One of my weirder jobs

Saudi-King-Palace

One of the weirder jobs that I have had was proofreading the contract for building a palace for the King of Saudi Arabia. I promise, I am not making this up! Pages and pages of mind numbing details and legalese, this contract was the size of an encyclopedia. How many nails per how many inches, what specific types of nails — nothing was left to chance.

My job was to make sure that every punctuation mark was perfect: no missing or misplaced commas, no missing or misplaced periods, and no misspelled words. This was 1977, before there was spellcheck. *I* was the human spellchecker. Fun!

The way I got this job was by answering a Help Wanted ad for a temporary employment agency. This was during the post oil embargo days in the city of Houston, Texas. I was already working as a real estate agent with Century 21 in downtown Houston, and I’d had much success in listing a number of properties for sale with my broker. I was only in my early twenties, and having lawyers and doctors sign on the dotted line, trusting me with the sale of their most expensive investments, was heady stuff.

However, the economy was still struggling to recover from the recent OPEC embargo, and there weren’t a lot of buyers around. Meanwhile, it costs money to be a successful real estate agent, and they typically don’t pay you until a property sells and closes.

Throw in the expense of two preschool children who needed a babysitter every time I left the house, and I quickly ran out of money. I needed a job with flexible hours that would pay the rent and put food on the table in the here and now. So I answered an ad in the Houston paper that said I could work as many or as few hours and days per week as I wanted.

The first thing the agency did was give their applicants an aptitude test to see what areas you excel in. I scored particularly high in grammar and spelling, probably because I’ve been an avid reader since the second grade. Shortly after I signed on with the agency, Big 3 Industries, the company that was handling the construction of the Saudi Arabian King’s new palace, called the temp agency and said they needed a couple of proof readers. So the agency sent me and one other grammar whiz over.

We sat together at a long table in a private room, each of us with an identical stack of papers that were bound together in files. Each file was a separate β€œchapter” of the one contract. We took turns reading aloud while the other read silently on the same page. We did not find a lot of errors, but we found some.

I hope the Kings have enjoyed their palace. I found the above photograph online on several sites, with no copyright or photographer information beyond the fact that this is the “Saudi King’s Palace.” Looks awesome, doesn’t it? It’s kind of cool to think that in a very small way, I had a role in the construction of that building.

About ten years later, I actually did physically build an industrial sized garage, from the foundation up, in Calais, Maine. That is to say, I built it along with a crew of about seven other “displaced homemakers.”

But that is a whole other “weird job” story. And I don’t even know if I want to tell you about the time I was working as an unofficial, non-armored car driver, delivering close to a quarter of a million dollars in cash and securities to a downtown Houston bank. On the way to the bank, I pulled up beside a US mail box and accidentally mailed a bag full of money, along with the letters my boss had given me to put in the mail… πŸ˜‚

Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to share any weird jobs that you have had in the comments. God bless! πŸ’˜πŸ’˜πŸ’˜
PS: If you’re curious about how I retrieved the money that I accidentally mailed, or how I came to have that much money entrusted to me in the first place, I answer that in my reply to Tricia’s comment below.

43 thoughts on “One of my weirder jobs

  1. seekingdivineperspective June 11, 2019 / 6:39 pm

    Not weird, but fun. My then boyfriend and I modeled for a boat company a couple of summers. In other words, we got to drive, dive off of, and swim around motor boats and get paid for it! ( A whopping $2/hour!) The third year we modeled for them, we posed as bride and groom on the lawn with the boat docked in the foreground to look like nice “wedding gift.”πŸ˜‰ That was the only picture we posed for that summer because we were pretty busy. (That was the summer we got married. 😊)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 11, 2019 / 6:42 pm

      That sounds awesome. The only modeling I ever did was for a haberdashery. It was all about the hats, not me!

      Liked by 1 person

      • seekingdivineperspective June 11, 2019 / 7:08 pm

        This was all about the boats, so we were very small in the pictures. You’ve had some amazing jobs! Must be incredible to look at that palace and know you had a part in it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 11, 2019 / 7:21 pm

          It feels surreal to see the palace now, after sitting in that room for so many hours, day after day, reading every little detail of its construction. It looks a lot different in the picture than it did on paper. πŸ˜€

          Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 11, 2019 / 6:45 pm

      No, I haven’t seen that movie. I’m way more into reading than watching TV or movies. Did my story remind you of the movie?

      Like

  2. hawk2017 June 11, 2019 / 6:50 pm

    In the 60s I ballanced books for a large company with adding machine and pencil. Alone in one room with radio and books. Really enjoyed that.:)

    Liked by 3 people

      • hawk2017 June 12, 2019 / 12:38 pm

        It was.:)

        Liked by 2 people

    • ibikenyc June 12, 2019 / 7:55 am

      Just like (as?) Linda Lee, “Alone in one room with radio and books” sounds like paradise!

      (Not sure you’d want ME doing your books, though!)

      Liked by 2 people

      • hawk2017 June 12, 2019 / 2:06 pm

        Awww, twas easy, Had adding machine.

