Along the Natchez Trace

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Job From Hell...

I walked past Bill's laptop a few minutes ago and saw a photo of the Indianapolis 500 race.   I'd forgotten about the race being this weekend... in fact, I'd even forgotten about this being a holiday weekend.  But seeing that photo clip brought back some memories I'll never forget.

Early in 2003, Bill & I were volunteering at Buenos Aires NWR in the very southern tip of Arizona.  I don't know why they didn't get someone from Imperial, it's a lot closer, but, for whatever reason, the refuge asked for volunteers to man the Fish & Wildlife booth at the upcoming Job Fair in Yuma, AZ.

That was something we'd never done before...  up goes my hand...  and a couple of weeks later, off we headed to Yuma

I think the Job Fair was held at the local convention center or some such place...  one of those huge rooms with lots of tables where folks from all over the USA were recruiting workers for the upcoming summer.

When we weren't talking to people about the great things that the F&W Service had to offer, we'd slip away and check out the other booths.  There were lots of private campgrounds wanting campground hosts, both State and National Parks services hoping to attract just the right candidate to fill their positions, and all those places you can read about in WorkKamper News...  both paid and unpaid; all touting the perks of their jobs.

We stopped by the Indianapolis Speedway booth...  Hey... this looks like fun.  This job is for the whole month of May...  perfect... we have to be back in Ohio in June for some medical appointments.  And look... they have an RV park for their workers...  and a tram that takes you to and from work.  We talked with the recruiter... Katrina,  really nice woman...  pleasant, informative...  she tells us that not only could we be outside directing cars into parking spaces, but when it is time for the big race, everything shuts down so we, too, can watch the race.

We thought about it...  this is a paying position - we hadn't worked for money since we'd retired...  what about taxes?  Stuff like that...  but we decided to sign on.

At the end of April, right on schedule, we arrived at the appointed place....  did all the paperwork and was directed to the "RV Park".  It had been raining a lot and the "park" was ankle deep in mud.  Hmmm...  the mud smells funny.  Well apparently that area was a former hog farm...  and the essence of pig poop only got stronger as the rains stirred up the muck.  Okay, they really can't control the rain and the smell.  But... they really need to put the folks with noisy (and smelly) generators in an area by themselves.

We walked on a narrow path to get to the tram stop.  The tram had a specific time schedule.....  only it never seemed to arrive at the appointed time.  A whole crowd of people would be lined up to ride to work...  kind of felt like a cattle car on a railroad line.  Not only did it not arrive on schedule to go to work, we were never sure where we'd catch it to head home. 

Oh yes... work.  Seemed we wouldn't be working the parking lots.  We were assigned to the main gift shops.  There are 2, one on each side of the lobby as you walk into the museum/main building.  All kinds of overpriced merchandise - from bobble-heads of race-car drivers to the latest tee-shirt... even bath mats and towels...  all related to sport.

Neither Bill nor I knew the first thing about the drivers but quickly learned who was racing that year and who was favored to win.  I worked one of the cash registers (there were 7 registers in each gift shop) and Bill did mostly restocking shelves as merchandise was sold.  And, believe me, it sold!  I did not have to balance my register for cash...  every so often, someone would come and take most of the currency away.  I had to balance my credit card receipts at the end of each day.  Each day closer to the BIG race, the gift shop became more crowded and more stuff was sold.  One of my biggest days, my credit card sales were over $10,000.  And, remember, there were 7 registers just in that gift shop.  There was an identical gift shop just across the hall and several other shops located throughout the grounds.

