Strangest jobs you've had / applied for?

I’m asking because I just now almost became a linguistic video game tester. This, apparently, is someone who works full time playing localized video games (i.e. translated from English into some other language), spotting translation mistakes and suggesting changes. Unfortunately, I completely and utterly blew the interview (done on Skype), to the point where I suddenly couldn’t even remember what my favorite video game was. I think it was the absurdity of it all that put me off. Oh, well, I guess it wouldn’t have been the most practical job for me anyway at this point in my life, not least since the job is in Montreal, Canada, and I live in Norway. But holy cow, job searching can be strange sometimes.

What’s your story?

If you’re familiar at all with the staged Peter Pan, the role of Tinker Bell is traditionally played by a spotlight or a gobo, more recently with really fricking expensive laser effects lights.

When I was fresh out of college, I worked as the assistant director and stage manager for that show. Since I already knew the script and all the choreography, blocking, and cues backwards and forwards, I got to sit in the fourth balcony of our concert hall during each performance and play around for the entire show with a green laser light that cost more than my house at the time. I didn’t get paid any extra, of course, but I did get my name in the program in three different places. It was an extremely gratifying experience. :smiley:

Well, I’ve done some strange things on Mechanical Turk over the years. Last night I was coding “sleep spindles” off of people’s sleep wave EKG charts for 2 cents per page. They gave me about 5 minutes worth of training and then I was on my own.

Last year I worked on a job that entailed counting taxicabs in Google Earth pictures in certain areas of NYC.

There was another similar job that involved counting swimming pools in certain zip codes around Los Angeles, using Google Earth pictures.

Oh, and the couple of weeks I spent labeling “bird parts” for thousands of pictures of birds. Like, I’d have 100 pictures of birds, and I’d put a specific marker on the top of each one’s head. Then each leg. Each wing. Each tail. Each beak. Very odd. Excellent pay, though.

Apparently my mad bird-labeling skillz qualified me for a similar project of “bug sorting” where I got to catalog different insects and label their parts. That one didn’t pay as well so I dropped out.

Porn sorter! I had to watch the new clips for a big porn website, checking off boxes as to what each clip contained, so that it would be sortable from the main menu. I had certain boxes to click if I thought there was anything illegal or over-the-top violent or offensive, if any of the performers looked underage, unaware they were being filmed, anything like that. That stuff got weeded out, presumably.

That particular job was probably the strangest one I can think of.

Part-time gofer and security for a houngan easily tops my list, I think.

I was also a cold-stuff wrangler for a cryomagnetics lab at the time, and occasionally moonlighted as a gadgeteer for people in security work, building custom nonlethal weapons and specialized security installations. On weekends, I dealt blackjack. (This is how I got through college.)

I worked for a house moving company. We didn’t move the stuff IN the house, we moved the building. We would cut it off the foundation, jack it up onto aircraft wheels and roll it away to the new location. This usually involved long trecks through open fields and due to the weight the wheels would sink into the earth. The way we got around this was to make a track or railroad ties.
Of course we only had so many ties so 10 hour days were often spent carrying ties from the back of the house to the front. It was exhausting work, we were panting after the first 15 minutes each morning and when the July sun came out at noon it was an experience I’d never want to do again.

Drove an Ice Cream Truck for a couple of months in '71.

Making candles! [/cheech & chong]

In my first job I artificially inseminated chickens in a genetics research lab. Every Tuesday was f— a chicken day. That was bad. But it wasn’t the worst.

In order to be able to inseminate chickens on Tuesday we had some business to complete with the roosters on Mondays. What a way to start the work week.


I used to work part-time scanning books, photos, etc., for a university library’s digital collection. I spent nearly a year working on a huge collection of slides from the primate lab, covering about a 30 year period. So basically my job was handling/looking at a bunch of old pictures of monkeys.

I applied for a phone sex operator job in college. They paid well.

They wanted the midnight shift, unfortunately, so I declined the job offer.

While at the U of Hawii, I worked part-time at an adult-video store in Honolulu. My main duties involved keeping the videow-show stalls stocked with tissues and sweeping up the tissues after the patrons left.

Also during my time in Albuquerque, I signed up for some medical research. No medications involved. For example, in one, they needed healthy smokers in my age group, and I was still smoking at that time.

And I sold sperm to a sperm bank. It was a new program started by some sort of family-planning clinic, and each donor accepted had to make x number of deposits. Six I think was the number, not sure. I’ve often wondered if I would run into someone who looked a lot like me if I ever visited Albuquerque again.

It’s not that weird a job. I worked in localisation. I avoided doing the games. But many of the people I worked with did do the games. I know people who do it right now.

It’s not as fun as it sounds. It is actually really horrible. The testers have to get really good at the games - they have to play them inside out. They get blisters on their fingers. They have to play the games all day long, and then when a deadline is approaching, they may have to play the games well into the night. You’re not playing the game for fun, you’re looking for bugs.

But in localisation. The weirdest project we had, was the Dorling Kindersley Multimedia Sex Guide. Bugs like animated penises not doing what they’re meant to . The bug database was very funny.

When I was in college, I had a summer job in a die-casting company. I operated a large machine that made various products from molten aluminum. The product I made was the base for bronzed baby shoes. Not the shoes themselves, just the base.

In the late 80s, I had a temp job packaging Michael Jackson CDs for a rush order as the album was brand new with high demand. Most of the workers were not too sympathetic to Michael to put it mildly.

After graduating from high school, I worked on my uncle’s farm for a while, mostly building new corrals for the cattle but helping with general farm work too. There was nothing strange about that except for the time that I rode a pig. It was a pregnant sow that was ready to go into the farrowing pen, but since they’re big and strong and resist being led in, they have to get tired out first, and apparently, riding them was how it was done. So, feeling more than a bit foolish, I jumped on her back and held on for dear life as she ran around the pen. She even bucked a couple of times like a bronco but I managed to stay on. It wasn’t until she finally stopped, all played out, that I noticed my uncle and his helper laughing their guts out. They had pranked the new kid into riding a pig.

I suppose I should have been thankful that pigs can’t fly.

Voodoo priest. In this case, one who also ran a half-serious, half-touristy shop. I ran errands and did some heavy lifting for him when his regular help was off. (They flaked on him pretty often, especially when he needed an odd odd job done.) He sometimes asked me to watch the shop overnight when he was feeling paranoid; I’d pack up my books and study there, between rounds of whatever routine he asked me to do.

I came to an interview for a job promising lucrative work abroad. It turned out that I and a bunch of other kids in our early 20s were supposed to pose as art students and sell phony “paintings” door to door in South Africa.

I turned them down.

Mystery Bus Tour Guide in the 1980s. The job was pouring jugs of out of date beer into plastic cups while wearing high heels and trying not to slip in the beer mud on the floor of a double decker bus with dodgy brakes.

I counted tree rings one summer for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. I spent 8 hour shifts looking through a microscope, and clicking the diameter of each ring. Trees like jackpine were great, easy to read, as was whitepine. Poplar trees were a nightmare, rings were hard to see, and the trees kept getting some kind of mold on them. I was remarkably slow at doing this, but no one really begrudged me, since I drove and people car pooled with me, and I was making about 25% of what forestry students from the university were making doing the exact same job.

I was making, IIRC, $3.65 /hr “student minimum wage” for those under 18. The last payperiod ended after my 18th birthday (but the job ended before my actual birthday) so I got Canada Pension deducted from that cheque, but still only the 3.65 wage.