“I was hired on as an ‘Operations Manager’ in a factory. I was in charge of about 40 people. The job required lots of walking; up and down grated stairs. It was a loud and dusty work environment, and almost everyone there did nothing but mess around when management wasn’t there.
Now for the interesting part: On my first real day, one of my employees got their hand caught in one of the grinders and lost the tips of his fingers. There was blood everywhere and he was screaming. I immediately saw what was going on and ran towards him. I slipped on a banana peel and fell on my back. I’m 6’4″, so as you can imagine, it was a hard fall. I got up immediately and took care of my employee until the ambulance arrived.
That was all before 9:00 am.”
Surprise Mel Brooks
“It was 2006 or 2007 and I was working summer stock as a master electrician in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The run ended on Thursday night and I drove home on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, I was offered a job in Maine for a 3-month run of a show. They wanted me Monday morning. I hadn’t even washed my clothes yet, so I asked if I could start on Tuesday. After some back and forth, they relented and Tuesday worked.
So Tuesday at 6:00 am I left South Jersey to drive to Maine for a 7:30 pm performance. I arrived at around 4:00 and dropped my gear and personal stuff in the apartment provided and walked to the theater. After signing some contracts and talking to the stage manager, I find out that Mel Brooks is in the audience that night. What had happened was Friday morning, the master electrician and the board op for the show quit. When they called me, I had I no clue of any of this. Anyway, apparently, Mel Brooks likes to scout out any theaters that are going to run tweaked or rewritten versions of any of his musicals and this theater was a possibility.
On Friday morning, the director and technical director realized they didn’t have anyone experienced for what was basically the biggest performance of their career. That’s why they relented and accepted a Tuesday arrival. If they had been straight with me, I would have shown up Monday with bells on. During the meeting with the stage manager and director, I reassure everyone as long as the stage manager calls a good show and tells me when to hit cues we will be fine. Any issues that arise during the performance that are technical or electrical, I can cover. The director is happy and goes to meet with the cast to calm them down. They all knew who was in the audience.
The stage manager blankly looks at me and tells me, ‘this show has been running so long and the last guy wrote all the cues, so I haven’t had to call the show for over a month,’ My simple response is, ‘well we’re done for.’ After some back and forth, I asked to have a copy of his prompt book (good stage managers always have a spare if something happens to the first) and I will call my own cues and run it by feel. So about 15 minutes before the doors open, I’m running through about 200 lighting cues trying to take a mental snapshot of each and praying to whoever would listen to get us through the night. Three hours or so later, the curtain came down and the show from a lighting standpoint was passable. My timing was close enough that unless you knew what you were looking at, you wouldn’t notice.
After a smoke and a deep breath, I was asked if I wanted to meet Mel Brooks. The first thing he says to me after I introduce myself is, ‘I hear it’s your first day here.’ I started laughing immediately and relayed the story to him quickly. He laughed then asked me my favorite movie of his and was pleased when I said Robin Hood Men In Tights just because it’s not the standard answer.”
Get Out Fast
“My boss changed my start date and time without telling me, so I showed up a day and a half early. This was after orientation, so we had already met at this point. He said it was fine, so I started then, but he didn’t actually have any time set aside to train me so I just kind of shadowed him for the day. I was supposed to be in a middle management position.
During my first interaction with an employee, my boss made her cry by berating her. It turned out a lunch shift person called out of the hotel restaurant and he wanted an opener to cover it, only it was her birthday and she was having lunch with her parents who were driving more than three hours to see her. She was also around 18 and still in school. So, he literally yelled at her about how little she cares about her ‘career’ and how she’s wasting everyone’s time.
I didn’t last three months there. Their annual employee turnover was 97%. I laughed when they told me because I thought they were kidding. Other than upper management, I only knew one person who had worked there longer than one year.
