July 22, 2005

It Was a Dirty Job But "Somebody" Had To Do It

Every now and then I am reminded of one of my former jobs. Usually, such memories are fun and lighthearted. Sometimes, I find myself wondering how I ever landed such a position in the first place, and why on earth there was still a need for it.

Pull up a rock and I’ll explain in my typically verbose style.

One of the job titles I have tucked in my pocket is “content inspector.” A more flippant way to put it might be “porn checker.”

About four years ago, I worked for a large, nation-wide mail order photo processing lab. We were the second largest in the food chain of film processing at that time. Thousands of rolls of undeveloped film passed through our lab each week, and anyone in this business can tell you that these photos aren’t just handled by noisy machinery.

Aside from checking each set for color, tone and clarity ~ one of the lab’s functions was to red-flag anything that you wouldn’t pass around the dinner table at grandma’s house on Sunday.

Anything worthy of a red flag came to my desk for further inspection. I was the lab’s only porn inspector. Oh lucky me.

So why did we have to inspect naughty pictures? Because we were in the mail-order business and it’s a felony to pass pornographic materials through the U.S. Postal Service. The unprocessed film could come to us without breaking a law, but it could not be processed and returned. Understand that there were a million guidelines I had to follow in order to determine what could and couldn’t pass through.

I’m not suggesting that playful photos of Susie Headlights taken by Izint E. Hung would be reported or shredded. Indeed, after careful inspection (for signs of illegal age, unwilling restraint, etc.) such images could be tucked back into their paper wallet and shipped back to the creative couple.

Sounds like a way cool job, eh? Not so cool at all when you consider the rest of the job. I’ll try to be as tactful as possible with this stomach churning topic.

Imagine this scenario. You come into work in the morning, sit at your desk, crank up the computer, sip your tea and open paper wallets filled with images of beastiality, battered children, child porn, or … on the lighter side though still not my favorite breakfast viewing material ~ vegetable sex. Yes, you read that correctly.

It takes time and patience to sort out the photos that are playful and innocent ~ the one taken by Aunt Rosie with an hiney shot of little Johnnie running down the hallway after his bath, and those not so playful ~ the one with a way-too-young naked girl being held clearly against her wishes by a way-too-old naked man. Sometimes the facial expression is a giveaway ~ other times not so much. Inspecting the entire roll helps in determining whether or not a scenario was merely played out or whether there was an actual “situation” taking place.

The lab wasn’t a prudish outfit. They simply had to stay within the legal boundaries, or be put out of business. Tasteful nudity was fine. Touching or otherwise “interacting” was not. Brutality was never fine; animal or human (I’ve seen both types of photos). Photos revealing any type of underage sexual posing were never fine.

My job, after inspecting full roll content of any questionable shots, and determining that a law or ten may have been broken, was to call in the U.S. Postal Inspectors … (a.k.a. the Feds). Upon their arrival to our office, we’d sit in a conference room and fine-tooth the photos going over every detail of every background and foreground in each shot. Sometimes, I was wrong. I misjudged. But the general rule of thumb at our lab was “if in doubt, call.”

If the Federal Inspectors deemed the photos unlawful, they would carry through by sending undercover agents to the location of the sender; even to Alaska if need be. These agents would show up under the guise of “brown truck” delivery drivers, with photos in hand. (“Good morning Mr. Jackass, you’ve been busted.”)

I had never been summonsed to court, but my predecessor had been. She had to fly to Washington D.C. for a child molestation trial. She had to testify that we received the unprocessed films along with a check signed by the criminal.

So much more can be said of this job … there were some completely hilarious photos of people in their 80s posing for one another in their birthday suits, complete with wine goblets in hand, or sporting Frederick’s of Hollywood style attire; comical pictures of women and men who had no business being naked alone in a dark room let alone proudly displaying themselves on picnic benches or at beach clubs; and of course, we had what my predecessor dubbed, “the vegetable of the month club.” I swear ~ I’m sure I haven’t but I could almost bet I’ve seen it all.

One of the most embarrassing situations I found myself in was trying to explain why a couple awaiting their wedding photos mistakenly received three wallets of Romping Ruthie & Gorgeous George out sailing and “modeling” for each other on the deep blue sea.

