In honor of Labor Day weekend, what was the hardest you’ve ever worked?
It’s a toss-up between the couple of times I’ve worked 50-52 straight hours and the crazy-ass month when I worked 120 hours per week. For four weeks.
Shortly after I started bartending I ended up having to work doubles for a month straight. The only saving grace, the restaurant wasn’t open weekends. So 10 a.m. – 2 a.m. Mon-Fri.
A year at McDonald’s when I was 16. “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.”
Nothing better prepared me for what real work was like, or for introducing me to the concept of adults who didn’t give a shit about my lame excuses (aka “the world is not filled with teachers and parents”).
I can only refer you to the following:
Exhausting, yet exhilarating, until I finally had the chance to collapse into bed after it all. I would not recommend my weekend from hell to anybody. Ever.
I was an Air Force Training Instructor (DI) for almost 6 years. The first two or three weeks of training, I spent over 16 hrs a day. Once they got to the 4th week, I could drop it down to 12 or so until they graduated. It was exhausting and long days, but the most rewarding job I ever had.
I was in charge of a forensic tox lab during the Holidays several years ago. We were working with a reduced staff of 2 (me and my tech) On Christmas Eve 1989 Sixteen eldery residents lost their lives in a fire in the John Sevier Hotel. The hotel had been converted to a senior living center at the time. All fire agencies and even citizens fought the fire. I had to run full tox screens on the 16 victims on Christmas day. I put in a 20 hour shift that day. http://www.interfire.org/res_file/pdf/Tr-039.pdf
well, there was that one winter day to get to a certain point at schlitz studios to get the stained glass columns done, we all worked to midnight. got chinese delivered. only one kerfuffle, when i noticed a section going on backwards. boss nearly lost it. she took a break and i unsoldered it for her. no biggie. and caught early. can imagine if it was after it was put together. but it mostly was more of the same longer.
tho, just having to build a huge all-over poppy was a bitch.
but damn did my arms look good.
did i mention my 73′ delta 88’s heater core died and i had to drive home in a freezing car?
On my father’s shrimp boat.
Just reading these is exausting. I thing reading about other’s hard work is hard. Makes me want to go on vacation. I might be one of the laziest people here. I’m not going to finish t
Hardest? Toss up between loading hay bales onto a flatbed (hard, but fun in its own way) or washing pots, pans, and cooking utensils at a college cafeteria.
Most soul crushing was being a telephone operator…was mentioning to someone last night that the one thing that kept me going for the last year or two of that was…the closest living relative of the hops plant. And plenty of it.
I spent a summer at UMass Transit washing the insides of city busses with little bitty brushes (about the size designed for scrubbing underneath one’s fingernails) and some sort of nasty pink (cancer causing?) cleansing fluid. It would take a crew of four of us two or three days to wash a single bus back to clean as new. It was sort of rewarding. When classes started up again in the fall I recall being assigned other than only campus shuttles routes.
The bus driving part, on the other hand, I enjoyed so much that at first I couldn’t believe they were paying me.
I spent a summer mucking out a stable, once. That was pretty hard work.
Although it didn’t involve extraordinary hours or physical labour or anything, the job I had where I had to call suppliers for a Really Really Big Corporation and ask them for Material Safety Data Sheets wasexhausting. The number of people I spoke to who seemed to have room-temperature (in Celsius) IQs was astonishing, and our overseer at the RRBC was a complete jerk.
These days, I find parts of the software testing component of my job to be very mentally taxing, and writing anything about GM and/or streetcars is the hardest writing I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m in that anecdote about the famously-blocked writer whose name I’ve forgotten: “How many words have you written today?” “Three!” “Three! Congratulations, sir!” “I had to scratch them out again.”
Most physical: summer I worked in a canning factory sorting BEETS while wearing a rubber apron, rubber gloves and a hairnet (lovely) without any A/C.
Most mentally/emotionally draining: the 3 years I worked for the State of Missouri trying to collect child support from deadbeat parents. Ugh.
Back in Spring 1973 Admiral Zumwalt (CNO) issued an “early out” for sailors who were scheduled to be released from active duty within the next three months: “you can leave now.” I suspect it had to do with budget problems.
