Jobs That I've Had

Following up on this post from Blue Skunk blog, here's a list of the jobs that I've had over the years:

- 1970-74 - Newspaper carrier - I started with a 24 Ottawa Citizen paper route from Frank Stanley in 1974, and gradually absorbed every other paper route in Metcalfe, including the Ottawa Journal routes, ending up with a couple hundred deliveries every day. Eventually I distributed the routes among my brothers. I still have dreams to this day of needing to get the Saturday papers delivered, and deciding that I don't want to do that anymore.

- 1975 - Greeting Card Sales - yes, I sold greeting cards door-to-door in Metcalfe, and actually sold enough to buy various things, including a set of two very nice hockey nets to use when we played street hockey. Oh, it was so nice to have those nets!

- 1974-5 Popcorn Vendor - I sold popcorn and drinks in the stands at Ottaw Roughriders games and Ottawa 67s hockey games. This work was for Versa services, and led to a bunch of other jobs. I still remember my first day, after taking the bus to where we would be picked up (we lived out in the country) I spent my entire day's earnings on a pizza. Best meal I ever had, bar none.

- 1975 - Busboy - I worked for the full summer season at Rideau Carleton Raceway as a busboy in the restaurant. It was another Versa foods operation. It was good work, I would bet my tips, and some of us would race around the track (to the amusement of people who had arrived early for the races). The money I earned at Rideau Carleton paid for my two-week trip to England and Scotland.

- 1976 - Dishwasher - I got a job at another Versa outlet at the Glebe Centre, a retirement home across the street from Lansdowne Park, as a dish washer. Not a pot washer - the distinction is important. I operated the Hobart dishwashing machine, a major appliance that ran dishes on trays through the washer on a conveyor belt. I was "let go" (not "fired", I was told) after a dispute where the pot washer took off for the evening and I refused to do the pots on top of my regular work.

- 1976 - Cashier / Box Lounge Waiter - another summer at Rideau Carleton, and this time I was a cashier. Not a very good one, as it turns out. The manager thought I might be skimming (though I came out over as often as I came out short) and tested me by dropping an initialed $20 on the floor. I just tossed it into the till and then couldn't figure out why I was over $20. Then I transferred into the box longe and served meals and drinks. That actually paid a lot better because the tips were really good.

- 1978 - Breakfast Cook - I had no training, and indeed (as it turned out) no experience even eating breakfast at restaurants, but I got the job of breakfast cook at Ernie's, near Metcalfe. My mother got me the job. This job didn't last long, because I didn't know what I was doing. For example: I never knew you were supposed to serve hash browns with bacon and eggs. On the bright side, it was at Ernies where I learned how to do (and prefer) eggs 'over easy'.

- 1978-79 - Concession Stand Staff - I would from time to time work in the concession stands at the Civic Centre / Lansdowne Park. It was good work for minimum wage. Shifts would usually be 4 hours - the duration of an event - but on good days I'd do 8 or more for things like dog shows and trade fairs. My favourite moment was running a booth all by myself at a soccer game - we did it as a favour to the soccer people and nobody expected to make any money, but it was a cold day and I sold hundreds of hot dogs and coffees, working so fast the soccer people actually called Versa the following Monday and thanked them for the service.

- 1978-1979 - Stand Supervisor - I did a lot of  'outside' work with Versa, involving keeping the concessions stands stocked and functional. I worked with the Coke people to set the drink taps, made coffee in huge urns and sent it around, delivered huge flats of popcorn, and the rest. During football games I was the 'Upper North Supervisor' and managed the staff of about 20 people.

My work with Versa Foods ended when I became a shop steward for Local 237 of the Restaurant, Hotel and Tavern workers association. All of a sudden I wasn't getting any hours. I found I couldn't live on the less-than $100 month I was earning.

- 1978 - Installer - My father got me a job with Northern Telecom for a summer (and a bit more; they kept me on as long as they could) installing telephone switching equipment at the Bank Street Bell Canada building (it's the large concrete building just south across the tracks from Billings Bridge). It paid really well, it was steady work, indoors and just challenging enough to be interesting. I soldered and spun connections, pulled cable, and even did some repair work. Too bad it was temporary.

