After watching this show on ABC the other day, “Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson” made me wonder, some people have some very sad jobs.
Everyone, please note, you do not always have to commit themselves to a desk job in a stifling cubicle to feel vocationally fulfilled. Following their passions and a sense of adventure, some people (like the ones below) stick to dirty, gritty, or unorthodox careers and dissect the lessons contained therein. Some require a diploma, others an impressively strong constitution, and still others a subconscious death wish – but all of them need the proverbial doing. What follows is a sample of some of the world’s most unusual and overlooked careers. Most of them admirable, some of them questionable, but all of them intriguing in some way.
Gold farming has little to do with gold mining, as the workers are actually responsible for sitting at a computer for hours on end playing World of Warcraft and other massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) in order to amass a large amount of in-game currency to sell for the real thing.
Artificially inseminating livestock is a necessary job if one wants a healthy food supply, but few will deny that it is an extremely unusual line of work.
The idea of a chicken sexer likely brings up a series of giggles and blushes, but in actuality involves deciphering the genitalia of newly-hatched birds and inventorying how many males and females crop up in the bunch.
4. Odor Judge
With strong stomachs and a much stronger olfactory system, odor judges do exactly what their job title implies. Sometimes they even have to jam their nose into a participant’s armpit to see how well their deodorant works.
A step up from dumpster diving, some people make money off scouring files and archives retrieved from filthy garbage bins for legal reasons.
They sort fish livers. Actually, the job description also entails slicing the organs out before organizing them as well as discarding any that appear sick or spoiled.
Organ procurers work for organ banks, helping to seek out donors and transplants for those in need of a new kidney, liver, or other body part.
Some theme parks employ cleaners specifically designated to mop up puke near rides that tend to inspire motion sickness.
Most people would jump at the chance to taste-test chocolate, booze, or ice cream or other snack, but it takes a special stomach, palate, and probably mind to want to nosh on gourmet dog and cat food.
Food chemist Jessee Keifer of Cadbury Schweppes is one of the only people in the world paid to develop the perfect stick of chewing gum.
11. Dice Inspector
A dice inspector’s job involves inspecting the little cubes for any flaws that may give an unfair advantage or disadvantage when gambling.
Unethical? Yup. But a weird job is still a weird job, and this one involves professionally writing fake business reviews – positive and negative alike – for consumer-driven sites like Yelp, Citysearch, and Urbanspoon in order to artificially bolster ratings and verbally slam the competition.
Nobody would eat worms on television for money if the network feared a lawsuit. Before chomping down on a cockroach, though, gross stunt testers and chefs have to whip up the night’s challenge and make sure it is safe enough to stave off litigation.
14. Hand Model
Some models make their money off the runway, appearing in television commercials, print ads, and as movie and show stand-ins without ever even having to flaunt more than a pair of pretty phalanges. There is an entire industry built around feet as well.
All fruits need washing before being shipped off restaurants and grocery stores, and somebody has to be around to towel them off.
16. Furniture Tester
One of the cushiest jobs possible, furniture testers get paid to sit and lounge about on chairs, couches, beds, and other elements of home décor to help manufacturers gauge their safety and comfort.
17. Pet Detective
Real pet detectives help scared owners find their beloved animal companions. Generally, they don’t go chasing after missing dolphins.
Because without the dedicated work of these brave men and women, nobody would ever be able to see the Great Barrier Reef or Mount Everest as the filmmaker intended.
One of the most dangerous jobs anyone could have involves wrestling crocodiles, alligators, and other aggressive animals. A simultaneously awesome and insane line of work.
20. Light Bender
Both dangerous and creative, light benders work in extreme heat to bring people flashing neon signs for businesses and home décor (in some circles).
21. Hoof Trimmer
Cows and horses need their hooves trimmed for their own safety and comfort – really not much different than a dog or cat owner clipping the nails of their pets.
22. Wrinkle Chaser
Anyone who buys a pair of shoes has to send a bit of thanks to wrinkle chasers, who wield their irons with the intent of keeping them smooth and attractive.
23. Worm Picker
With lighted miner’s helmets and aluminum cans at the reader, professional worm pickers snatch up their wiggly prey from the ground and sell them to local anglers for bait.
