In our Thursday feature, we ask prominent conservatives a nonpolitical question. Last week we asked what they would be doing if they weren’t doing what they do now.

This week we ask: What was your worst job ?

Arthur Brooks (head of the American Enterprise Institute): “I’ve had three totally different professions — I dropped out of college and played the French horn for 12 years; then went to school and, after finishing, taught economics at the university for 10 years; and finally I’ve been the president of AEI for the past two years. It’s a pretty charmed life, I’ll admit. My least favorite job was playing horn in the Barcelona Orchestra. I loved the city and the music, but dealing with despotic symphony conductors is a serious problem for someone with authority issues like me.”

Grover Norquist (head of Americans for Tax Reform): “My parents built most of a house in Massachusetts. I got to finish those bits that were left undone to, first, save money, and second, to build my character. The work in the attic was the worst . . . too hot.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “A hot, dirty job called a lift truck grinder, which means sanding the rust and old paint off used forklift trucks to prepare them for painting.”

Dana Perino (former White House press secretary, now a Republican consultant): “Telemarketing during a high school or college summer break. Tried to sell a really lame piece of exercise equipment.”

Peter Robinson (former Reagan speechwriter, Hoover Institute fellow, founder of “One summer during high school I worked as a carpenter’s assistant building a hunting cabin in an isolated valley in Alaska. Aside from me and the carpenter, there were no humans for many miles in any direction. I liked the carpenter, who was obscene, drunk and ill-tempered but skillful, but my incompetence enraged him at least once every day. One day I walked across a concrete floor he had just laid. Another day I lost my grip on a doorframe he was hammering into place. The doorframe slipped from the opening for which it was intended, and — I can still see this as if in slow motion — fell to the ground below, shattering. Despite the opportunity to learn many colorful curses that it afforded, that summer ended up lasting much, much too long.”

Stephen Hayes (senior writer for the Weekly Standard): “It’s a toss-up between waiting tables at my fraternity, where my friends routinely made disgusting food-mountains for me to clean up, and working as an outdoor laborer for Milwaukee County. The work itself wasn’t that bad — landscaping, moving railroad ties, driving trucks, etc. — and the money was great (more than $10 an hour back in the early 1990s — government work in Wisconsin). But I spent the vast majority of my time cutting grass and found out that I have severe grass allergies. Self-torture. I was miserable and it made summertime beer-drinking — that’s what we do in Wisconsin — much less appealing. But the pay was so much better than anything else out there, I stuck with it for three years.”