (yes, a real job!), and a handful of other things in my ongoing Quest For Rent Money™. Across my various jobs, I’ve had the opportunity to mow lawns on the top of Manhattan high-rises, rub elbows with famous authors, hold unauthorized late night movie screenings, and explore all sorts of fascinating spaces. There are all kinds of fascinating jobs around, in all manner of strange places. Now we want to hear about your oddest job!


(Image: Ahsan S./Public Domain)

In the comments below, tell us about the most unique job you’ve ever had, where it was, what it was like, and why you stayed or left. Your response may be included in an upcoming Atlas Obscura roundup article. Most of us are just working for a living, but sometimes that can be wondrous too!

I spent five years making bondage rope in Seattle. We took lengths of raw hemp rope (up to about 200 feet in length), treated the hell out of it to take out as much of the roughness as we could and dyed it for our customers. Each batch took three or four days to complete, from raw to treated and packaged. I did most of the physical labor and learned to love getting dirty on the job. It was an ever changing puzzle and I ran with it.

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I have to ask this out of curiosity , did you ever play the song “Venus in furs” by the Velvet underground while at work ?

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I’ve had a few odd jobs, too. I spent a summer peeling logs (by hand) for a company that made rustic-looking log homes. I spent a number of summers as a mine tour guide and gold panning instructor at the Bachelor-Syracuse Mine in Ouray, Colorado. I was a driver for a nuclear pharmacy for a little while. Before that, I sold merchandise (and shoveled a lot of poop) for a traveling educational great cat show.

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I was in Jr high in Mallorca, Spain, in post-Franco 70s and got paid to hand out flyers for Texas Jack’s bar to US Navy sailors coming ashore. When I went to get paid that night an all-out brawl was in progress.

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Once in a while. We had a very eclectic mix of tastes but once in a while there’d be a day of kink/fetish music like that. Scissor Sisters were in rotation then.

The job was informal but almost staggeringly mundane while I was there. I mean, funky as hell, we were in an old converted warehouse and there were always stickers and posters on the walls, but we weren’t working in a Kink.com dungeon or anything.

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Its strange how even the more out there jobs eventually become mundane like all jobs , but still it sounds like an interesting one and I bet it was lucrative too , especially considering the popularity of shibari.

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I spent 3 summers in the 60’s taking blubber off of fur seal skins for the US Bureau of Fisheries and Wildlife on Saint Paul island (part of the Pribolof islands) in Alaska.

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Interesting , was it for research into PCB’s or other contaminants ?

I have been a seller of taxidermied gators and baby sharks at a tourist trap, a brewery hostess, a newspaper reporter, a tea house bus-girl, an art model :peach:, a gardener/butterfly babysitter/topiary artist, an ice cream scooper/soda jerk, a retail manager, a traveling fudge maker, and most recently a baker. But the ones that stand out as odd were
-At age 12 working with my mom in a vhs rental store, she put me in charge of rewinding tapes and keeping an eye on customers on the security camera in the XXX adult-only room :eyes:
-every Halloween during college I was a cheesy haunted house spook in a centuries old but very touristy school house that really was haunted :ghost:

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I’ve had drugs tested on me for money, dressed up as a furry, dancing seal, did cold-call market research asking women about their favourite personal hygiene products and glued cardboard backs on tourist maps all day every day for a week.

It was crazy some of the stuff I did for cash while trying to become an actor.

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I did underwater logging at a man-made lake in Texas. The lake had been made a long time prior, and now the owners of the property wanted to be able to waterski, the tops of some of the trees were close to the surface so it was too dangerous to do water sports on the lake. We brought in a pneumatic underwater chainsaw from Canada, ran a compressor on a barge for it and we were in SCUBA gear on the bottom of the lake cutting the trees down. The trees were so water logged they didn’t float and had to be floated up to the surface for removal using lift bags.

