Gretchen at Lifenut ran a list today of some of the jobs she’s had over the years. She’s had some strange ones, but I think most of us have by now. I won’t bore you with all my tales, but at various times I have:

babysat: Every girl’s first job. But I remember being 12 and meeting a family who left me in charge of a 5 and 3 year old and a baby. They lived down the street and only met me once before they entrusted me with their kids. And they said I could spank if I needed to. I look back and shake my head in amazement. This was also my introduction to cloth diapers.

cleaned houses: this was one of my many college jobs. I worked my way through college. This was a great job because it paid quite well–$12-15/hour back when minimum wage was about $6. The people I worked for were wonderful too; friendly and older, they would feed me elaborate lunches and crack old-fashioned jokes. They were a glimpse into a totally different world than I’d known before. They came to my wedding and bought us a generous present. Their house had an entire wall of windows with an incredible view of downtown Portland and across the river to the mountains beyond.

worked in a day-care: Another college job. This enabled me to not want to have my own children for quite some time. I also remember, in my naivety, sharing with a parent that his child had used a racial epithet to another child, who had responded in kind. The dad actually went and yelled at the other kid! I was so shocked that I couldn’t say a word at first. Yes, pretty pitiful, I know, but I honestly believed that another adult would be on the right side. I never stopped to think about where the child might have learned racism. I was very very young then, and that was quite an eye-opener.

read unpublished manuscripts: “What is my ideal job?” I asked myself after college graduation, and I wondered if anyone would pay me to lie on the couch and read books. I called every literary agent in the yellow pages (yes this was a while ago) and one agreed to give me a try. He sent me the worst-written bilge I’ve ever read. It was painfully bad, a sort of faux-Gothic, faux-Celtic fantasy with every cliché in the book, including the heroine’s unruly curls and how we discovered them when she looked in the mirror. (It was prob an early draft of Twilight, if only I’d known. Just kidding. This was the early 90s) I met the agent at a cafe and I was honest about my opinion and he was surprised. Looking back, I suspect a friend of his was the author. I’m sure it was never published. We didn’t get very far; after that one meeting, I never heard from him again. I still remember that cafe, and their excellent marionberry muffins. It’s an Indian restaurant now.

proofread: after the twins were born, I quit my job as a managing editor, but I continued to write for my publication—one article a month and I proofread the whole thing. I still remember the new editor, a friend of mine, dropping by with print-outs, and me sitting at my dining room table proofing while she kept the twins amused and the morning sun slanting through the windows onto bowls half-filled with cheerios and scattered toys.

taught English: You already knew this, but did you know I taught writing to 4th-year university students without a syllabus or knowing what kind of writing my class was supposed to encompass? I have written elsewhere of the advice I received from a retired American woman who’d taught there before me: “If a student tells you a goat ate his homework, believe him.” She didn’t warn me that these homework-eating goats might come into my classroom, or that my lectures would be interrupted by beggars. I will never forget that first year. I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up your soul. Seriously. Which poses a fun question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten on starting a new job?

taught English without books: when we first arrived in Morocco and all our stuff was still in storage, I got a job teaching English to everyone in an office run by a Korean man (because they’d get calls from Korea, and it was easier to teach them English than Korean.) I managed to do this by downloading lesson plans, worksheets, etc from the internet. It was okay, but not ideal.

There are many other jobs I’ve had but I won’t bore you with details. What are some odd or interesting jobs you’ve had?