Those of a certain generation will recognise this Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (‘Derek and Clive Live’) sketch.
I was reminded of it when I came across this frankly shocking article about the experiences of unpaid interns:
And it set me thinking: what’s the worst job I ever had?
Well, there are a number of contenders. They include working in a bingo hall, operating a factory machine which punched a hole in a piece of metal, and of course teaching in schools which was not so much a bad job as a desperately unhappy one. Still, I think the palm must go to a job I had briefly in 1981. It was the depth of the recession; I’d been unemployed and living in the North-West for over a year and I was desperate, so I signed up for something which I knew deep in my bones was going to be awful.
A lot of jobs in those days used to say ‘no sales’ when they were, to all intents and purposes, selling – and this was one of those. After a day’s ‘training’ (unpaid, though we got coffee) I was taken in a bloke’s car along with two other trainees to a housing estate in Cheshire. It eventually transpired that we were cold-calling and trying to sell double-glazing. Double-glazing! Cold-calling! Either of those two would be the epitome of a terrible job: combined they are pure Derek and Clive. Plus, they could legally say it was ‘not sales’ because we mugs were canvassing – doing the leg-work – and if we got a bite we were supposed to pass the details on to the main pr- sorry, salesman – who would swoop in and close the deal. He would get a hefty percentage and we would get a cut when the funds were transferred.
In the fullness of time…
Reader, I felt terrible. It was the worst thing I have ever done in my life, and only desperation kept me there, knocking on door after door, playing leapfrog with another trainee on a smart estate in Cheshire. Nobody was interested. I wasn’t surprised; in fact I was relieved when each time I went through the spiel the door was closed in my face, either with or without a polite ‘no thanks.’ But then I got a bite. It was an older couple and they were buying what I was telling them. I don’t remember what I said: I’ve blanked it out. All I remember is that when I called the sales bloke and we were invited in, I prayed hard that they wouldn’t sign. They were clearly naive and vulnerable and I doubted whether they could really afford the package: I don’t think I could have lived with myself if they’d gone for it. Thank god! Doubts began to surface when the financial package was discussed, and in the end they said no.
On the way home the sales p**** ranted in rage at their stupidity and railed at me for being ‘arrogant’ (presumably because I’d asked him a few questions*) as he drove at 80 mph round the M62. I got him to drop me a mile from home because I didn’t want him to see where I lived. Needless to say, I never went back.
And that was the worst job I’ve ever had.