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My Most Interesting Job – Candy Factory Worker

February 25, 2011 · 20 comments

in Life, Work

Do you ever have experiences in your life that you think you will hate, and you actually end up loving?  That is how I would describe my seasonal job at a candy factory in Detroit.

I kind of fell into this job.  I was friends with the guy that ran the factory, and they always needed help making extra candy around Christmas and Easter. Since Michigan State had such long breaks, he said I should come work at the candy factory while I was out of school.  The plan sounded perfect because that money would go straight into paying tuition for the next semester.

So, I signed up.  I didn’t have a car either, so my friend would pick me up and take me down to the factory every morning at 5:45 am, and bring me home at 8:00 pm.  I will always remember the smell of the chocolate when you first opened the door to walk in. You would think it would be the best smell in the world, but believe me, it got to you after awhile.  I worked on the candy conveyor belt, which was very Lucy and Ethel-esque.  (I did not have to resort to putting candy in my hat and mouth to keep up with the flow of the belt though.)  The work was very mindless.  The part about it that was so interesting was the absolutely fascinating group of people I worked with.  It wasn’t that I really liked the people I worked with, but they provided me with a different slice of life than I was used to.    Let me detail a few:

  1. Daryl and pregnant Sandy. This happy couple were very pregnant, and lived in a very dangerous area.  They had to eat and sleep on the floor below the windows because of all the drive-by shootings on their street.  One day, Daryl was yelling at Sandy because she took the last of the *&%$ milk.  She then screamed back it was because she was carrying his %$#@ baby.  My heart broke for this couple because it just didn’t seem like they would have a chance.  I wonder where they are today.  That baby would be about 23 now, I wonder what he/she is doing.
  2. Ed.  Ed was a cool cat.  He was happy as a clam, and just kinda did his work in total contentment.  When I got him to talk, he told me about how he had 7 kids, with 6 different mothers.  Guess what?  Ed didn’t pay child support on any of them either!  You wouldn’t think he would willingly share that fact, but he did.
  3. Bob. Bob was a maniac.   He may or may not have spent time in jail, I really don’t remember.  However, he was incredibly racist and hateful.  To top it off, ole Bob had a literal tattoo of Charles Manson on his shoulder.  Conversations with Bob were always unnerving.

Despite the uniqueness of the work crew, work was fun.  (There were many ‘normal’ people that worked there too…)  It was very laid back.  Music all the time, making candy was always fun.  However there was one day when it wasn’t so fun because we were robbed. From that point on, we were walked to our cars at night by the manager who would carry a gun.  I don’t know why, but I never really worried about getting hurt.  I don’t even think I told my parents about how rough things were down at the candy factory.  (I guess you know now mom since you are probably reading this.)  It was just such great money, and such great fun!   Plus, it paid for a substantial amount of my college tuition.  Sure, I missed out on going to spring break, but I had other, more unique memories!  (Maybe…)

In retrospect, I remember the dread I had over working from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm everyday of holiday break from college.  However, it ended up being a truly unique experience that I am glad I had.  There are so many more stories I could share, but then this post would get pretty darn lengthy, and people probably wouldn’t believe what I wrote.

What experience(s) have you had in your life that you thought you would dislike, but ended up really enjoying?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

First Gen American February 25, 2011 at 6:11 am

The experience that I most dreaded but ended up getting a lot out of was being picked for Grand Jury. It was 1 week a month for 3 months during the most stressful job of my career.

I truly thought I understood inner city life and the choices people have to get out of the ghetto, but that experience changed my perception forever. As rough as my childhood was, I still had positive role models in my life. Some of these kids had families where every single person in the household was a convicted felon. IT made me realize that for some people it’s a lot harder to dig out of poverty than others. When you get a record before you’re out of high school because you’re helping your uncle with his drug dealing business, that’s just heartbreaking. The experience gave me compassion and empathy towards the poor. Before that I was always like “I was poor and got out, it’s their own fault that they’re still in the ghetto.”

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Nicole February 25, 2011 at 10:28 am

Yeah, that really sucks. 🙁 In these policy discussions there’s always people saying, “Well, its their parents’ responsibility to do X” (like feed, clothe etc.) and so we shouldn’t have WIC or school lunches and so on. And I feel like that’s just hurting most the kids who already have the worst parents, those who prefer cigarettes and other substances to feeding their kids and so on. On top of other even worse physical and emotional problems. It isn’t their fault their parents suck.

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Kris February 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

Wow, what an interesting perspective jury duty gave you.

I truly can’t imagine how hard it would be to get out of poverty when you can’t find a path to follow.

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The Biz of Life February 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

I worked in a foundry one summer that made engine blocks for GM and Chrysler. Can’t say that I liked the job much, and certainly didn’t want to do it all my life. But I got a real education from the workers after a number of them pulled me aside to tell me I was working too hard and was showing everyone else up and that I better learn to chill out and pace myself. Seeing the molten steel heating up in the blast furnace and then being poured was a beautiful site. But the smoke and smell of burnt sand was overpowering.

