Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Bad Jobs

Penned upon the 25th of August, 2011

This piece originally appeared on Po’Boy.

Scientifically speaking (or so I’m told,) mutual kvetching about our jobs is what brings us together as capitalist peons. Loathing your workplace and everything associated with it is practically mandatory, however cushy it might rationally be. That said, there are some bona fide lousy jobs out there in the world – including, presumably, a career as a louse. Stifling six-legged costume, blood-based diet, risk of swatting, and all that. Cleverer clogs than mine have already explored this field at length, of course, and I confess that I’ve not yet seen any of the excellent Tony Robinson’s* The Worst Jobs in History. Still, a valuable historical lesson is that it takes a long, long time for a machine to be an easier and cheaper alternative to a worker for any given task, and whatever you can imagine, someone’s been paid to do it.

Now, a good bad job (if you follow) is not merely foul and repugnant – if it were, we’d just lay down a “sewage taste-tester” and go home – but serves as a bastion of ennui and absolute pointlessness, an affront to human dignity and slash or good sense. Perhaps it’s a role wildly inappropriate for its occupant – for instance, we might combine Showtime’s Dexter with ITV’s Doc Martin and postulate a haemophobic blood-spatter-pattern analyst, who presumably spends his every waking minute screaming and hyperventilating. Otherwise, a bad job could be a role which one would reasonably assume the world would be no worse off without; consider, for example, this unfortunate woman from 2007′s Persuasion, who apparently spends her day standing in the corner of an upstairs corridor, waiting for someone to walk by with a dry pen.

I can only imagine that, when she gets bored, she starts spruiking. “INKWELL! Inkwell here!” And, come to think of it, spruiking’s a pretty rotten job too – exposing yourself to the elements and to vocal strain, endlessly repeating banalities, knowing that you could easily be replaced if the hand-painted signs didn’t have a better union than you. I swear I’ve seen the very same principle applied to far simpler messages, too, including “Please mind the stair.”

So, what bad jobs have you had? Sedan chair mechanic? Tarantula therapist? Or, for that matter, schnauzer homoeopath, which I promise is a real and terrible thing. Perhaps you were engaged to model body armour, or install fittings in a mausoleum, or legally represent the tobacco industry. Answers on an underpaid postman!

* “The Griff Rhys Jones of Bill Oddies,” as he’s known.

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