It was a terrible place to work. They would contract people to work for a year and then put them up in company housing which was like a crappy dorm hall. There really wasn’t a public transit system in the area, so lower staff were basically trapped on site. So everyone was just counting down the days until their contract was up so they could get a different job. From the dishwasher to the head chef, to the front desk, etc. Everyone hated the management staff.
Being a manager, I had an actual house to stay in but it was a 3-mile walk to and from work and the house was basically a slum. If it hadn’t been free, I would have never moved in.”
The Great Escape
“It was my first day working in a mental hospital. We had a patient elope (escape) and had to chase him. He jumped over a barbed wire fence. I figured if he could do it, then so could I. I couldn’t. I got caught, my pants ripped, and I got cuts on my hands, legs, and abdomen.
Then, once I got over the fence, I lost a shoe in the creek bed. I met my shift supervisor wearing jeans turned into chaps and I was bleeding everywhere. They had me go home to change. Since I had just gotten a new car and I didn’t want to get it dirty, I stripped down. I scared the crap out of my family, showing up five hours early, naked and covered in blood and mud. Fortunately, we got the patient back. He was headed towards the highway, which was dangerous because another patient had gotten run over a few years prior. Once we caught up with him, he just laughed and came back with us.”
Three Little Girls
“During my first day as an echocardiography intern at Robert Wood Johnson hospital in Rutgers, I was taken with my supervisor up to the NICU. There were triplet premature girls, about a month early. They were so small that there were no diapers to fit them, so they used a piece of gauze.
We had to check their hearts to see if their atrial septal defect (ASD) was closed or not. We had to reach in the incubator and very gently scan their little hearts.
The father just sat there in a chair in the dark with his head in his hands. It was surreal.
Their names were Hope, Faith, and Anna. I think it was Anna. This was a while ago but that image is seared in my mind.
We went back every day to check on them. One by one they passed over. I heard the mom never went to see them. The dad just sat in the same spot every day.”
“I was brand new at a gas station and stocking some things in the store, and my coworker (who was kind of still new) was operating the tills. The manager went to go to the washroom.
This like, typical lady with the ‘I-want-a-manager haircut’ walks in and says, ‘Um… I’m not sure if you guys are aware of this, but there’s a truck on fire in your parking lot.’ And wouldn’t you know it, the truck was on fire.
I bent the bracket trying to yank the fire extinguisher off the wall and eventually put the guy’s truck out. Five minutes later the manager exits the washroom to a busted wall mount, a missing employee, and a pickup truck covered in white powder.
My manager was like a deer in headlights. ‘Um… what… o-ok.’ I’m sure he filed some type of report afterward but other than shuffling some fire extinguishers around, nothing else happened from my point of view.”
It’ll Be Easy, They Said
“I was overlooking a job site where a very expensive rock saw was cutting a 20-foot deep trench initially in what should have been – as surveyed – a solid limestone bed. They were putting in a new sewer line right next to a spring with a blind salamander in Austin. This was 14 years ago. My new boss at the environmental consulting firm let me know there was nothing that could possibly happen, that I only needed to be there for the initial cut, and that it would be the easiest day of work I had ever had. My boss then leaves for a different work site.
A couple hours later, the saw begins its first cut and it breaks through an ancient clay sewer line that was directly underneath the giant saw machine. The machine sinks about seven feet into the ground. During that cut, we broke through into a cave which was contaminated with gas, probably methane.
The best part was the operator gets out of the saw, walks over to me, the site manager, and the other official individual and says, ‘it was like that when I got here,’ and gets in his truck. We never saw him again.”
A Costly Mistake
“My first day on the job at a vet’s office, we had a dog come in that had completely eviscerated herself. She had had a foreign body removal surgery (she ate something that she couldn’t poop out) the week before and her owner didn’t follow the very EXPLICIT and SERIOUS discharge instructions about her keeping her e-collar on 24/7. She was allowed to have it off at home and tore open her stitches, ate through her peritoneum, and damaged multiple organs. She came in on the gurney with intestines hanging off and had to have her spleen and half of her small intestine removed. The first surgery cost them over $6000 and the second surgery cost them at least $10,000.