The wedding photos eventually made their way to the newly married couple and everyone was pleased in the long run, but it was an uncomfortable situation, to say the least.

The thing that slays me the most is that in this day and age of modern image technology (cripes, even with Polaroid for that matter) with digital cameras and such ... why would anyone still submit their films for processing via mail order? It’s just escapes me.

Some folks clearly like to be “seen” by as many eyeballs as possible … but others were completely dumbfounded when I’d call them to say that I could not return their photos. Quite often I’d hear, “You mean people SEE those photos? I thought they were all machine processed.”

My response was usually a simple, “Guess again…” (Sometimes, I wanted to add “pencil boy” … but I always refrained).
One of the reasons I began to reminisce about jobs-gone-by is that I have recently submitted my letter of resignation. I’ve been climbing uphill with one leg long enough at my job and it’s time for a much needed break. The decision didn't come easily for me. I’ve been inundated with work, training and work-related stressors lately, which may help explain my lack of posting, visiting and commenting. Soon enough, I’ll be back in full swing (whatever that is) and hopefully you’ll see more of my Hagness making the typical rounds. In the meantime, thanks a ton for continuing to read my words and for sharing in my favorite pastime.


Blogger CarpeDM said...

First! Oh, my God! I can't believe it.

Carol, thanks so much for sharing this story. I know this had to be tough, thinking back to some of the pictures you were sent.

I think it is reassuring to know that, when obvious child porn was found, that something was done about it. Too many times you hear of child molestation where nothing was done to help the child even when all the signs were there.

As for the rest of the post, very, very funny! Loved it and laughed over the vegetable of the month club and the pencil boy. Did you ever see Outrageous Fortune? There's a scene where Bette Midler is explaining why the dead body can't possibly be her boyfriend and it is hilarious.

I'm sorry to hear about your resignation and hope that you find a job that deserves you and makes you happy.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Eileen the Jellomonster said...

Hi Carol,

Wow, what an amazing story. I am sure those "certain aspects" of the job were heartbreaking. Sounds like it was an interesting job, for sure.

Have a great weekend.
Eileen :)

1:54 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...


Yet again you have an enjoyable story about another job that I am amazed you held. It does escape me why people would not think sending their "privates" photos out for others to see was inappropriate. I am glad to hear that there are people out there watching and trying to help protect children.

I'm working on my email inbox and I do want to reply soon to your email. I know that you had to make a hard decision to leave a job that you do love but the situation is not productive anymore. What matters the most is that you can be happier and healthier because of your decision. Someday DM and I will be out to Conneticut to visit and I know we'd love to visit the aquarium, hopefully with you as a guest of the establishment.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am trying to imagine the interview for that job.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Stupid is as stupid does I guess Carol, referring to these people sending these nasty pics to be developed, and getting busted. What a wild job! I hope your new job goes well in the future. Great post as always! ;O)

BTW, your Blogroll sure has grown! I'd love to add more to my site, but with dial-up, I can't surf them all fast enough. *GRRRR!*

2:47 PM  
Blogger blue2go said...

Another great and funny story. I love stories about jobs anyway, having had so many of them myself. My son developed photos for a photolab for awhile. He says they occasionally got some strange ones. He didn't elaborate, and now after reading your experiences I'm glad I didn't ask!

3:27 PM  
Blogger Dave Morris said...

Pencil Boy! hAHAHAHAhaha! Imagine getting sexually excited over a trip to the produce stand.

Wow, resigned huh? You deserve to be happy, so good for you. Go find something you'll enjoy... and meantime, I'll expect a slightly elevated number of posts on one of my favorite blogs.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

This reminds me of a federal employee who had a series of photos about changes that a hurricane wrought on a remote island. He posted them on a federal photo site which was scientific in nature--i.e. showing the decimation of trees. Guess what? A 'taxpayer' was upset that the photo happened to show topless women in the foreground on this island!

6:46 PM  
Blogger mrhaney said...

well carolit sounded like a good job at first but now that i have read your post i think i would rather skip it. some things might be real funny though.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Wicked H said...

Does this mean I need to get a bigger rock? Yay!

Great post. Dirty job indeed.

Hope you get the rest you deserve and things turn out the way you want them to.

