Mike Brown: The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had

Work sucks. Fuck work. When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually just say that I am a freelance capitalist. Most people assume that just means drug dealer, and I guess it could. But I haven’t sold drugs since high school. And when I did, I wasn’t very good at it from a work perspective. I kept breaking Scarface’s classic rule of not getting high off your own supply.

No, I have like four jobs. And I don’t really like talking about any of them, mostly because it takes a while to explain. I can’t just say, “I’m a carpenter,” and end the conversation as such. I think it’s cool to keep my main sources of income a secret, I think it makes me look bad-ass. Like, for all your stupid brain knows I’m a spy, or an NBA coach. Or something rad like that.

So I’m not going to tell you what I do for a living, but I will tell you my work goals for the rest of my life. Some people want a million dollars. Some people want job security. I follow these goals or rules or whatever you want to call them, and if I can sustain myself and my cat, Jet Pack, for the rest of my life this way, well, then that’s worth more than a million bucks right there.

Illustration: Jared Smith

Work Goal Number One: Never, ever, ever work under a security camera ever again! I worked in a retail environment where the closed circuit cameras that were supposed to catch teenage shoplifters turned into management’s favorite delegation tool. A call from the boss’ office would send a shock of paranoia through my spine and each ring would send me scrambling in a Pavlovian fashion towards the nearest messy display rack.

Work Goal Number Two: Never, ever, ever have a job that requires a suit or a uniform. I sold Health Riders in the mall when I was 17, and had to wear these stupid-ass shirts and pleated pants. I would skate in my work clothes before hitting the mall, and I got fired for having dirty clothes. I was 17. What the fuck did I know about laundry?

Work Goal Number Three: Never, ever, ever have a boss. I work with people, not for people. If anyone calls himself or herself my boss, I will get thoroughly upset. I never really want to be anyone’s boss either. It’s just such a douchey concept.

Work Goal Number Four: Never, ever, ever have a time clock. What an insulting, enslaving invention. I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me I’m late. Meg at the SLUG office can do that just fine.

Work Goal Number Five: Never, ever, ever work at the mental hospital, ever again. This one may seem a bit random or out of place with the other goals, but it’s there because it’s the worst job I’ve ever had.

My position there was psychiatric technician. Psych tech for short. Or “nurse’s bitch boy,” to give you a more accurate description of what the job really was.
The mental hospital is a big place. It’s behind that water park in Provo and is laid out like a college campus, with a bunch of different buildings for different units.

There was a three-week training course where they gave us information on what it was like to be crazy and they gave us hepatitis shots in case we got bit. They also gave us a self-defense course to teach us how to take down the patients properly, and showed us how to use the restraints that they use instead of straightjackets. They don’t use those things anymore, and the new restraints are Velcro and kind of comfy.

The main instructor for the self-defense portion of the training was a psych tech in the crazy teenage boys ward. He got the shit beat out of him about a week after he tried to show us how not to get the shit beat out of us. That’s when I started to realize that maybe this job was kind of fucked up.

After the training, you had to get re-hired onto a separate unit. Until you were re-hired, which seemed like bullshit to me, you are in a pool of extra psych techs and you have to fill in on the units that are short-handed.

The short-handed units are usually the units that no one wants to work on. The geriatric unit was always in need of extra psych techs. It smelled bad and was full of crazy old people who were mostly dying. I had to change diapers on this dude who would take dumps the size of softballs. Or BMs, as they are called in the business. The first time I changed his diaper was the day I became an atheist. I read his file, as I was encouraged to do, and he had killed his whole family with an axe. I don’t remember it ever making the news, but that seemed fairly common. There was lots of fucked-up shit in those files that never made it to the six o’clock news desk.
Oh, did I mention I worked graveyards? This meant that I had to help put the patients to bed and then wake them up. That also meant that if I had any interaction with them, they were usually being naughty because they were supposed to be asleep.

Part of my job included me watching people sleep, mostly because they were suicidal. Suicide watches sound exciting, but if you work graveyards, they are just really boring.

I could tell you so many fucked -up stories about that place. But I won’t. I will just tell you one that happened that was so terrible that I have tried to block it out of my memory many times. Perhaps this incident alone is why I hit the bottle so hard so often.

It has to do with the women’s shower in the geriatric unit. In case you don’t know what geriatric means, it means old. And in case you still believed that crazy people don’t shower, I’m here to tell you that they do. Sometimes with the assistance of a friendly psych tech.

I had to help 12 crazy old ladies shower one morning. Since they were old, they were prone to falling over. So their soggy, wrinkly bodies were clinging on to me for dear life. It was one of the grossest things I’ve ever witnessed.

There were all sorts of bad smells and mumbles amongst the chaos of the steamy mass shower. It was like the locker-room fantasy of scantily clad females frolicking with nice-smelling lathers and conditioners, but totally the opposite of that. I don’t really know how else to describe it.

I don’t talk about this particular experience very much. I thought writing about it might help me out. It’s not helping! Where’s my whiskey bottle?