The guy understood that he made a mistake and then spent the extra money fixing that mistake. I couldn’t be mad at him. We’ve had people come in that have actually injured their dogs (such as stepping on a small dog) and seriously injure them. They acted terribly to the staff and refuse treatment for their pets. They either leave against medical advice or euthanize their dog with a bad attitude. This guy made it right by paying for the surgeries.
The dog was snapping at us as we tried to get her from the car and the guy was snapping at us because he thought we should ‘just grab her already.’ I don’t blame him, the only thing he cared about was his dying dog. We have to get clearance for stabilization for any stat call and we quoted him at least a grand to get her abdomen packed up and stabilized for surgery, and he was level-headed enough to tell us that money wasn’t an object and to just save his dog.”
An Ugly First Time
“My first ever call as a volunteer was for a four-car accident after a high-speed chase on a remote stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. There were patients with limbs sheared off ejected fifty yards into the brush, Medivac helicopters one after another, a brush fire from a truck that exploded, and units everywhere from CalFire, CHP, the Sheriff’s Department, State Park Rangers, and the National Forest Service. I saw my first fatality declared while preparing to load them onto a helicopter.
I still haven’t and hope I don’t have to respond to something like that again but it did inspire me to enter the medical field so I can be as much help as possible when it does happen again.”
“It was the first project where I was the archaeologist in charge. It was a monitoring project. I basically had to watch an excavator dig up dirt, occasionally sift through it, look around to see if there were any artifacts (or artifact debris) on the ground.
I was told it would be a simple four-hour project and I would unlikely find anything.
It turned into a full two days and I found: two sets of human remains, domesticated dog skull, fish bones, elk and caribou bones, eagle bones, a hearth, and a stone bowl, all from around 3500 years ago.
Also, it turns out the excavator operator I was working with was the man that had to remove the excavator from atop another archaeologist that was killed earlier in the year.
I nearly got the excavator stuck in the pit because it was raining so hard that it basically turned the soil into pudding.”
Lost In Tokyo
“I got hired for a job at Sony. For my first day, I flew to Tokyo. Before I left, I went to a map store and got a Tokyo street map book. At the time, I believed it was a crappy book because none of the streets had names.
I volunteered to be the navigator for our group, using the map book. I managed to find most of the places we needed to go, but it was hard. We were standing on the street. I was looking at the map book, trying to make sense of it. A Japanese dude came up and said, ‘I’m learning English, can I speak English to you? Would you like to hear the inaugural address of John Fitzgerald Kennedy?’
He then proceeded to recite it with a Boston accent. I think he memorized the sounds of the words from a recording. He then asked, ‘Would you like to hear the inaugural address of Ronald Wilson Reagan?’ I said no, we just need help finding a place.
He then proceeded to tell us his master plan. He wanted to learn English, move to the USA, become a lawyer, get elected to Congress, change the constitution to allow foreigners to be elected president, and then be elected president. I responded, ‘Uh…you should know that there are two kinds of people that many Americans hate: lawyers and politicians.’
He gave us directions to our destination, and we thanked him.
Later, I learned that the map book I used was THE official map book of Tokyo, used by cab drivers. I also learned that Japanese streets don’t have names.”
They Know CPR, Right?
“It was my first rotation through the emergency room as an imaging student. There was a code call in the hospital and I had no idea what was going on, so my tech (teacher) looks at me and says, ‘You had to pass CPR to get in here, right?’ I just look at him blankly and say ‘um yeah?’ He responds ‘Good, you first and then me.’
The next thing I know, I am in ER 1 (the trauma room) with about 20 other people doing CPR on a woman as the doctor does his best to resuscitate her. There were two people performing CPR before me and then the doctor calls for ‘time of death’. My tech and I go back to our little x-ray room and just go on like someone didn’t just die in front of me on my first rotation.”
