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My Worst Job and Other Reflections.

Since both docbrite and mevennen have weighed in on their worst jobs ever, I figured I might as well, too. Truthfully, most of the jobs I held before I began writing fulltime in 1992 were museum-related, either doing paleontology or exhibit work, or university teaching jobs, and I loved them. I never really thought of those jobs as jobs. But just after high school, I did endure a small number of retail-type jobs. The worst of the bunch was almost certainly at a place called Doctor Pet Center (Century Plaza, Birmingham). It was a mall chain, and I think it must have gone out of business in the late '80s or early '90s. The R in "Doctor" was written as an RX. Very witty. DPC sold all manner of pets and pet supplies, though their main business was puppies. In September 1982, I was hired as a "pet selection counselor," which is to say primarily as a salesperson. Each "pet selection counselor" had a weekly quota. X-number of puppies we were expected to sell during that period. The puppies were kept in a sort of kennel behind plate glass, and it was my job to nab people as they came in to look, talk them into some one-on-one time with a puppy in one of the little back rooms, and then sell them the dog. It was a meat market, and though we were instructed to tell our customers that all the puppies came from AKC-registered breeders, it was generally known among the employees that a lot of DPC's dogs came courtesy "puppy mills." Often they arrived sickly and malnourished. We shot them up with antibiotics and did our best to make them pretty for the mall-goers. We had to wear little white lab coats, because, you know, it was Doctor Pet Center.

During my interview for the job, I rambled on and on about how much I loved animals, that I'd always wanted to work with animals, and so forth, until the manager, a woman who could have been Cruella DeVille's eviler sister, told me that she wasn't interested in people who liked animals, but in people who liked people. More specifically, she was interested in hiring someone who was motivated to sell to people. I lied and said I was both. And much to my surprise, I got the job.

But, as you may well imagine, I was a lousy salesperson. I didn't like to talk to customers. I didn't know how to talk to customers. During my time at Doctor Pet Center I managed to sell only a single dog, an aging basset hound we called Betty, the only older dog I ever saw in the store. I cannot now recall how the store had ended up with Betty, as all the other dogs were puppies. Anyway, yes, I sold Betty, even though she had arthritis. And then the man who bought her brought her back only a week later. And, about a month after that, in November, I quit. (I can proudly say that I've never once been fired from a job. I always quit before my employer had the chance to fire me.)

Not long after I sold Betty, shortly after she was returned, there was an outbreak of Parvo virus one night. There were just two of us working, because it was a slow weeknight. The outbreak started with a husky puppy. Within a couple of hours, I'd hauled half a dozen diarrhea-stricken puppies out of their shit- and blood- and mucus-drenched cages and away to our vet. All of them died, as would several others in the store. And that was the end of my career as a "pet selection counselor." I was tired of lying to people about where the store got its dogs, tired of trying to convince people we were humane, tired of the stupid questions customers asked, tired of trying to manipulate them into buying pets on impulse when, most of the time, they neither wanted nor needed a dog. I told my manager most of this, and, even though I was a lousy salesperson, she said she was very disappointed in me and thought I had great potential, blah, blah, blah. So, yeah. That was my worst job ever, all three months of it.

I also worked in a machine shop one summer, and I almost listed that as my worst job ever. It was hot and filthy and unbelievably noisy and dangerous and yet dull beyond all imagining. I ran a drill press from 8 to 5. The place was owned by a racist Libertarian gun-freak who scared the piss out of me. But, in the final analysis, Doctor Pet Center was even worse than the rabidly non-union machine shop. Never mind that during my time at the shop I lived in constant fear of decapitation by flying metal, the pet store was still worse. At least I hardly ever had to talk to anyone in the machine shop, and I never had to lie about ill-gotten puppies.

Yesterday was a nice day off. I did some Wikipedia (an article on the coelurid theropod Tanycolagreus and anatomy stubs for "postorbital" and "squamosal"). We read Chapter Ten of The Triumph of the Moon ("God (and Goddess) Parents"), in which Hutton examines the role that Aleister Crowley, Violet Firth (Dion Fortune), Robert Graves, and Margaret Murray played in setting the stage for the emergence of modern pagan witchcraft in Britian. We had dinner at one of our favourite sushi places, Sweet Lime at L5P. We had an after-dark walk in Freedom Park.

