Mine's a tie.
I used to do a ton of babysitting. I was recommended to this family by a lady who was pretty psychotic herself, so none of this should have surprised me. My parents dropped me off and the woman was standing in her yard with a 2 or 3 year old girl. As I walked up, the girl went over to poke at a dead squirrel under a tree and got backhanded across the face so hard it knocked her off her feet. I was about 13 at the time and didn't know what the hell to say to that.
We went inside, and the woman placed a stack of cash on her microwave. She whipped around and told me that if any of it was gone, she'd know I stole it. Then she left. That woman scared the shit out of me and that afternoon watching the kids was pure hell, even though they were relatively well-behaved. The dad got home before the mom did and paid me from the stack of money on the microwave.
She never called me back, not that I would have gone. To this day I wonder if she blamed me for the missing microwave money.
The other job was more extended misery. At about the same age, my mom started farming me out to this woman who lived across the street. We lived in a neighborhood where everyone seemed to think a lot of themselves, a lot of professionals and professionals' wives who thought they were very high-society.
This particular woman was of the snotty, fluttery "I don't have time to care about anyone but myself" variety. I was a pretty stereotypical nerd and she thought that was a hoot
. She crashed my 12th birthday party wearing a t-shirt that said NERD PROM, for example. I disliked her. Whenever she needed someone to do something, though, my mom always sent me right on over.
I spent hours scrubbing the marble floor tiles of her kitchen individually, by hand, with her Mexican maid. That's how I learned Spanish early, words like puta. One summer she borrowed me to pull waterlilies from the dock in front of her lake house. I pulled tendons in my arms, cut my foot on a rusty can at the bottom of the trashy lake and felt snakes and fish bump against my legs as I stuffed wet weeds in trashbags.
She didn't have any kids of her own, but she had nieces who were just like her. I swear to God, one was even named Muffy or Buffy or something. In that capacity, I was always supposed to go along as the ugly, nerdy one so that her nieces would look better by comparison. I'm not kidding about that. Nothing enhances your adolescent self-esteem like knowing you're only being dragged along so she can say something like, "No, big girls need to stand behind the skinny ones" when she took a group picture. I wasn't fat by a long shot, but it made her nieces feel pretty and skinny.
I think the lowest thing she ever did to me was bring me along to a basketball game after I got out of the hospital and had a halo brace
on. I don't particularly like basketball and wondered what the hell I was going for. Then I noticed she was making loops of the crowded lot, looking for something. She finally spotted what she wanted...the security guard...and pulled up alongside him. She flagged him down and gave him some big story about her poor "niece", just out of the hospital, and could she please park in the handicapped space. He took one look at my ugly neck brace and said okay, and she smugly edged her Cadillac into the best space in the parking lot. That's the whole reason I was there.
In case you're curious, I was paid in her castoff clothes (which I threw away) and Market Day
pudding cups from her basement freezer.
I never did figure out why my mom kept loaning me out to the woman like that. I always fought it and always lost. To this day my mother doesn't seem to understand why I hate that lady.