Okay...  doesn't sound too bad, does it?  Well...  it's time to mention Mo.  Mo was our boss.  For some reason she seemed to take a dislike to Bill.  He couldn't do anything right...  As you can imagine, the shelves constantly needed replenished.  Not only is Bill one of the easiest people to get along with, he is very good at watching and checking things and would head for the storeroom before we ran out of items.  Wrong...  Mo was a micro-manager and felt the need to direct everyone's every move.  The closer to Race Day, the more nervous she got.  The more nervous she got the more she yelled ...  the more she yelled at the employees, the less productive they'd become.  We worked long days...  replenishing all the shelves after the gift shop was closed....  arranging shirts by size...  putting things back that customers took away from their original spot.  Then...  we were to come in 2 hours early the next morning...  to replenish shelves etc.  Hmmm...  didn't we just do that before we went home?  This was an everyday occurrence.

It got so many of us refolded shirts that didn't need folded...  dusted places that didn't have a dust mote on them...  anything to keep Mo from yelling at us.

We finally had enough of the muck and mire of the "RV park"...  located Katrina, the woman who had originally recruited us and related our problems.  She did get us relocated to a concrete parking lot... close enough to the speedway that we could walk to work.  There wasn't anything she could do about the hourly rate that she quoted vs  and the hourly rate we actually got.  Ten years later I can't remember all the issues...  maybe I have a mental block about it all.

Anyway, the big race is about to happen.  We're all expecting the closed-circuit TV that is in the gift shop to show the race.  For weeks they've been televising the time trials, the interviews and everything pertaining to the race.  So what happens?  They do not televise the race on the closed circuit TVs.  In fact, the TVs are turned off during the race.  Of course all of us workers just stood around looking at each other...  there wasn't a customer to be seen during the race.  You could have heard a pin drop.

The Indianapolis 500 race was over for another year.  We worked one more day after the race getting the gift shop back in order.  And then we were done...  we headed for Ohio.

After a week or so, I felt it was time to write a letter to the speedway director (copies to Human Resources and Recruitment)...  relating our experience.  I remember writing about what we were led to expect from the Job Fair and then the actual experience.  I added that if anyone asked us about working the month of May at the speedway, in our opinion, it was the job from hell.   I never did get a reply....

I haven't thought about that job in ages....  but seeing a photo of the speedway brought it all back in a flash.  And I still don't know who's in the race or what they drive.

That's All For Today!


  1. I'm sure it wasn't very funny at the time, but hopefully now you can look back and laugh. I hate it when my letters don't even get the courtesy of a reply. Just reinforces all my negative feelings about a place.

  2. If I ever leave home for Memorial Day, feel free to laugh at me. Last week end in Indianapolis, a week before the event, all the talk was time trials. I'm sure a nicer, gentler Indianapolis exists.

  3. I have never been able to understand the attraction of those car races. It must be utter boredom to watch a bunch of cars going in circles for hours. What a colossal waste of time! I hope your letter to the racetrack management got them to make some changes in their treatment of temp employees. It sounds like the biggest problem was their temp manager!

  4. You and Bill have better sticking power than I would--I'm afraid I would have said, "take this job and ...."

  5. I don't care for "circle" racing. But, I do go the top fuel drag races every year. They only race a little under a quarter mile (1000 feet) and get to speeds up to 330 mph in less than 4 seconds. Now that is POWER!!

  6. Bet you're glad that's not a job you do every year! I can see where once would be MORE than enough. I am surprised they didn't take the time to answer your letter. That kind of feedback is invaluable in managing an operation.

  7. The Indy 500 always seems like more of a spectacle to me than an actual race. You've given me a whole new perspective on this big day.

  8. Not a racing fan either ... know nothing about them but I can tell you ... I would not have lasted 12 minutes with the boss from hell yelling at me ... call the ones what sent me and would not have let the door hit me in the ass...

    No wonder you and Bill have done this for so long ... what great temperaments you possess ... !

  9. Wow. The idea of this job sounded awful to me to begin with, but the reality sounds even worse!

  10. We're just back from our road trip, and I've been processing hundreds of photos. That job sounded terrible. How DO you do it? LOL

  11. As others have stated, Sharon, you and Bill do seem to have the temperaments to let stuff roll off your backs. That micro managing Mo would have heard my opinion fairly quick and then seen my exit. And I hate it as well when a letter goes unanswered.