- 1979-90 - Security Guard - after the job with Northern ended I caught on as a security Guard with National Protective Services in Ottawa. My first job was at the Mitel construction site out in Kanata. I also did a shopping centre construction site out there. My first permanent spot out at Energy Mines and Resources Bells Corners (EMR Bells Corners) in the little gate house. I got the job because I had a car (a 1971 Mercury Cougar I split with my brother) and took the night shift. I lost the car (couldn't keep up with the payments) and eventually transferred to the Jackson Building lobby downtown, pulling the night shift while I attended classes at Algonquin College.

During 1979-80 I was a student at Algonquin College. I had qualified for a grant but when I told them I had a job they took my grant away. I filed an appeal (a 60-page appeal I wrote during Christmas exams) and got the money reinstated, in the form of a loan. For December I lived on $100 my mother gave me.

- 1980-81 - Computer Operator - in May 1980 I moved to Calgary with my girlfriend, slept on a mat in my brother's furnace room (he was renting a basement of a house) and caught a job with Geophysical Services Incorporated on 12th Avenue SW. GSI was a division of Texas Instruments, and my job was to run the TIMAP computers (along with a crew of us) doing seismic processing for various oil companies - I ran charts for Hibernia, the Beaufort Sea, and local Alberta fields.  I was sent to Texas for three months for training on the new IBM mainframes, and became a trainer myself. I left because some university graduates were hired out of school to supervise me; I decided I needed to get an education myself and got out of there. I was making $1368 a month when I left; it would be 15 years before I saw that kind of money again.

- 1980 -  Dish Washer - I didn't really need the money, but when a new restaurant called Chomps - a paté and wine bar that open up on Edmonton Trail near where I live we became friends with the owner and agreed to help out in the kitchen to get him started. The job lasted a few months and I learned quite a bit about wine. Chomps lasted about five years.

- 1981 - Pot Washer - to subsidize my education (I was living on student loads) I started work as a pot washer in the university cafeteria. It was hard work, but the pay was above minimum (about $6.75 an hour). I pulled the evening shift and generally worked by myself. It was OK, but they were leaving the kitchen messier and messier. One day I cut myself on a knife that had been left in dirty dishwater (a total wrong in a kitchen) and found the First Aid box to be completely empty of supplies. So I walked off the job, never to return.

- 1982-83 - 7-Eleven Clerk -  after my first year at university I split up with my girlfriend and, after being on the road for a few weeks (living in basements and such) in southern Alberta and BC, I landed broke and unemployed at my brother's place. I landed at 7-Eleven, working in a store in Canyon Meadows. I would work at this store full time in summer, and the weekend graveyard shift during the fall and winder of my next two years at the university. This is where D'Arcy Norman hung out as a kid. It was good work and I was good at it, the pay was low but it kept me alive. I eventually quit because the travel was too much; it was way down south - and I wanted to focus on my studies.

- 1984-85 - Student Newspaper Editor - at $800 a month it felt like a fortune, and after a failed attempt I was eventually elected co-editor at the Gauntlet. The first half-year was with Stewart Cunningham, and that was a great experience. I was re-elected and my partner this time was someone called Sat Katar Singh Khalsa - he was from Saskatchewan and had converted to Sihkism and changed his name, and he was completely new to the newspaper. It was a very turbulent time, we had business manager problems (I actually took over that job for three months before we hired an excellent manager named Albert Yip). It was a great experience, though, and I was completely dedicated to it.

- 1985 - Welfare - my term as newspaper ended in April 1985, and at the same time I broke my wrist in a fall, and ended up unemployed and on welfare. Because of the injury I couldn't collect Unemployment Insurance (I appealed and eventually won all my back UIC money in late August) but until then I had to live on welfare. I was given $100 a month, of which $60 went to rent (I was renting a room in a basement). I took summer classes (I had already registered and paid for them; no student loans though), drew cartoons, and did nothing else. I also had to appeal for student loans money because I was in my fifth year; I won that appeal as well. I lived on student loans through 1985-86 and the focus paid off: I got a perfect 4.0 GPA in the fall and for the year had straight As except for one C (in logic).

