First jobs suck, right? Here’s what my first full time job out of college was like (it involved defecating into a partially empty jar of trail mix in the back seat of my car):
My job was doing asphalt paving inspection from August until the end of December. It was a 5-month contract position/internship.
The Department of Transportation is concerned with asphalt pavement quality since people drive over it. I was an unaffiliated 3rd party who monitors and tests the asphalt as it’s being paved to ensure that it’s driver-worthy.
Asphalt paving is often done on major roads and highways with people still driving near them. Drivers don’t always follow common safe driving practices and sometimes ignore our traffic directions. I have seen guys working on the project site almost get run over.
Projects can take 12 hours or more per day and involve over 2 miles of asphalt paving.
I walk along the (potentially) miles of paved asphalt taking tests every 50 to 100 feet. I’m only REQUIRED to record tests every 200 feet, but it’s an unspoken rule that I record more. I carry around 45+ lbs asphalt testing equipment while I do this.
I actually got sunburned once from being out in the sun for 10+ hours with no shade available. Then, this weird dark spot grew on the side of my neck that I thought was skin cancer. Thankfully, it went away after a few days.
I once had an 18 hour day, which included a 5 hour round trip commute, so that’s still 13 hours of work.
I also had a 61 hour work week. This week included working on a Saturday, and five out of the six days were at night. The Friday of that same week was 14 hours, including a 2+ hour round trip commute; the work day started at 9:30 pm, and I got home at 11:30 am.
Before this job started, I only had about 100 mileage on my car. After my contract ended 5 months later, I had over 11,000 mileage. My daily commutes were 1.5 hours on average.
Some of my co-workers ended up with 90 hour work weeks, and we all had similarly long commutes.
You have no idea where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing until 5:30 pm or 6 pm the night before. Your schedule is updated at this time, and it only shows what you’re doing the next day. If you call in to ask what you’re doing the day after, they won’t know.
I was basically expected to be a mindless drone with no personal life who goes wherever at a specific time based on the whims and needs of the company.
Now, sometimes you need to be on site at 6 am, but you live 2.5 hours away. In this case, you need to start driving at 3:30 am to get there on time. You need to leave at 2 am if you need to go to the nearby office and pick up inspection equipment.
So think about it: you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’ll be until 5:30 pm to 6 pm, and you may have to start driving at 2 in the morning to get to a project on time.
You need to fill out paperwork after every single work day. You take a test at least every 200 feet, you take four tests per spot, and you average out the four tests. The projects can end up paving about 2 miles, which is over 10,000 feet. That’s about 50 spots. Each of those 50 spots has four tests, and an average.
In addition to the hard-copy, the company requires you to fill out an electronic copy of the paperwork. This means you need to type each of those 50 spots’ four tests individually on a tablet, smartphone, or computer.
Paperwork easily ends up taking a half hour or more, and you aren’t paid for that time. I always try to fill out most, if not all of it, while I’m at the project site, but that’s not always feasible.
Also, you need to watch out for pedestrian drivers who may, purposefully or not, almost run you over, which complicates the paperwork process.
I’ve had times when I walked with my 45 lbs testing equipment nonstop for six hours to keep up with the paving crew and test the asphalt being paved. I was able to barely fill out the 2 miles worth of tests on the paperwork, and I couldn’t even start the electronic copy.
The DOT only cares about the tests. They don’t care at all about the other paperwork. Honestly, the paperwork is seemingly just some arbitrary time-waster that the company implements just so that upper management can go over it and have something to do to make themselves feel important and useful. Basically, I think the paperwork is required for shits and giggles.
The office called me when I was still driving back to put the equipment away at 5:15 pm. I was assigned to work upstate for a week starting the next day.
I got back to the office and put the equipment away by 5:30 pm. The paperwork took me over an hour since it was only my second day. My more experienced partner didn’t help me and wouldn’t respond to my texts, so I was on my own. I got home and finished the paperwork at 7 pm.
I need to start driving at 3:30 am if I want to make it on time to the job site. If I go to bed immediately, I have about 7 hours of sleep before I have to start driving.
The company had housing available for employees near the work site. Since I couldn’t fall asleep, I decided to pack some clothes and bed supplies and drive up at around midnight, get to the housing at 2:30 am, and nap for two and a half hours before my day officially starts.
I arrived at 2:37 am. The house looked like something out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Your day started at 5:45 am. You were outside in the August heat all day. You just drove 2.5 hours, it’s pitch black out, and you’re standing outside a sketchy-looking single story “house” at the bottom of a dirt hill (no actual drive way). Here’s what the house was like:
I lived there for the rest of the week, and drove back home Friday night.