Anyway, we went from four shifts of 25 people apiece to four shifts of about 18 people apiece. This was shore duty, so we did have other parts of our lives, unlike our ship-board colleagues. From a schedule of 2 8-hr dayshifts doubling back on the 2nd day to a midshift, then another midshift, then doubling back to a swingshift and another swingshift and 80 hrs off to 1 dayshift, 8 hrs later come back for a midshift, and 8 hrs after that a swingshift. Then 1 1/3 days off. From 2-2-2 and 80 off to 1-1-1 and 32 hrs off.
That lasted about six weeks, and I was exhausted the entire time. A menial construction laborer job a year or so earlier was nuthin’ compared to that.
Spoko, you are probably an amateur. I had business cards printed up that read “Professional Slacker since 1969.”
When I was in college, I worked a 32 hour shift doing the heaviest manual labor in a plywood mill.
When I was working construction in early 1970s, I stayed awake for four days heating a tented newly poured concrete foundation in southern Wyoming in the middle of the winter on a spare no expense basis from the insurance company adjuster, I got 5000 in cash up front.
Burned up 2000 pounds of natural gas that I had had filled into 100 pound tanks. I had four alligator heaters running full blast. Nodded out at one point and woke up with a screaming headache and all but one heater off, I’d burned up all of the oxygen inside the tent. Crawled outside and puked for a while, then fired all up again.
I was the contractor on the job. I had a full beard that I braided, my hair hung down to the middle of my back. When I tried to make arrangements with the local (50 to 75 miles away) gas company, they made me pay for all of the bottles and gas and would make a refund for the bottles were returned undamaged. Being a hippy in Wyoming was NOT fun.
I’d almost burned up all of my fuel in two days, I had already written off the foundation and was planning to declare bankruptcy, when I heard a truck in the distance. I got a gun out of my truck and got ready, did I mention that being a hippy in Wyoming was NOT fun?
Finally, the truck came in sight. It took a while to reach me and I had just hooked up the last bottle of fuel when it reached me.
Fully loaded tanker truck with 4000 pounds of fuel and a trailer full of empty hundred pound bottles. The driver said “The boss got worried about you being out here alone and told us to drive out and see if you were all right.” They helped me refill my bottles and dropped off another 20. When I told them, “I don’t have enough money to pay for this in cash.” The driver’s helper told me “The boss said to see that EVERYTHING was all right.”
Was it profit or common human decency that caused him to put the truck on the road? I’ve always wondered.
Marine Corps boot camp – the normal training is bad enough, but every platoon had to do a week of some sort of labor during the course of training, and mine pulled duty in the mess hall. Up at 4:00, working to prepare, serve and clean up after all three meals for the other platoons in training, off-duty at about 10:00.
After standing for 18 hours for 7 days, my feet were numb for the next month.
Hm? Three days of back labor with my first child? That’s about it. When I was sixteen I worked the hardest I’ve ever worked on an archaeological dig. That was my first time working an eight hour day of hard labor: digging, wheelbarrowing the soil, later putting the sod back on at the end of the season. The only other physically grueling job was running a small middle eastern restaurant (just me and one worker) for three weeks. That was physically demanding and relentless from five am to nine pm (I was so rushed I didn’t realize there was a tiny bathroom in the restaurant, which was a take out hole in the wall, for the first week. I didn’t have time to go to the bathroom.)
Other than that, I’ve been lucky.
Physically,unloading a trailer with a years’ supply of paper for school district. Psychologically,trying to sell encyclopedias door to door in Los Angeles the summer of Charley Manson.As a long-haired hippie. It was educational but didn’t make any $$. Crashed an outdoor Hendrix appearance,tho,so that made it worthwhile
A summer of doing maintenance/grounds work at my college. Tons of physical labor wedged in between my hardest partying days. Butdamn, I was skinny come fall.
Digging ditches for my brother-in-law the well driller the summer of my junior year of high school. The trench had to be four feet deep, below the frost line, from the well to the house to run the electrical cable and the water pipe.
In between ditches, I got to help with the drilling operation itself, an old cable tool drilling machine mounted on a World War II Army surplus 6×6. When we pulled pipe, I got to climb up the rig’s mast to unscrew the solid steel slotted plug (it weighed about 30 lbs.) after each 20-foot section was hammered all the way up out of the ground with the cable tool. It persuaded me to seek other ways of earning a living…
Gawd, the list is almost endless (and probably the reason why I was pretty much worn fucking out by the time I was laid off at 57).