- 1986 - Programming Coordinator - I landed a summer job at the Arusha International Development Centre as a programming coordinator. This was an exceptionally enjoyable job as I organized international development events for the Centre - we did one called 'The Facts About Brazil' and another for the Filipino Society. And various others.

- 1986-87 - Graduate Teaching Assistant - I went straight into a Masters program and secured a position as a teaching assistant, which paid my way. It was better (but not a lot) than student loans. I taught logic classes (they had the brilliant idea that I should teach in my weakest subject).

- 1987 - Writer - The Development Coordinating Council of Alberta hired me to write manuals on fundraising, graphic design, and lobbying. I wrote three manuals over the summer. It turned out to be pretty good money, but it took a lot of time (especially as I was writing my Masters Thesis at the same time). I ended up finishing my thesis and these books in the computer science labs at the University of Alberta.

- 1987 - 94 - Tutor - when I moved to Edmonton I was suddently in a better geographical location to obtain employment from Athabasca University. My main job with them was to tutor informal logic (Critical Thinking 252) by telephone, something I did for the next 7 years. I taught 2.5 'blocks' and earned just a little bit less than enough to live on. With Athabasca I also taught classes in-person at locations across northern Alberta: the Sunrise Porject in Slave Lake (later AVC Slave Lake), Grouard, Yellowhead Tribal Council in Spruce Grove, and Blue Quills in St. Paul. I really enjoyed this work and had really great experiences with the people in these communities.

- 1987-91 - Graduate Teaching Assistant - I complain about the University of Alberta because I think they cheated me out of a degree, but I can't complain about the support, as I received three year's employment as a graduate teaching assistant. Again, they had me doing most of my teaching in logic. Eventually, I learned logic. I'm sorry for my poor students, though.

- 1991-93 -  Assistant Professor - a.k.a. 'sessional instructor'. I taught a number of courses for the University of Alberta, all logic courses. I still remember my first course, 88 students in the Management Building. I spent way too much time revising their writing (but I'm sure they got a lot out of it). It was the one and only time my class applauded at the end of the year (the way they do in the movies).

- 1995-1999 - Distance Education and New Instructional Media Design Specialist - this was my first full time job in 15 years and I was finally making as much as I did when I left GSI in 1981 to join that wild ride called 'a university education'. It was a fabulous job, mostly. I made websites, I created online courses, I built an LMS, I traveled with a LAN to northern Manitoba communities, I sent posts to mailing lists, and essentially built the career I have now.

- 1995-1997 - Evening Course Instructor - With Conrad Albertson I made some extra money offering evening community class courses called 'Welcome to the Internet', and also a web design course. Those were some really fun times, I must say.

- 1999-2001 - Information  Architect - in a risky move (but, when you look at my history, it wasn't really riskier than the rest of my past) I left my full time job at Assiniboine and took a tw-year contract at almost twice the money to work as an information architect, designing and building a website called 'MuniMall'. The project was a success; the University used the site for almost ten years after it was done, and I made the most of the second half of my job, which was to perform original research in the field. I did papers like 'Learning Objects', 'Content Syndication and Online Learning' and 'Hacking Memes'.

- 2001 - Research Fellow - I received an email from Tim van Gelder who offered me a three month stint in Melbourne, Australia, assisting in the development of online philosophy courses. I did some neat things for him - like an in-line comment form - and set up what would eventually be the framework for my newsletter.

- 2001-present - Senior Research Officer - for the last ten years I've had only one job, working as a research officer for the National Research Council. It's a good professional job and the pay is pretty good - and after everything it took to get to this position, I'm pretty glad it is!


  1. Why don't you have a Phd....tell us the story from your point of view

  2. I have told this story, and the link in this paper leads to it - see

  3. huge list! i am sure your favorite job will be researching and writing.. hatts off to you!

  4. Great journey. You must be proud to have such life infact u is a creator of yourself. Anther great example no body knows what life is exactly all about.


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