Have a great weekend!

8:23 PM  
Blogger midwest_hick said...

lol.....funny post....and now I know I look better fully clothed...than un-clothed.

11:47 PM  
Blogger frustratedwriter said...

Interesting job! I'm happy for you in the fact that you are starting to move on, looking for something that will be less stressful or more beneficial. Best of luck on the job hunt!

2:47 AM  
Blogger dan said...

A difficult topic presented well.

Vegetable sex, though??? These people never cease to amaze me.

I couldn't do that job if I had to see child porn or anything like that. I just couldn't handle it.

You're a remarkable woman, Carol,

4:24 AM  
Blogger lilly05 said...

I get to see a lot of the ugly things that can happen to children and I'm still not able to handle it as well as I should be able to. That's why I'm a Cardiac nurse and NOT a Pediatric nurse. We get a whole lot of folks straight out of the winners circle here at the hospital too! Like Bubba who decided to dig himself out with a shower brush (He inserted the hook end rectaly) and got it snagged on his colon wall. Or Ellie May who decided it would be a grand idea to insert a cucumber, carrot or cell phone in her anus, only to lose her grip on the object dujur and have it magically disappear. That is until the forceps were broken out along with the stirrup table! Sheesh, some people!

4:36 AM  
Blogger Lyvvie said...


that job sounds like you were doing your part to help keep a safer society. Thank you! But man...I can imagine the slide show at the X-Mas party! EEEK!

Shame to hear about your current resignation. I thought you really loved the aquarium job, what changed?

5:40 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

LMAO! Can you imagine a male having this position....no photos would be sorted!
Very funny stuff Carol, deep down i knew someone must have this job!

7:01 AM  
Blogger blue2go said...

Bet it was a difficult decision to resign. Hope you have a very well-deserved break from all the stress!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Rob Seifert said...

Chuckle, it occurs to me that Carol was a Censor! Perhaps I should rethink my position on censorship. Obviously, there are some things that should be censored. None the less, very amusing. For every door that closes another opens. Such is the way of things. Enjoy the adventure - so much the better.


11:13 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I don't envy you that job; it sounds horrific. Still, it was a rather important service, and one that most wouldn't ever consider. Kudos for doing it, and good luck on your next adventure.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

That must've been quite the interesting job. some days better than others from what you've said. I often open the mail at work on the morning shift...there are various photos from specialists included...looking at the innards of a patient that early in the morning can be very offputting lol

Reading about the young girls 'against their will', the children stuff and beastiality made me shudder (so did the vege thing, but not as much).

I'm surprised about you resigning from the aqaurium, I know you loved it there also. But sometimes good(?) things need to come to an end, and with all the stresses you've been facing, you obviously feel it's time to move on.

Good luck with any future endeavours. After reading about all the different jobs you've had in the past, I'll be waiting to see your next choice of occupation with interest. Until then, put your feet up and relax, you deserve it!

4:08 PM  
Blogger Floridacracker said...

As someone with a variety of jobs in my past, I must say that was one strange job. Great post as usual! I assume Pencil Boy was a writer...a sketch artist....no? Oh....

10:55 PM  
Blogger The Other Half said...

glad to see you back! nice job...did you get any good ideas? vegetable sex...that's great!

9:25 PM  
Blogger Johnny Virgil said...

Nice! I added your blog to my links list if that's ok.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Nick Ward said...


Great post! I'm sorry that you have resigned, but if you feel thats what you've got to do, then hell, do it!

Oh, and I'll get you those pub photos this week.

6:14 AM  
Blogger annush said...

That is a great story! I would think that a job like that would be fun but i can see how it wouldn't be...

9:27 AM  
Blogger Sask 1 said...

I was actually surprised that they actually develop photos like that.Im a little naive probably.I cant imagine sending off film with images of my white blubber for someone to peer over.
Im also sorry you feel you have to resign from your job.I know you liked it but if its getting too stressful then you need to put yourself first.Good luck with whatever you decide to do next.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Rainypete said...

It's astonishing to see how stupid people use things without thinking it through.

The most entertaining part of that post was that Carol was the last bastion of decency in the photo joint. Now that's irony.