Bucking hay eighteen hours a day during summers in high school. Three months humping railroad carts with a ton of paper on board up and down ramps in a paper mill that was always over 100 deg. F, when I first flunked out of college. Topping onions–12 hours a day bent over. Basic training–averaging four hours sleep a night combined with the physical effort, psychic abuse and the inedible food for nine weeks was tough.
Had one job that I worked between 90-110 hours a week (both physical and mental labor required) for months at a time because they were losing employees, and I got every job others had been doing before they quit. Start-ups who’ve blown through all their venture capital are no fun.
The last job I had before I was laid off, I averaged 70 hours a week for the last seven years.
If I’d actually been paid for all the hours I worked (exempt salaried sucks), I could have retired at 55.
Work in America is the shits.
Hard? Probably USAF BMTS (hey, iceblue2: thank you!) if you’re talking about sustained effort in a omgwtf did I get myself into way.
Physically painful? Gotta be having kids without anesthesia.
Challenging? Oh, dozens of things.
Depressing? two different places where my title was “editor”.
But the soul-destroyer was the job with a breast-and-cervical cancer screening assistance program, having to tell low-income women the cancer they had wasn’t the kind that qualified for Medicaid under the rules in Texas at the time…three months of that and I was about suicidal.
I was raised on a farm
I’ve never really done hard physical work. But the last couple of times my writer boss had a deadline, I worked huge hours–we’re working on a two-part novel, and the first part was due in October last year. I was working my regular 40-hour a week job, I was teaching one class, and over two weekends and the week in between, I put in something like 48 hours making the final revisions to that novel.
When it was all done, it was the best feeling you can imagine.
Then there was the year I got a promotion when the guy who’d held the job retired, at exactly the same time Mr. BuggyQ took an early-retirement buyout and started his own business. Learning the new job while still doing most of my old job (because we couldn’t fill my old position) while trying to help the Mr. get off the ground–oy…longest year of my life. We’re now in year three of the business, we survived the hell that was last winter (who buys art when they’re losing their job?) and things are starting to look up.
I’ve never done truly hard labor, but there have been logistical excitements.
1. While working as an overnight DJ, I helped a friend work a freelance videography job for a Junior Miss pageant ninety miles away. Between the air shift, commute, set-up, filming and tear down, I got an hour’s sleep each day for nine days; half an hour at my grandparents’ house and half an hour in the radio station lobby.
2. Twenty-two hour packaging shift at the Charlotte Observer. The department manager bought breakfast.
3. When the Lincoln Journal Star built its new production facility (across the street from the original building), managers and team leaders — of which I was one — all worked 70- to 80-hour weeks to effect the transition. The worst period was when the new packaging system was online but the new press was not; we dragged newspapers in rolling metal cages across three lanes of downtown traffic every night for almost two weeks.
It’s a short, but tiring list.
1. Infantry. The hardest goddamn job on earth and the pay sucks.
2. Grocery store warehouse loading tractor trailers from 11 pm to 7 am.
3. Spiked ties for the Erie Lackawanna RR, now long gone.
4. Form carpenter on a multi-level parking deck.
I need a nap.
I’m sure any number of 16 hour urban ER shifts would be painful to recall to clearly.
6 months at a moving company. Hot and cold running ass-kicking every day.
That would be the 15 years I spent working seven days a week. Full-time job on weekdays, part-time job on weekends. I don’t recommend it, but we do what we have to do, n’est-ce pas?
Working in my four-person office when one of our number, R., took a 6 week trip to work with Mother Theresa’s organization in India, and a week later another co-worker died in his sleep of a heart attack. Boss didn’t want to hire anyone else because R. would be back in 4-5 weeks, so L. and I had to do everything ourselves (of course, Boss was too executive to pitch in).
L.’s job involved being out on ships or at loading terminals 75% of the time, so I was the one-armed paper hanger in the office, answering phones and doing documentation and getting out international communication, sometimes round the clock. It was the most exhausting month of my life.
Boss was good enough to give L. and me each one month’s salary as a bonus after R. came back from India, though.
Like someone said, loading hay bales. Once haying season started it never seemed to stop. My dad would have us all out in the fields or the barn lofts from dawn to dusk, literally. You’d stop for a meal and then get back to it. The best part — getting to drive the tractor. I can still smell that combination of motor oil and sweet fresh hay. The worst part was working in the loft — sweaty, scratchy and backbreaking.
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