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I worked as a blood processing technician, doing waste pump-outs at a marina, trained Field Trial/Hunting Dogs, worked on a dairy farm, worked on a legit weed farm trimming and growing, sandblasting at a machine shop, assisted with veterinarian surgeries, and served as a prison psychiatric technician doing 1:1 observations on naked psychotic inmates that were a danger to self and others… and those were just the legal ones :wink:

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Postdoctoral researcher :stuck_out_tongue:

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My wife (RN) worked for 10 minutes in the Criminally Insane Geriatric ward in Duchess County , NY. There was a guy who could have been the inspiration for Hannibal Lecter-
tied up,scratching,spitting and clacking his teeth. She quit when she got into the elevator to go to work with an extra large woman.
Wife,“What floor do you work on?”
Large Woman,“Oh! I’m an inmate.”

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Cleaning cat cages at a cattery. 300+ litter boxes a shift. My Mom made me come in the side door to the basement and change clothes before I came upstairs. Some of the cats were not socialized and we didn’t touch them. I forgot one day and put my arm in a cage with a cat named Switchblade. My arm came out with a cat attached.

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Lab assistant and mouse brain section er at the VA Neuuropharmacology lab where they were studying the effect of vitamin C on Alzheimer plaques in the brain. Made the poor mice dangle from a tightrope then sectioned their brains for electron microscopy after they were sacrificed.

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I’ve spent most of my life as a chemist. I spent one summer during college grinding rocks, dissolving the rocks in acid that could explode, and spraying them into a flame to see what elements were in them to see if the company wanted to dig the metal up.

After I graduated, I have spent my career as a chemist researching alternative energy. As part of my job I’ve worked on an industrial scale gasifier that decomposed wood chips into hydrogen and carbon monoxide…several thousand cubic feet of carbon monoxide at 700°C…in an 8 story building. I sampled the gas by trudging to the top of the reactor as many as 13 times in a 12 hour shift with tools and metal sample containers and ice.

As another part of my job, I was supposed to measure soot from Diesel engines on filters that measured differences as little as 0.1 microgram (1/1,000,000) of a gram. The problem was that the trucks vibrated the building during testing so I couldn’t measure the weight differences. I had to do the weight measurements at night when the building was quiet. Since I didn’t have anything to do, I was set to operating the trucks on a dual roll dynamometer capable of testing trucks that are loaded with 80,000 pounds. I got to operate exotic, multimillion dollar, one-off custom hybrid electric commercial trucks on the dynamometer. I tested garbage trucks, delivery trucks, busses, and over the road trucks. It made measuring filters late at night worthwhile.

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For approximately five weeks between semesters I worked on the factory line packing TimTam and mint slice chocolate biscuits for Australian biscuit co Arnotts…picking up by cotton gloved hand either 11 tim tams at a time or 13 mint slices and dropping them in their tray off the production line. I assume they soon went to vacuum packing some time after as you can see a slight circle on each TimTam, now. I was probably the only white person working there at the time…btw Tim Tams were re-labelled as Mates for the US market. I didn’t eat chocolate coated biscuits for 3&1/2 years after that, couldn’t cope with the smell of chocolate& biscuit! Now of course in the vain attempt to suit everyone they’ve released all the ridiculous flavour variations…even pina colada…pineapples should not be allowed anywhere near cakes biscuits or pizza in my opinion.

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Fifty one years ago, I was an art major fresh out of college. I worked as a page layout person at Charlton Press in Derby, Connecticut. The job was minimum wage and painstakingly difficult.
Back in 1968, there were no computers. Magazine layouts were all set by hand. How? All the pictures and copy (text) were put through a waxing machine. Once waxed, I would carefully cut the waxed copy into single line text and press it in place with tweezers.
The copy could be repositioned because of the wax.
It was July, hot and humid, no ac and the boss was very mean.
I only lasted two weeks.
Next to trying to sell encyclopedias door to door in 1967, this was the worst job I ever had.

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