After I graduated from college I needed a job. I had loans to pay off, rent to shell out, and parents on my back. I just needed a job - any job would do.

I signed up to work for a temp agency, and they immediately sent me out on my first assignment. I was going to work at a wholesale food distributor (let's call it "Bostco") as one of those ladies who offers free food samples in the aisles. I wouldn't exactly be using my newly obtained university major in Greek Philosophy to its full capacity, but they were paying me $8 per hour and I needed the money. I was okay with it; although I am sure Socrates would not have been impressed.

I arrived at work the first morning greeted by Debbie, a short and pudgy woman who reminded me of a female version of Newman from Seinfeld. She was scheduled to give me a brief orientation and also let me know what kind of food I would be offering. The temp agency told me that I could eat as much from my sample tray as I wanted, so I was excited to see what I would be peddling. A friend of mine had once given away samples of chocolate bonbons so I was hoping for something similar.

Debbie walked me to my booth in the basement where she informed me that I was going to be the sample lady for "Mmm..Mmm Good Clam Chowder." Great-I am a strict vegetarian and get nauseous at the sight of seafood. So much for getting to eat bonbons all day.

I was given strict instructions: when shoppers walked by I was supposed to say, "Excuse me miss/sir, but can I interest you in some Mmm Mmm Good Clam Chowder?" Every time I repeated the mantra, I saw an image in my head of Socrates committing suicide over and over again.

For some reason, I was placed in the frozen food section. I am not sure who made the decision to put the lady giving samples of free hot soup in the frozen food aisle, but all I knew was that I was as cold as a sled dog in the Iditarod. On day two, I came into work wearing my ski suit, boots and mittens. I don't think Debbie was impressed.

Another disadvantage of being in the basement was that there wasn't a lot of foot traffic. Most of the customers wandered around the main floor where the more "high profile" bulk food items were sold, like the 10 gallon drums of relish.

On the rare occasion that a customer actually walked by, I would swallow my pride and say, "Excuse me miss, but can I interest you in some Mmm Mmm Good Clam Chowder?" Most people were as horrified by the thought of pre-packaged clam chowder as I was and declined the offer. However, a few brave souls actually accepted. What where these people thinking? Didn't their parents ever teach them not to accept food from strangers?

In another Bostco oversight, I actually didn't have piping hot Mmm Mmm Good Clam Chowder ready to dispense to these trusting fools. I had to plug in the crock-pot that they had given me and start heating up the frozen chowder on the spot. So I was instructed to inform the tasters, "I'll cook up your clam chowder immediately, and it will be Mmm Mmm Good and Ready in 40 minutes."

Did my employers really expect these people to wait around for 40 minutes while I defrosted them some frozen chowder? Well, if they did, they were sorely mistaken because after I relayed my scripted response to the customer, I was usually greeted by a nasty comment somehow creatively linked to seafood.

I wasn't entirely alone in the basement. There was another sample lady named Teresa who was working the aisle across from me. She was in charge of giving out pizza pops and had been doing so for 8 months. Within about 2 minutes of talking to her, I could tell that she was totally deranged. She was convinced that there was a sample lady hierarchy at the company and was determined to make her way to the top. She decided that the number one sample lady slot in the store was the Swedish Meatball booth. She came to this conclusion because it was located near the front of the store, and in her words, "those balls are by far the tastiest item in the store."

Teresa also claimed that the woman who had had the clam chowder slot before me, had just been promoted to be the Swedish Meatball lady because of an affair that she had with the deli manager, Harold. Teresa insisted that Harold wielded a tremendous amount of power when it came to the placement of ground beef products in the store. As a result, whenever he walked by, Teresa would stop talking to me and begin flirting with him shamelessly. When I realized that my co-worker, a sample lady for pizza pops, was trying to sleep her way to the top of the sample lady world by having an affair with Harold the deli man, I knew that I had hit rock bottom.

At the end of day two, I left the store and rode the bus home, still in my ski suit. I made some quick calculations and concluded that if I were to hang in for day three of the three-day chowderfest then that would net me another $40. But if I were to cut down on my groceries for the week and only eat milk, cereal, and the complementary pizza pops that Teresa had given me, then I could get by without the $40. I was more than happy with that trade off.

Even though being a sample lady was my first paying job since selling chocolate covered almonds door to door in grade school, I just couldn't go back. I was starting to have nightmares about giant clams and Swedish Meatballs attacking me.

I didn't call the temp agency to tell them either, I just didn't show up. They returned the favor by never calling me with any temp jobs again. That's okay, I am sure Socrates would have done the same thing. In fact, if they had clam chowder in ancient Greece I am sure he would have committed suicide much sooner.