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Moneycone February 25, 2011 at 9:10 am

Those are long hours Kris! But truly fascinating! Here’s a question – did you end up not eating that candy? I often hear that people who work in say a pizza store end up not being able to eat that pizza! You end up having an aversion to something you work with everyday. Is that true in your case?

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Jacq February 25, 2011 at 9:16 am

Funnest job – dishwasher in college
Most interesting people – answering phones at night for an escort agency
Next most interesting people / environment – working up north in a camp job where you’re the only girl within 1000 miles and some of those guys have been up there for months. 😛

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Little House February 25, 2011 at 9:59 am

Some of my early job experiences were the most unique. I definitely met some interesting people and sometimes wonder what happened to them too.

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Crystal @ BFS February 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

That does sound like a pretty interesting and fun experience! I personally loved working at my on-campus bowling alley the most – great coworkers and pretty interesting customers too. 🙂

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Squirrelers February 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I washed dishes, and worked a retail customer service job when much younger. At the dishwashing job I worked with a guy from high school who was also college bound. I became friends with him (actually, he got me the job), but lost touch. Very bright guy, I wonder what he’s doing these days. Well, actually….given that it’s 2011, I could always Google him:)

The retail job wasn’t so bad, actually. It was customer service, so it wore on you dealing with angry customers. The good news is that most things were returned without too much hassle, and policies were more than fair to the customer, so their anger generally dissipated quickly. It taught me a lot how co-workers were able to deal with such irritable customers with such decency and class, and not take things personally. Also, the customers weren’t crazy like I thought many of them would be. It was all about the money for everybody.

The people I worked with there were not going away full-time to college like I was, and didn’t seem to have big dreams. They were just getting by, paying bills, planning to maybe take college classes part-time. I could tell that a few were quite bright, but were influenced by their environment (highly blue collar surroundings) and thought that working a factory was what their parents did and wasn’t so bad. And that college was really ambitious. Fast forward to 20+ years later, and that area has declined: less jobs, more crime, more run down. I hope those people made their way to decent lives!

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krantcents February 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I had a series of summer jobs that i thought I would dislike, but I learned a lot about people which has helped me tremendously throughout my life. My first job was a door to door salesman. I received a 35% commission and earned enough money that summer to support myself during my first year of college. I was named the youngest (17 years old) dealer averaged between $3-5 per hour when min. wage was $1.10. The next year, I was a mail clerk in New York City at ITT World Headquarters, I learned about successful people in a corporate environment. The next summer, I worked in a ceramic factory that made bathroom accessories. I learned how to manage people and communicate with a varied group of people. All the jobs were just to earn money, however I left with so much more.

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Linda February 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm

My experience was not a job but a volunteer activity. Our workplace organizes a big volunteer day every year. We’re free to sign up for all sorts of activities, but usually work teams try to get everyone signed up for the same activity. This particular year my team organizer decided to sign us up for working at a public school. I didn’t want to work with kids at all and thought I would really hate it; I almost refused to board the bus to our location, in fact. Instead it turned out being pretty fun. We had organized activities to do with them and the kids were so eager to work with us. I wouldn’t rush out to start volunteering with school kids regularly, but the experience had a much better result than I thought it would.

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retirebyforty February 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

I put up pizza parlor flier on doors. Yeap, I’m the guy that all the old coots hated. What is the big deal, just take it down if you don’t like it? Jeez.
My parent and us 3 kids would go to put fliers up after school to earn some money. It was a good way to exercise. I hate dogs to this day though.

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Jenna February 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm

My high school / college job was being a lifeguard. I definitely had a lot of fun working there and learned a ton!

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Barb Friedberg February 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I probably would have continued to read even if the article was longer. This was a great story! did you get really fat working in the factory? I would have trouble surrounded by all that candy!

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Kevin@InvestItWisely February 26, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Wow, I can’t imagine living somewhere where one would have to sleep in the basement because of all of the drive-by shootings… up here there is practically no gun violence except within the Mafia and very rarely between gangs…

I’m with Nicole when she says it’s not the kids fault that their parents suck. I think people can make it out but the importance of role models is not to be underestimated.

Those were quite long hours! A fun job that I had was my first summer job at 16 when I worked outside as a landscaper. I worked with a friend and we goofed off from time to time, sometimes getting involved in mudfights and things like that. It was a lot of fun but probably didn’t take the job as seriously as I should have.

Most interesting employees probably comes down to working at a major distribution center. There were a lot of immigrants, a guy who was running from the law, and a guy who claimed to be 75 and yet seemed as healthy as a horse! Very interesting times…

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc February 27, 2011 at 2:11 am

Wow, this sounds like a fabulous and tasty job. I’m glad it was fun and gave you the opportunity to meet some interesting characters. To be honest, those hours do sound pretty rough though.

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BeatingTheIndex February 27, 2011 at 8:26 am

That was a most interesting job! I distributed ads in the mail for a year, it was good exercise and got to meet my share of “special” coworkers: a man who ran away from the army in peru and another man who skips going home from time to time and we get his wife calling in to see if he’s at work. It became unbearable to do this job in sub-zero temps so it was game over for me…

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