12:27 PM  
Blogger madgirl said...

wow :/ my hats off to you carol. jane and john rompin round is one thing - but bein kicked in the stomach with those images of torture and abuse wouldve keeled me over i think.

i can echo what others sed that its good to know somethin was done with the illegal images. just kinda freaks me out that folks would feel ok enough about what they were doin to actually send them in someplace to be developed. like - ACK.

i found ya through followin a link at gel's site. just thought id stop and wave k?

take care now.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Lizabeth said...

that was awesome! so in-sight-ful!! I'm going to have to stop sending all those goody pictures to the processor! how embarrassing!

good luck with everything life is throwing you these days.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Raehan said...

Good luck finding your new path, Carol.

Thanks for this post. It certainly is memorable. What an interesting life you have led.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

first time visitor from Freudian Slips. what an interesting post. next time I hear "she has a nice pair" I am going to have to ask for the correct spelling so as to not assume it is the vegetable of the month?

11:04 PM  
Blogger TSBAllStars3 said...

Even though this didn't seem to be your dream job it sounds like you did it very well.

I am just a random visitor. Definitely enjoyed the read.

Best of luck with your next career adventure.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Holy crap! Porn inspector? Jeez. Just when I think you can't get any more interesting.

Congrats on resigning. Good riddance to any job that sucks the spirit out of you!

1:27 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

What a job! You rock, lady! While reading it, I thought of all the times I used to wonder who did porn policing and stuff like that... Now I get a clearer picture.
And congrats on resigning. Cause I am sure you are looking at fun things for the future. With your dynamism, you have be a hit everywhere. A suggestion - start on your book?
By the way, put in my papers too and feeling great about it!

8:10 AM  
Blogger katie said...

I have always wondered what people in that job see! It must have been very tough at times.
Good for you for doing what is best for you in regards to your current employment situation. That really takes quite a bit of courage.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

I'm not surprised to read that you worked at a ob that entailed stopping the spread of child exploitation and abuse.

As far as others' choice of how to fertilize or uh, "water their bush/pencil- whatever!", I feel that is their choice if it is harming no one. I realize it's a felony, since I'm an artist who sketches "pencils", but I disagree with the law. {I do comply with it.} ----- Someday when I take your photo or sketch you, I think you should have a (real) pencil in your teeth a la tango..........to celebrate the dance of your writer's pencil! It will need to be a sketching pencil with no eraser so I'm still on your blogroll. ;)(inside joke to anyone reading this.)

11:24 AM  
Blogger GratisGab said...

Whoa! What a job!

You by far have had the most interesting jobs among the people I "know"!!

Enjoy the free time to come. And if you are looking for something else, good luck with that. Your varied experience in so many fields should make it easy for you to find something you like.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

This post needs a few accompanying pictures. You know you kept copies. :p

BTW, I don't think vegisexuals should be discriminated against, as long as the vegetables are of the age of consent.

2:23 PM  
Blogger TSBAllStars3 said...


Crunk bascially means wild and crazy. A Crunk party would be a pretty wild time.

Don't worry you will catch on. Just keep an eye on D's blog and you will get all the crunk you can handle.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

i returned to your blog and the ironies continue to amaze me. You are a fischer too!

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to post recently here but it didn't give me the "post" link below. I see now it's back. I can't remember now what I wanted to say! Let's just say, I enjoy reading about all your wild jobs...this one too. Good title for it , too. I guess nurses have their stories too...with vegetables and what not.

9:35 PM  
Blogger Karl Childers said...

Any chance I can get that photo back of me and my donkey and the grilled figs wrapped in Proscuitto with Balsamic drizzle?

12:53 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

Thatwas an interesting job but after awhile i guess it might even turn you off of sex.
The child perverts deserve what they get and what do people think that a machine knows it the picture is good or not.

I guess if you think you done at your job then you know whats best. I left a couple of jobs because they were just to mundane.
But I know you will find what you want as you always seem to do.
Your to much of a survivor.
Good Luck

2:09 AM  
Blogger Hick said...

Pencil boy? I love that. Ha!

Good luck on your new adventure. Maybe now is the time to try your hand at writing...and maybe actually getting paid for it.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I am glad there is a mechanism in place to stop those bad pictures from going un-noticed.

Good luck on your new adventure!

12:36 AM  

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