Monday, July 4, 2011


Mad Men
This week we’re discussing worst jobs, those we’ve had and those our protagonists have had. Anastasia Pollack, the reluctant amateur sleuth of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, has had two jobs in her adult life: she’s worked as a public school art teacher and as the crafts editor of a women’s magazine. Although she didn’t care much for teaching, it was hardly a “worst job ever” sort of job. She just discovered early on that she wasn’t cut out for teaching. She enjoys her current job.  

I, on the other hand, have suffered through two jobs that tie for “worst job ever.” Both involved my short stint in the world of advertising. 

I graduated college with a degree in graphic design and illustration. When I went off to college, I expected to move back to the NY metro area upon graduation to pursue a career as a children’s book illustrator. The universe had other plans for me, though, and I found myself in Philadelphia, not exactly a publishing Mecca for children’s books. I wound up working as a graphic designer for first one, then another, small ad agency. To say I hated waking up in the morning to go to work is a vast understatement.

The first agency bragged about having such wonderful accounts as the clothing manufacturer Ladybug. They lied. Ladybug was an account they were pursuing. They didn’t get it. In hindsight, I believe they were never contenders. What they did have were lots of auto dealership accounts. There are few things more boring than doing layouts and billboard designs for auto dealerships, but that wasn’t the worst part of the job. 

This was an office of five -- the boss, an account executive, an office manager, a copywriter, and me. The account exec quit within a week of my arrival. The copywriter was the quintessential mean girl bitch who married into money and was only working until she got pregnant. She was snide, caustic, and went out of her way to make derogatory comments about me, both to my face and behind my back. The office manager was her sidekick and bitch-in-training. On top of that, the owner of the agency turned out to be a manipulative S.O.B. who’d pull stunts like taking off for lunch on Fridays and not returning to the office until Monday morning, after having cut checks for the bitch and bitch-in-training before he left but not for me. After the first time this happened, I spent every Friday running after him, hoping to grab him before the elevator doors closed. Sometimes I won; other times he’d give me the slip.

I quit that job after two months and took a similar job at another agency in the same building. The accounts were slightly more interesting, but that didn’t make up for the people. Think Mad Men. I was one of two women in the office. The other woman was the office manager. The rest of the agency was comprised of the owner and three account executives. These were guys who routinely cheated on their wives. They’d fly off to Las Vegas every few months with their girlfriends, telling their wives they were going on a business trip. 

At one point the boss’s 19 year old girlfriend (he was in his thirties at the time and had a wife and three kids) became pregnant. I don’t know if his wife ever found out. Frankly, I hope so. This was a guy still living in the 1950’s. I once overheard a phone conversation between him and his wife. She wanted to go back to work and had been offered a great job. He REFUSED to let her. 

I spent about five months working at that job. I was fired two weeks before Christmas because one of the account executives had a friend whose wife had just graduated with an art degree. I thought about retaliating by calling all the wives and letting them know what was going on behind their backs, but in the end I took the high road, deciding Karma would catch up with these guys soon enough. 

I have gotten even, though. That’s the great thing about writing mysteries. You can always kill off the nasty, toxic people you’ve come across in life. Just make sure you change the names and details of their lives enough to avoid lawsuits.

Lois Winston is hard at work killing off another deserving victim in the third book of her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The first book, Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, was a January 2011 release and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death by Killer Mop Doll will be a January 2012 release. Visit Lois at and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, 


Meredith Cole said...

Wow! You were truly living the Mad Men life, Lois. Glad you took the high road, though (and just took your revenge on the page).

Lois Winston said...

Meredith, taking the high road is easy when you know you'd look awful in an orange jumpsuit!

Liz V. said...

Perhaps you can help your readers by killing off a few of the toxic people in their lives.

Enjoyed Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, so looking forward to Death by Killer Mop Doll.

Kimberley Troutte said...

Lois, glad you are in the job you love now. So are your readers. Happy 4th.

Unknown said...

Wow. The worst job I've ever had? Uh... Hmm. I've done a lot of things. I've been an airline supervisor, a corrections officer, a security guard, an assistant to a call girl... I think the worst job is a tie between babysitting (surprisingly, not the prison job. Actual children)and being a cage cashier at a casino.

The babysitting because these kids were the spawn of Satan and their mother refused to discipline them. And the casino because they hired idiots.