And then we watched Jackson's King Kong on DVD. This was only the second time I'd seen it, and most of what I said upon the first viewing still seems valid. I still think Jack Black was wrong for the part. I still think the film spent too much time in New York. I still think the ice skating scene is silly. Etc. But it is an amazing and majestic film. I think the two things that struck me most this time through were Jackson's decision to let most of the action on Skull Island unfold during the day (Cooper set it at night in the 1933 original), and the nature and intensity of the relationship between Ann Darrow and Kong. In the 1933 film, Kong is clearly fixated on Darrow, for whatever reason, and over the decades, there's been no end of speculation on the sexual subtext. But it was strictly one way. The ape loved the pretty white woman, who was terrified of him and only wanted to scream and faint every time he touched her. However, in the new film, Ann and Kong seem absolutely smitten with one another. The affection is definitely mutual, Ann becomes Kong's only defender, and don't frelling tell me it's all meant to be platonic. Phooey, I say. I think it's one of the film's finer attributes, and a brave move by Jackson, but I do have to wonder how many people were icked out, consciously or subconsciously, at the implications of "bestiality" and interspecies hanky-panky.

Speaking of which, I'm still watching the Tales from the Woeful Platypus poll from yesterday afternoon. Please vote if you are a subscriber. So far, only a very, very small percentage of subscribers have. My thanks to those people. I'm pretty sure, at this point, that both "Pony" and "Untitled 17" have made the cut. Okay. Time to write. N is for...

Comments

( 17 comments — Have your say! )
rysmiel
May. 30th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the Anne Darrow/Kong relationship that way at all. The original Kong is the Beast. Jackson's Kong is a great big safe protective teddy bear. I think something is sadly missing there.
greygirlbeast
May. 30th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
The original Kong is the Beast.

Yep. And what did the Beast want from Beauty? And how have modern retellings from Angela Carter to Disney tended to recast the relationship?
strange_selkie
May. 30th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
Wow, that place was creepy. Yergh. I'm sorry you had to work there? But it can't have been worse than Ed's Pet World?
greygirlbeast
May. 30th, 2006 04:17 pm (UTC)
But it can't have been worse than Ed's Pet World?

I don't know. I have big problems with Ed's (I bought reptiles from them in the '80s), but at least it doesn't have the impersonal corporate predatory persona that DPC had.
schroteri
May. 30th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
We had a Doctor Pet Center in my mall ages ago; I used to spend a lot of time there looking at birds and dogs and cats and whatnot. It's really disturbing to know that they were all puppy mill dogs, though... not much to do about it since that closed ages ago.

Bleh.
sclerotic_rings
May. 30th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, Good Elvis Almighty: I'm a refugee of Doktor Pet Center, too. In my case, my first job after moving back to Texas twenty years ago this month was at a Docktors in Denton, Texas (only known for being the home of the University of North Texas, and I had the delusion that I could make enough off the Real Job to pay the bills and go back to school). Blessedly, Denton had ordinances against sales of any animal more exotic than birds, but that didn't stop the Kallikaks from Lewisville (the hellpit from whence I graduated high school) from wandering in with bib overalls and no shirt or shoes, bearing an unmarked burlap bag and asking "Y'all buy rattlesnakes?" Then there was the crazy woman who came in every single day because she had been told she could buy a condor (not a conure, but a condor) through us, and the idiot who thought we were a Fish-of-the-Month Club. And then there were the puppies, just as you said: in our case, our breeders were generally honest, but we had far too many entitlement brats who'd buy a Shar Pei or Rottweiler to show off for a party who'd then return the next day, claiming that the puppy had bitten them, just to return the charge to their American Express cards. In my case, I lasted a whole month before I found a better job: I spent the next 18 months mowing lawns and picking up cigarette butts at a Texas Instruments plant, and it was heaven compared to life in a shopping mall pet shop.
robyn_ma
May. 30th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
'We had to wear little white lab coats'

Ooh, sexxxay. :)

...I did not just say that. *looks around*
sclerotic_rings
May. 30th, 2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
Trust me: those coats were the only sexy things about the job. (Of course, in my case, considering my build and looks at the time, as well as the recent release on video of the film adaptation, I'd constantly come in to work with my name tag changed to "Herbert West".)
stsisyphus
May. 30th, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
It was a meat market, and though we were instructed to tell our customers that all the puppies came from AKC-registered breeders, it was generally known among the employees that a lot of DPC's dogs came courtesy "puppy mills."