        Liked by 1 person

        • ibikenyc June 13, 2019 / 12:44 pm

          Easy for YOU, maybe; LOL! πŸ™‚

          Liked by 2 people

  3. simplywendi June 11, 2019 / 8:28 pm

    Oh my goodness, you are have some pretty awesome stories and I so enjoyed reading them, and I can’t think of anything that I have done that could even compare!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 11, 2019 / 8:38 pm

      Aww, thanks. I think it was the time and the place I was living in. I probably would have had a boring life, otherwise. My goal growing up was just to be a wife and mother, and maybe a stewardess if I didn’t find a husband right away.

      Liked by 2 people

      • simplywendi June 12, 2019 / 8:38 am

        πŸ™‚ i think your life has been way more interesting than most!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tricia June 11, 2019 / 9:31 pm

    That’s pretty cool Linda! Just curious, how did you get that bag of money back after you mistakenly mailed it?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 11, 2019 / 11:35 pm

      I was wondering if anyone was going to ask me that! When I realized what I had done, I rushed back to the auction house where I worked and tearfully told my boss what had happened. He calmly called the post office and was told they would send a postal employee over right away to unlock the mail drop container and retrieve the money bag.

      Then my boss said, “Follow my car, we’ll go meet him and get the money.” We drove up just as the postal worker was retrieving the bag. Then I took the money and went to the bank to make the deposit.

      A plain clothes guard was always waiting for me in the parking lot of the bank when I deposited money on auction days, and walked with me into the bank. Once we were in the lobby, a uniformed guard would escort me back to a bank official’s private office. When you deposit that kind of money on a regular basis, you don’t stand in line for a bank teller.

      After the bank business was completed, I went back to work, expecting to be told I was fired. When my boss didn’t say anything about firing me, I asked him, “Aren’t you going to fire me for the stupid thing I did?”

      “Why should I fire you? You aren’t ever going to do that again, are you?” he said.

      Lol. That still makes me laugh when I think about it.

      By the way, after all these years, I’m not exactly sure how much money I deposited that day. I just know it was many thousands of dollars, far more money than I expected to ever have in my possession. It was an auto and truck auction house. Dealers came from all over the United States to buy and sell at their monthly auction, and the auction house only accepted cash, cashier’s checks, and other negotiable securities. I really thought they should be using an armored car to deliver the money to the bank, but the auction house owner was concerned that an armored car would attract thieves.

      I was just a lowly secretary, typing, filing, and answering the phone. But while I worked there, the boss wanted me to make the bank deposits because I was the only one of his employees that he had ever seen reading the Bible, so he figured he could trust me. But, was I tempted by that kind of money? Yes!! However, I never did take any of it, because I did not want to be that kind of a person. I wasn’t sure I believed in God in those days, but I was seeking.

      Liked by 7 people

      • ibikenyc June 12, 2019 / 7:58 am

        ” ‘Why should I fire you? You aren’t ever going to do that again, are you?’ he said.”

        ROFL!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Tricia June 12, 2019 / 8:05 am

        Wow, what a story Linda, so many lessons!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mary Ann June 16, 2019 / 11:46 pm

        Great story! your boss was a smart man, not only for second chances but that armored deliveries attract thieves..VT had a Wells Fargo robbery many years ago that was never solved.. Millions of dollars were taken at gunpoint.. God knows who did it.. literally speaking πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

      • lavenderandlevity June 12, 2019 / 5:21 am

        I believe the term you are looking for is “irony magnet” πŸ˜‰ I’ve had a few weird side jobs in my grad school days, but I can’t quite figure out how to share the most interesting one without giving myself away. It was so odd I still use it as a job interview story, given who I met in the process:-p But, among the ones I don’t regularly share in my real life was the time I naively signed up to be a community organizer for the city as an intern for a few months in college and ended up “on loan” to the DMV’s new PR campaign when they realized they had overhired for the campaign that actually was for an issue I was on board with. I lasted less than a week…

        Liked by 2 people

  5. marianbeaman June 12, 2019 / 4:35 am

    This job proves that truth is often stranger than fiction. It probably felt weird at the time, but see what a great story you got from it!

    I also like reading your answer to Tricia’s question. – wow! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 12, 2019 / 6:57 am

      Thanks! These events happened so long ago — over 40 years! — that I rarely think about them anymore. But I recently got into a comment conversation on another blog, about how we automatically edit everything we read. I told her about my weird job as a proofreader, and then it occurred to me that I could write a post about it.

      Have you had any weird jobs — or weird experiences on your job? Just yesterday, I was talking with a friend about the extreme weather we’ve been having here in New Mexico, and she mentioned a big blizzard that hit in the early 1990s when she lived in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I told her I was living in Lancaster, PA during that blizzard and got snowed in for about a day and a half at my part time job as a security guard at a bank. This was just before I went to nursing school. Man, I have had a lot of odd jobs!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Looking for the Light June 12, 2019 / 6:25 am

    What an interesting life you’ve had. I look forward to more stories and the answer about the money bag! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ibikenyc June 12, 2019 / 8:03 am

    That building is someone’s HOUSE?

