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A Tale of Two Sisters Blog

We support, celebrate, and teach writers.

Workplace Contest: Old School Jobs 3 & 4

VHS Tape: Be Kind! Rewind!

VHS Tape: Be Kind! Rewind!



Building My Resume:  Video Bursar and Disperser & Snooping Janitor

When I started college, I got a job in an arcade with a video rental service at the front of the store in the basement of the Michigan Union. I was responsible for keeping an eye on the arcade, which was dark and uninteresting, so I rarely went back there unless someone told me the quarter machine was broken.

I mainly studied during my daytime shifts and rented out VHS tapes at the front of the Video Place. 

Friday and Saturday nights were always busy because we rented out VCR’s, and back then nobody that I knew had a VCR in their dorm room hooked up to their CRT TV--if they were so fortunate to have a TV.

The best thing about that place was my co-worker, Chris, who was a blonde version of Christian Slater. He liked to pepper every other sentence with the word pandemonium, which he’d say in the most onomatopoeic way I've ever heard. 

The job was painfully boring. So I quit.

I immediately got a job as a janitor in the Michigan Union. I worked with another janitor, Carl, a youngish guy who’d always stopped in to chat while I worked in the video store.

We worked at night when the offices in the Union were, of course, empty. We emptied garbage bins, vacuumed carpet, and cleaned the bathrooms.

My excruciating curiosity and my love of office supplies led me to open drawers, cupboards, and closets that I really had no business in.

Carl just laughed at me and called me Curious Catherine.

One night I discovered a stack of pre-paid postage stamped envelopes sitting casually in plain view!

I grabbed a couple of these beautiful #10 envelopes embossed with the return address of the Michigan Union. (I am quite sure the statute of limitations has passed by now, but I swear that’s all I ever took!)

When my high school friends and I dispersed to colleges around the state, we became pen pals – obsessive letter writers. Making frequent long-distance calls was out of the question – a five-minute call was about $2.

Stamps back then were 22 cents each, so I elatedly sent off my next few letters in the prepaid stamped envelopes courtesy of the Michigan Union to my friends at Alma College.

I didn’t put my return address (just my initials) and of course didn’t sign my last name on the letter, but the post office intercepted one of the letters, and somehow put a note on it for my friend to inform whomever had stolen the envelope that blah-blah-threatening-words-fine-imprisonment-and-don’t-do-it-again. I needed no further instruction: I returned the other envelopes.

In the end, janitorial work didn’t suit me—I was too distracted by the openness and emptiness of place, simultaneously creeped out at the quiet and totally intrigued, like the toys in Toy Story, coming to life when everybody else was out of sight.

What about you? Did you ever have rapid succession jobs that were not the right fit? Do you think you could write 800-1,000 words about it and try to win $75? 

Just curious: did anyone out there ever work in a jerky factory a long, long time ago?