Trauma At Petsmart
“I was 17 and it was my first day on the job at PetSmart. It was hot as heck outside. I was hired as a cashier and wasn’t meant to interact with any of the store animals. I wanted to be in one of the other departments when I was hired but I do recall there being some restriction for that making it impossible for me. This was almost 14 years ago.
My boss ran in the door carrying a limp Australian Shepherd. He screamed at me to go get ice from one of the nearby restaurants. Some monster had left the pup in their car to go grocery shopping. My boss disappeared into the Banfield Vet Department at the back of the store and throughout the day I kept an ear out to hear if the dog would be okay.
At the end of my shift he finally came out, tears still running down his face, and fuming mad. The dog did not make it, unfortunately. I spent the rest of my shift trying to hold it together but eventually ended up quitting. I wasn’t sure if that would become a daily occurrence and didn’t think I could handle it.”
Right Into It
“I worked on a suicide hotline for a year. My shift was a weekday afternoon, so supposedly it ‘wasn’t too busy.’ My first shift came immediately after finishing the mandatory training period. I had four calls in a two hour period, one of which needed emergency intervention. I think my heart raced through the rest of the night.
When someone is calling a hotline, there’s clearly SOMETHING that’s keeping them hanging on. If they were bound and determined, they’d already be dead and wouldn’t be seeking help. So from there, you de-escalate. It depends on the person. Sometimes people want to talk through their problems, sometimes people want to talk about anything but. And it ranges from suicidal ideation (‘I’m thinking about killing myself’) to active attempts (‘I have a knife in hand; I’m just saying goodbye’), but the entire conversation entirely depends on how the caller steers it.
When it was an active situation, it was all about getting the person to give up location information and coordinating with the police – usually just by explaining that they were calling me for a reason. I also had people yell at me a lot; you get turned into a scapegoat quickly. Which was okay with me, but it still hurt sometimes. You have to be present and ready for the next call, THEN ready to take care of yourself after the shift is over. I had a hard time with that, so I had to stop volunteering eventually. Ringing phones still give me a jolt sometimes after several years.”
Thrown Into The Takeout
“It was my very first job ever. I was 15 and desperate to find a place that would hire someone younger than 16. I was walking around my local strip mall and I saw this hole in the wall Chinese takeout with a ‘help wanted’ sign. It was about 4:00 pm.
I walked in and was greeted by a 4’10” version of the landlady from kung fu hustle with an American replacement name like ‘Becky’. She pulls out a carbon copy ticket and says, ‘Help you? What you like?’
‘It says ‘help wanted’ on your window.’
‘I’m looking for work.’
‘You want work?’
‘Okay,’ she waved me to the counter as I was near the now closed door, ‘you pick up phone say ‘Chinese Takeout, I help you?’ Then write order on ticket. Ok? Large or small, NO MEDIUM. Ok? Ok, now the calculator. Add up order and tax is like this (8.1%), ok. Tickets go here, both. Delivery is 45 minute, ok?’
And she went back to the kitchen…I winged it on the phones for an hour, as there were only two orders until another employee showed up. She was a Mormon girl named, let’s say, Katherine. She spent the rest of the night teaching me more about what to do and the ticket shorthand the kitchen staff can read. She was a great girl and I’m super grateful for her.
A couple other employees show up a little later, including two delivery drivers and another counter girl. Around 8:00 pm my ma calls me saying, ‘Where the heck are you?’
‘I’m…at work? I think? She said I’ll be done by 9:00, it’s a Chinese takeout on [street].’
9:00 rolls around and the owner asks what I want to eat. I tell that her I’m broke. It turns out each employee gets a pint of half whatever (as long as it’s not expensive) half rice. I get some orange chicken and she says, ‘Come back tomorrow, 5:00 pm. Ok?’
It was the best job I ever had. I loved those people.”
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