I hate people. That's all I can say about this. This whole story makes me ill. I'm surprised you made it three months.

I think it must have gone out of business in the late '80s or early '90s.

No doubt from repeated deceptive trade practice suits.

Please vote if you are a subscriber. So far, only a very, very small percentage of subscribers have.

I'm getting to it tonight, if possible. I have to match the stories to the titles.
stardustgirl
May. 30th, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)
Poor Betty. If she was much older she was likely from a mill and they were unable to breed her further.

We got a puppy from Docktor once, before we knew what puppy mills were, back when we believed that surely someplace"official" with a license couldn't do anything slimy. Hah! I suppose we were lucky that Andy lived for 9 years (vs. 16+ for our two from-the-breeder dogs), though now that I know the Toy Fox Terrier standard well, he was too stocky, head too round,etc. so one of his ancestors probably crossed with a Chihuahua at some point.

I found out what a puppy mill was when we got Tyler. He was the brain-damaged pup who lived 8 months and when we got his papers (our first dog with papers) you could see how tightly inbred he was. From that I learned of breed clubs, dog shows, and how to find people who were responsible breeders who raised puppies in their homes, underfoot and loved by humans from Day One. Granted you can still get a puppy with a problem (as with Robin's heart murmur) but it's not due to too much / too tight breeding or putrid living conditions, for which there's just no excuse (other than greed).

I'm sorry you had to work there. That must've really sucked for you since you love animals.
sfmarty
May. 30th, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
Did you ever see the nature special with Gweneth Paltrow visiting the orangutangs in (as I recall) Borneo? One of the huge males took a liking to Paltrow and got a firm grip on her arm. It was very obvious what he wanted. She managed (quite tactfully too) to indicate that it wasn't on, and the male let her go. The film crew was hysterical with fear. She kept her cool. I was impressed.
stardustgirl
May. 30th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
She's probably had lots of practice at that from overzealous humans.
setsuled
May. 30th, 2006 11:29 pm (UTC)
but I do have to wonder how many people were icked out, consciously or subconsciously, at the implications of "bestiality" and interspecies hanky-panky.

Oh, if only I had time for the fan-art this inspires in me.

By the way, did you hear about this new Hogwarts dinosaur? Maybe you mentioned it and I'm forgetting. It was very briefly mentioned on CNN last night, and I had a hard time finding any information on it this morning.
greygirlbeast
May. 31st, 2006 02:02 am (UTC)

By the way, did you hear about this new Hogwarts dinosaur?


Yep.


Oh, if only I had time for the fan-art this inspires in me.


When it comes to interspecial hanky panky, you should make the time. :-)
setsuled
May. 31st, 2006 12:00 pm (UTC)
When it comes to interspecial hanky panky, you should make the time. :-)

Heh. Well, a lot of the fun would probably be the week or so of daydreaming beforehand just to figure how it would work.

Plus, I still need to see Peter Jackson's King Kong.

*ducks anticipated frying pan, or whatever you're currently holding and might hit me with*
bluharlequin
May. 31st, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
Oh wow. Doctor Pets.
We had one of those when I was a young person in Maryland too. Somehow though, we all knew it was a puppy mill. Perhaps my politically active punk rock friends were to thank for that.
Fuck that place. I shiver just to think of it.
tagplazen
May. 31st, 2006 04:54 am (UTC)
More on the fact that we've never escaped the 19th century, have you ever read the literature from the early AKC bastards? It's genius, kind of a crash course in eugenics/chosen race mythology without Ernst Krause's eye for good photography. Send all of the breeders/dog show addicts to Lhasa and they would endorse a new reich.
( 17 comments — Have your say! )