I was supposed to get off work at 6 a.m. Most often I wouldn't get off until 3 p.m. because the manager couldn't count. We had to count the entire bank before we left and she usually misplaced a decimal point. The night I was quit was the night that we came up a million dollars short because of an error like that.

Patricia said...

Wow! What I think is great is that you can have characters in your books who resemble those people who have been so terrible to you in your personal life. And you can have any number of spiteful things happen to them and put it down on paper and be done with it. And you'll never have to wear that orange jumpsuit!

jenny milchman said...

I still say you get the award for mining the most mundane job for the highest amount of mayhem, Lois ;)

Meg London/Peg Cochran said...

Ugh, what a nightmare! One of my jobs became quite toxic when the owner/employer became an alcoholic. I believe she was also undiagnosed bipolar. Made for interesting times!

Worst task on a job was a summer job typing (yes, Virginia typewriters did exist at one time) insurance policies that had at least ten carbon copies. You want to talk about mind squelching boredom!

Lois Winston said...

Liz, great idea! I could run a contest. :-)

Kimberley, doing what you love to do is the best. Happy 4th to you, too.

Saranna, I'd love to hear about the job where you were an assistant to a call girl. I'll bet you have some stories to tell!

Patricia, getting even is the best revenge, and when you can do it without fear of arrest or lawsuit (always, always change enough so that only you know who the real culprit is), it's quite satisfying.

Jenny, which mundane job would that be?

Meg/Peg, I had one of those, too, an alcoholic, undiagnosed bipolar boss. What a creep!

Cindy Sample said...

The best part of working at the worst job ever is all of the material we have for future books. And so many potential victims. I think my worst job was running the complaint department (actually I was it) for a father and son builder. It was sort of a cross between EXTREME MAKEOVER and THE SOPRANOS!

Love your posts and your new series!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cindy, and for loving my series and posts! Here in New Jersey, construction often goes hand in hand with organized crime. I sure wouldn't have wanted your job!

Word Actress said...

I guess we've all had a Madmen moment. I was in my early twenties. newly engaged and pounding the pavement in New York City for a fab job that would combine all my creative talents. I thought I found it
working for an advertising Guru on Madison Avenue.
Of course, once at the job, I found they had completely lied about everything. It was not a 'creative' position at all. I was basically a glorified secretary/administrative assistant to a has-been lunatic. She drank all day, on the job, and I think she may have even been doing drugs. But I decided to
stay and learn everything i could from this crazy woman. To this day, I am thankful I stayed.
It was the equivalent of getting a Ph.D, in creative writing. Better than the MFA I did get when I moved to San Francisco. It's a good lesson for new grads out there. Keep the job as long as ur learning. Bail when ur not! Happy 4th all...

Lois Winston said...

Good advice, Word Actress, as long as you don't go crazy from the crazies you have to deal with!

Marianna said...

God, that sounds horrid. The worst job I ever had was a receptionist in an investment firm. They hired me because, while going for the interview, I was stuck in their elevator for forty minutes and I didn't panic. They soon thought that it was a mistake. After three weeks I was called in because my clothes were too tight, too sexy. I wore baggy shifts. Two weeks later I was called in because my baggy shifts were too colorful - I was told that I had to limit myself to three colors, black,navy and gray. I tried, I really did. One week later I was called in and told that I wasn't corporate material and that I misplaced too many files. They were right. But I hope that they're still trying to straighten out their file drawer!

Lois Winston said...

Marianna, I don't think I could ever conform to the corporate mold! I hope you got a better job after that one.

Cindy Cotter said...

I had a job answering the phone for a company that gave check approvals to store clerks. The clerk would ring us up, spew out a bit of basic info about the customer, we'd enter the data into a computer, give them a clearance number, and that was that. You could handle 3 o 4 calls a minute, for 8 hours. I'd hear a beep, say, "Eight, go ahead please," and we were off. Once, without giving it any prior thought, I heard the beep and answered, "Eight, go to hell please."

Lois Winston said...

Cindy, how monotonous! How did you ever keep from going crazy?

E. F. Watkins said...

I also have one bad (female) boss from the past that I plan to use as a character in a mystery some day. I'll probably give her a totally different type of position but keep her demanding, irrational, "Devil-Wears-Prada" personality. She may be one of those characters who gets murdered and there are SO many suspects...!

Kelli Stanley said...

Ouch, Lois!! What an ordeal!! But you've definitely gotten the last word ... and that proves why nobody should mess with a writer! ;)