Other guys had to stay in the house during the winter. With the non-functioning heater, I can only imagine how cold it was.
On this job, I’ve gone to the bathroom more often outdoors than indoors. The employee bathroom at my company is a spot behind a white fence in the parking lot. This is because we often work night shifts. We don’t have access to the building at night because it’s locked up. I also go into some nearby bushes to take a leak whenever I’m working.
I was once working on a road with heavy traffic. There weren’t any outhouses, and I had to take a shit. I couldn’t find a convenient open spot in the bushes.
I had a partially empty jar of trail mix and napkins in my car. So, I pushed the driver and passenger seats forward, crouched down in the back seat, and I took a shit into the jar of trail mix. The jar thankfully did not overfill. I wiped my ass with the napkins, put them inside the jar, closed it, and I chucked the jar into some nearby bushes.
During a drive to a project site, I had to piss. I had some empty tofu jars in my back seat. While driving, I reached into the back to grab one, I put it on the floor by my legs, I unziped my pants, and I took a piss inside the jar. While Driving. I aimed very carefully to avoid pissing on my car.
I drove the rest of the way with my piss sloshing around in the jar and my penis still hanging out of my pants.
I’ve also pissed into empty water bottles in the back seat of my car whenever I was on a suburban street and there were no bushes nearby. I did this because I was worried that I would get in trouble for indecent exposure and/or public urination.
During one of my 2.5+ hour commutes at 3 in the morning, I had to take a shit. I drove to a gas station to use their bathroom. The bathroom was locked. There were no people around. So, I grabbed some napkins from my car, took my pants off in the dark next to some bushes, squatted down, and did my business. I used the napkins to wipe my ass and threw them into the bushes. And, I continued driving.
I learned something on this job. You can briefly become blind if sufficient tired. I learned this while driving at 5 am after a night shift ended. Thankfully, the roads were empty while I was swerving back and forth like a shit-faced first-time-behind-the-wheel driver at a demolition derby.
One of my co-workers fell asleep behind the wheel, rammed into a bunch of traffic cones, and completely destroyed his passenger side mirror. Another guy scratched up his car because he drifted too close to the guard rail.
During another week of night shifts, I parked my car in the company parking lot and took a quick nap before putting the equipment away.
I woke up panicking and freaking out because I thought I was driving and fell asleep behind the wheel. It took 5 seconds before I realized I wasn’t moving. At this point, I actually started wondering if I had somehow “sleep drove” the car and parked.
Sleep walking is a thing, so effective sleep driving must be real too, right?
After 5 more seconds, I was able to comprehend what was happening.
I also did some customer service. Unlike my pre-college Burger King job, I could be as much of an asshole as I wanted.
It wasn’t just me. Guys on the paving crews sometimes harass women passing by. One guy told a woman walking by to smile. Another guy started smiling, waving and making kissing faces at a woman driving by in traffic.
Sometimes, motorists driving by would complain to me about the road closures. One old man called me a jerk from his car. I’ve also had three people ask me, basically a random construction worker, for directions… even though we live in an age of smartphones and Google Maps.
I eventually started responding to all motorists who attempted communication with “No Engrish.”
The company expressed interest in extending me a full-time offer in November. They did, and they wanted an answer from me by mid-December.
Believe it or not, I strongly considered accepting it. I worked my ass off looking for another job during the entirety of my five month contract, and I completely failed. I only managed to land one phone interview that didn’t lead anywhere. My job is simple and pays reasonably well, but is very demanding.
My job sucks, but all jobs suck right? I’ve also got college debt to pay off.
I wrestled with this decision for a month and a half. I asked my parents, my friends, and the other guys I was working with what they thought. My parents thought I shouldn’t accept. My friends and co-workers all said that I should accept if I didn’t have anything else lined up.
I read Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Workweek during this time. That book guided and informed me during this period of my life. Chapter 13 was exactly what I needed to help me make a decision.
I decided to bite the bullet and reject the full-time offer. In hindsight, it may have been the best decision I’ve ever made. I think to myself “Thank God I’m out of there” at least once a day.
“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
That was my first full time job out of college. Never has any job I’ve had involved so much sleep deprivation, going to the bathroom everywhere except an actual bathroom, driving, and consumption of my personal life.
I’ve got another job now. It’s certainly better than my last one, and I even genuinely like it.
Let me know what you think down in the Comments. What kind of bad job experience do you have? And if you haven’t already, subscribe to my free newsletter to stay up to date on my latest content.
All the best,