I once worked on a farm. My job was to move bails of hay from this flatbed truck to a barn on the other side of the property. Since we couldn’t get the truck near the barn, due to the layout of the property and the size of the truck, we had to exert twice the effort as we moved the bails of hay, six-to-eight at a time, onto smaller pickup trucks which we then drove over to the barn to unload again and then finally stack the bails of hay. There were several hundreds of bails and the job took nine hours with only 30 minutes to break for lunch. I walked away with about 80 or 90 bucks in my pocket. The owner paid us a little less than agreed because providing us bologna sandwiches was part of the payment in her eyes. That job sucked and I never went back.

I once worked at a mall kiosk selling caramel and candy apples. Only it was at a mall that no one has shopped at since 1984. So, I sat at the kiosk in an empty mall for six hours trying to think of how I could apply the extra holiday money I was trying to earn. I was told I could cut up a few apples to give away as samples – essentially the gateway slice. So I did just that, but as there were no people in the mall I ate one, then two apples by myself. As the mall was set to close (ironic as there were no people when it was open) the manager of the kiosk came by to see how my first day went. The negative net two in apple-to-sale ratio did not sit well with them – much like the apples were not sitting well with my stomach. They paid me in cash for the day and I was let go. I didn’t care because that job and the apples sucked.

I once worked at an office supply store; to protect the company we will just call the store Office Minimum. My job was two-fold. While on the sales floor I was to harass anyone I saw who just needed to buy paper and convince them that the new “all in one” fax, copy, scanner and printer was in their best interest. I had to wear this secret service inspired ear piece walkie talkie so the staff could constantly be in communication with each other. “Did anyone talk to that guy in the grey shirt in aisle four?” The only time it was not used was when you actually had a question or something you needed help with – then you got no response from it. We would have monthly “up-sale” quotas and a chart in the breakroom with gold stars on it to track our progress. “Congratulations to our top sales person Nick for selling 14 insurance plans on printers this month!” As I never saw the point in selling people crap they don’t need – I never got any stars. The other part of my job was to work the register – which I didn’t mind as it didn’t involve being a sleazy salesperson bugging every person that walked down an aisle. I could just work and the hours seemed to move a bit quicker. That was until I had a customer come in with the intent to pick a fight. The conversation, which I remember vividly, went as follows…

ME: Good afternoon.
JERK CUSTOMER: How are you today?
ME: Good, yourself?
JERK CUSTOMER: I said, how are you today?!
ME: …I said I was good… how are you?
JERK CUSTOMER: I’m good and I didn’t hear your response.
(Customers behind him start to look at each other nervously based upon his tone of voice.)
ME: Did you find everything you needed today?
JERK CUSTOMER: No I did not.
ME: Was there something we can help you with?
(He was only buying a pack of pens. I finished the transaction and handed him his receipt.)
ME: Have a good day.
JERK CUSTOMER: What did you say to me?!
ME: …have a good day?
JERK CUSTOMER: No, no, I’d like to speak to your manager right now.

I used my secret service walkie talkie to call my manager over. There the customer explained to my manager that I should be fired immediately because I did not “thank him” for his purchase. Instead of wishing him to have a good day I should have graciously thanked him for his patronage of a pack of pens. My manager profusely apologized, let the customer know the situation would be handled and that we did very much appreciate his business and hope he comes back. As soon as the customer left my manager turned to me and said “don’t worry about that guy, what a jerk!”

But, the way I saw it was that my manager bent over (forward, not backwards) and let this customer have his way over a pack of pens. I saw it as defending a customer making a $2.08 purchase was more important that your employee. I shortly thereafter quit that sucky job.

I once sold wedding rings one summer at an outlet mall jewelry store that is now out of business. Everything at the store kind of had that “cheap” look to it despite a hefty price tag. But I had to learn the ins and outs of negotiation sales. Oh, they also had insurance plans that I was supposed to push as well! The catch here was that I could essentially price the insurance plan as high as I would like. The higher I priced it, the more commission I received. I wonder why this company went out of business? There was some upside to this gig though. I got to learn about what to look for in quality jewelry, the Four C’s of a diamond purchase, the variances between white gold and platinum and more. However I was the worst sales person there by far and if I happened to be talking to a customer who may make a decent purchase – it was not uncommon for a manager or ranking employee to swoop in to close the sale for themselves and take the commission. In the three months I worked there – I believe I made a whopping total of $10 in commission on top of my low hourly salary. I was in my early 20s at the time and being broke sounded a lot better than selling crappy jewelry at a job that sucked.

My list of sucky jobs go on. I worked as a cashier at a grocery store when I got in trouble because I “scanned the items too fast” – I just assumed people wanted to actually get out of a grocery store when they were finished shopping, my mistake. I worked as a beat reporter for a small newspaper and had to cover stimulating hard news stories such as “the governor cuts the ribbon to open a new community college campus” – however my editor didn’t trust me to be able to handle the intense reporting required for such a rigorous assignment by myself so he sent another (more seasoned) writer to take lead forcing me to to share the project with them.

Today, however, I am not stacking bails of hay for bologna, I am not working a register too fast, I am not writing soft news stories for a paper no one reads, I am not selling wedding rings with a massive insurance plan markup, I am not eating precious stock of caramel covered apples and I am not convincing people to upgrade to the new “all in one” printer, copier, scanner, fax machine.

Instead I chose my career path in photography. It was my decision and not something that was forced upon me. Sure there are parts of the job that are underwhelming or unattractive – but in sum I truly love what I do.

That is why I never understand people who seem to hate what they do – even though they chose to do it!

The curmudgeonly photographer who bitches about how cheap all their clients are and how other photographers all are assholes who are stealing their business. The makeup artist or elitist stylist who shows up to set pissed off and spills her bad attitude all over everyone else. The model who spends more time trash talking her competitors than focusing on her own career path or who develops 101 excuses why they can’t do a gig they auditioned for.

If you are not loving what you chose to do – what is the sense in continuing? My guess is – if you left – the industry would move on just fine without you.

James Patrick
instagram @jpatrickphoto