    Good HEAVENS!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. atimetoshare.me June 12, 2019 / 8:18 am

    Your life is filled with wonderful and amazing stories. I can’t wait to read your memoir.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. gracemercyjoy June 12, 2019 / 9:31 am

    What a full and wonderful life and what a will to survive you’ve had to keep on finding industrious ways to keep roof overhead. Fun story thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @PreacherBiker June 13, 2019 / 4:10 am

    You are still my spell checker

    Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 13, 2019 / 7:48 am

      Well, considering that your first language was Polish, I think your spelling is awesome. πŸ’˜πŸ’˜πŸ’˜

      Like

  11. ibikenyc June 13, 2019 / 7:18 pm

    I fully appreciate that you two read the document out loud to one another! I’d been wondering just how you got through all of it. That’s the only way to go with a thing like that. I did electronic typesetting for a time and loved it; that’s where I learned how to proofread that way.

    Mostly I’ve been, as I think of it, “Just-A-Secretary,” which also involves proofreading. The main reason I dislike corporate “culture” so much is the stripe of micromanagement that led to a co-worker’s and my being taken to task for proofreading a lengthy and complicated insurance document full of numbers in just that way.

    SIGH. GRRR.

    I have therefore over the years done other stuff, the most interesting of which was, to me, driving for a car service here back in the mid-Eighties.

    I’ve also done housecleaning on and off at times.

    When I lived in Fort Lauderdale, I got a temp job selling beer during a football game at Joe Robbie. We were given those tray things you hang around your neck and randomly assigned to different sections of the stands. Even though I’m not much of a football fan, I was chuffed to end up in the field-level seats on the Dolphins’ fifty-yard line!

    Also down south, also temping, I worked as a “driver helper” for UPS during the holidays one year. I don’t recall the exact amount, but I do remember that the pay was close to twice what I’d earned at any office job. They teamed me up with this really-nice older guy, and we worked together like we’d been doing it forever. There was only one seat in the truck (the driver’s), so I got to use all my subway-riding skills to hang on to a grab bar and stand up next to him while we went tearin’ around Broward.

    I also delivered for Pizza Hut for a while down there. That was nice because, in addition to tips, the drivers got to take home any “mistake” or undeliverable pies.

    Not so exciting as delivering literal bags of money, but it sure was fun!

    (BTW, I agree completely with the reasoning behind sending that cash with you instead of in an armoured car.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 13, 2019 / 8:51 pm

      Oh my goodness, you have had quite a wide variety of jobs, too.

      I drove a Yellow Cab for less than a week. I quit that job because: 1) I kept getting lost (this was pre GPS), 2) Houston traffic was a little much for me to deal with all day long, and 3) my last fare was a group of four people, a Manson family lookalike that I delivered to the courthouse for a hearing. Just the vibes coming off of them alone was almost enough to kill a person. After they exited the cab at the courthouse steps, I drove straight back to the cab company and said I was done.

      I was a nanny for about a year. Those kids… oh my goodness. I hope they haven’t grown up to kill anybody.

      In 1979 I sold model homes for a builder about an hour north of Chicago. I got shot at by a disgruntled purchaser — pop pop pop — as I was locking up the model homes for the night. That was my last day on that job.

      There’s more, but I am giving myself a headache, lol. These days I’m just a writer, a wife, and the mommy of two spoiled rescue dogs. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      • ibikenyc June 19, 2019 / 4:10 pm

        Your story about the Manson Family Clones sounds like exactly the sort of weird thing that used to happen to me all the time, especially the part about their going to the courthouse! Glad you got rid of them without incident.

        I hear ya about traffic! Not to brag, but I seem to have been born with the instincts of a homing pigeon. Doesn’t matter if I’ve never been to a place before. Even as a child, I never got lost.

        I bow deeply to you about your nannying! You hope they didn’t grow up to kill anybody; LOLOL! (Me, too!) I do enjoy godmothering, though, and fully appreciate why grandparents love that role so much! I also had a ball with my psuedo-stepdaughters (so-called because I never married their father), who we had every other weekend and at other odd times during school vacations.

        You were SHOT at? Oh, my goodness! I’m assuming you weren’t physically hurt, but holy cow! I was once threatened with a gun, but he never pulled the trigger. It’s terrifying. I can’t imagine what you went through.

        I’m sure your hubby and your fur kids appreciate what they have! This reader appreciates you very much πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  12. luckyotter June 17, 2019 / 4:10 pm

    That is so, so cool. I really enjoyed reading this post. You’ve had some interesting jobs! That gives me an idea for a future post about weird jobs I’ve had (though I think they might pale in comparison to yours)!

    Like

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote June 17, 2019 / 6:16 pm

      I actually thought about you as I was writing this, because I remembered you mentioning that you worked for a publisher years ago. I wondered if you were also a human spell checker, in the days before word processors and autocorrect. I’m looking forward to your post about your weird jobs. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      • luckyotter June 20, 2019 / 3:18 pm

        Yes, I did a lot of proofreading and “human spell checking.” It didn’t hurt that I was a great speller and won spelling bees in school.
        It used to drive me crazy because everyone always came to me to find out how to spell something.

        Liked by 1 person

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