Office Rat-A-Tat: What's the worst job you've ever had?

Some of you might recall a post of mine last summer wherein I admitted I worked as a spy for ASCAP. In the post I reported how I'd been paid to shut down strip clubs that weren't paying their ASCAP licensing fees. With a hidden Dictaphone and a thick wad of singles, my partner and I were contracted to notate each and every song played so that later, after we faxed the exceedingly long list to ASCAP's NY headquarters, the company would be able to check them against their database. Each song registered with ASCAP was another nail in the club's coffin.

So why was this the worst job I ever had? After all, I was helping musicians earn a living. After all, I was paid rather handsomely. After all, there were topless women gamboling about the workplace. What 21-year-old college boy could argue with all that?

This one could, because every work night I came home sick and stinking from cigarette smoke - to a degree that makes me ill all over again just thinking about it so many years later. I had to peel the contact lenses off my irritated eyeballs and take seven showers to get the stench out of my hair. I had to upchuck the secondhand smoke into the toilet and run behind my dorm (sometimes in the snow) to hang my pants, shirt, even my underwear outside for a week just to get them to a semi-neutral place where I could even re-approach them to put them in the laundry.

Maybe it was me; maybe I was allergic to smoke. Maybe men who frequented strip clubs smoked more than their counterparts down the road at the local tavern. Whatever the reason, I never failed to get sick and eventually had to quit because my lungs couldn't take it anymore.

But enough complaining. What about you? What's the worst job you ever had and why?

Browse past Office Rat-A-Tats here >>

Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.


More from mental floss studios