The Five Worst First Days on the Job in History
A first day at work can be a mixture of emotions. On the positive side, you’ve escaped the mind-numbing, self-worth-shattering process of interviews and resume distribution. The ever-grinding, perpetually hungry man-shredder that is the free market has judged you and found you acceptable! Kudos! On the negative side, you have to work now. Blech!
It’s stressful, too. You’re walking into a new environment where you want to quickly prove your worth while also not breaking anything or pissing off anyone of unknown importance. You’re getting a first glimpse at your future office relationships — to your lunch shit-talking buddy to your new mortal enemy, Person Who Whistles While They Work. Thankfully, most of the time it’s a big moment but uneventful in minute-to-minute activity. Occasionally, though, it goes terribly, terribly wrong.
Here are five of the worst first days in history.
I’ll be the first to admit my understanding of the day-to-day duties of an air traffic controller are tenuous at best. I’ve never personally met one, and if you ever see one in a movie or media, it’s usually because things are going horribly wrong. Hopefully, you have a long career of non-emergency aircraft controlling, without any of the days that require you slowly removing your headset and quietly uttering, “My god.”
That is not how Ben Sliney’s career as the Chief of ATC Operations for the FAA began. Sliney probably had barely enough time to check out the coffee machine situation before he was putting out perhaps the greatest fires in our nation’s history. This is because Sliney’s first day as the head of air traffic control operations for the United States of America was September 11, 2001.
King Luis II of Portugal
I guess, admittedly, the day any monarch takes the throne is a bittersweet affair, since it’s a requirement for the promotion that one of your relatives just died. Of course, I would think that at any funeral, being handed a bejeweled crown and scepter would raise your spirits at least an iota. It can’t hurt your self-worth either to know that this is the day you fulfill your destiny, and that you’re basically guaranteed a spot in the history books.
The length of your actual reign is not nearly as guaranteed. Depending on all manner of variables, including your health, your level of inbreeding and how much everybody hates you, you might not be in office that long. When it comes to short reigns, at the top of the unfortunate list is Luis II of Portugal, who held his throne for only 20 excruciatingly painful minutes. The same successful assassination attempt that killed his father, Dom Carlos I, also left young Luis mortally wounded. Within the span of a single TV episode without commercials, he watched his father die, became the de facto king of Portugal, and then expired himself.
Disney CEO past and present Bob Iger isn’t having the sunniest of times at the moment. Some of that is self-inflicted, what with Disney and other big companies stubbornly thrusting their softest bits directly into a mousetrap made of dual writer and actor strikes. This is still comparatively a cakewalk compared to the short tenure of Disney’s CEO from 2020 to 2022, a man named Bob Chapek.
Now, my pity for a man who was the CEO of one of the most powerful corporations in the world knows very limited bounds. It’s like Satan complaining how stressful running hell is. Still, I can admit it was a bad rap. Chapek was elevated to the CEO of Disney, a corporation that collects immense revenue from movies and theme parks, in February 2020, a time where it was becoming clear that we were eye-deep in a global pandemic. It’s basically like getting a captain’s hat slapped on your head while the Titanic is sideways. He weathered the pandemic in one of the worst sectors of an already flatlining world economy, and was rewarded by Iger firing him and taking his old job back at the conclusion of what he calls “three years of hell.”
Speaking of worker exploitation, the next one we’re taking a look at isn’t fun in any facet. If you think of a “temp,” you’re probably imagining someone in an overstarched, oversized dress shirt, doing their best to wrestle with Excel sheets. A spare cog meant to fit passably while a role is permanently filled. If you instead think about an inherently dangerous job involving heavy machinery, you’d think that the idea of a “temp” is irresponsible and dangerous, and you’d be right. A temp might struggle with the fax machine, but there’s no danger of them being fatally sucked into one.
Lawrence Davis, a temp hired by a Bacardi bottling plant in Jacksonville, Florida, fell victim to a tragically predictable outcome. On his first day at the plant, he was killed in a fatal accident involving a piece of heavy machinery that he was probably seeing for the first time ever. OSHA cited Bacardi for the death, and issued a deeply impotent $192,000 penalty. The fact is, temps like Davis are basically disposable machine parts for corporations annoyed by the space actual, living-wage employees would occupy in their books.
And you thought having to cut your hair for a job was bad.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.