Glamorous when compared to many others on the list, ski resort illustrators apply their creative talents to…um…what was it again?
25. Fart Sniffer
People actually get paid to smell gas given off by cows in order to determine their diet, hormonal balance, and overall health. There are no words.
Oh sure, telling someone you’re a “pathoecologist” at a cocktail party probably sounds all impressive. But have fun watching their expressions plummet when explaining that it involves dissecting and analyzing fossilized feces for a living.
27. Golf Ball Diver
Experienced deep-sea divers sometimes take on second careers applying their talents to retrieving golf balls from the murky depths of lakes.
As amazing as sleeping for money sounds, it also serves an excellent medical purpose. Professional sleepers help scientists and doctors figure out the mysteries of insomnia and other disorders.
Similar to the animal inseminator, individuals who masturbate cows and other barnyard animals in order to acquire the body fluids necessary for conception play an integral role in the food supply.
These specialists create custom false eyes for individuals in need of one following an accident or degenerative disease.
31. Oyster Floater
Before finding their way to consumers, oysters need to be floated in specially attuned water in order to remove any impurities.
Some kibbutz workers pass their days keeping an eye on ostriches to make sure they do not wander off, get into fights, or end up stolen.
33. Gum Buster
Littering is bad and all that, but if nothing else it at least means that cities and sanitation businesses create jobs specifically for cleaning gum and gum stains off the street.
34. Snake Milker
Chuck Norris is so 2007. Snake milkers are the real tough guys, farming venom from the poisonous, slithering reptiles to help cure people of their bites.
Most little blips on the fortune cookies served at Asian restaurants comes not from some wise ancient sage, but rather a man at a desk being paid to crank them out.
A paper towel sniffer is responsible for letting manufacturers know if their products harbor any unusual smells before, during, and after use.
Like a cross between a handwriting and palm analyst and a fingerprint archivist, a lipsologist claims to be able to read and identify a person’s personality based on their unique lip prints.
38. Neck Skewer
In spite of sounding like a line of work disconcertingly attractive to Leatherface, neck skewers actually pin the neck meat of beef halves to keep things more compact for transport.
This delightful job entails looking through a conveyor belt full of potato chips for burned or unappetizing specimens.
40. Safe Cracker
A couple notches below James Bond exists safe crackers, who have to bust open locked boxes using their ears and fingers as tools.
There is no way that any insurance company would offer a policy to someone who lets people throw knives at them for a living – but it probably makes for some great stories all the same.
42. Smoke Jumper
Smoke jumpers are extensively trained professionals sent into devastating wildfires on mountains, in brush, and other wide expanses to keep the environment and humanity safe from as much harm as possible.
No relation to the citrus fruit dryer, the citrus fruit dyers pop bright colors onto lemons, limes, grapefruits, kumquats, and other delights to make them seem more appealing to consumers.
Eerily obsessive brides scouring over every single petty detail of their weddings and under the impression that the day would be absolutely ruined without a certain number of attendants (spoiler alert: it won’t) can actually pay women to stand in the ceremony to fill out the ranks.
Professional whistlers lend their talents to television shows, movies, commercials, and other media to add delightful music to their listeners’ days.
46. Turd Burner
Everyone who’s anyone loves fire, but not everyone is cut out to maintain equipment that burns human waste for a living.
47. Hair Boiler
Animal hair gets poured into giant vats of boiling water in order to make it curl up – and somebody has to stir it. Why does that sound eerily like the opening scene of Macbeth?
Phone cord sorters (who, thanks to the advent of cell phones, are a rare breed these days) have to root through piles upon piles of the electronic components to weed out any that appear damaged or frayed.
49. Condom Tester
Before any boys in the audience drop out of school to pursue this career path, be forewarned that it actually involves stretching the prophylactics over a machine to test their strength and durability.
50. Cheese Sprayer
The powdered cheddar (or reasonable facsimile) on popcorn and other wonderfully salty, greasy snacks that wreak havoc on the heart and waistline has to get there somehow.
Some jobs simply need to be done, and many people seem to overlook or take for granted much of others’ responsibilities. But no matter what, an honest day’s work (OK, a couple of these are not-so-honest. For shame!) carries with it an inherent honorability – no matter if it involves having knives thrown around the body, manually stimulating an erect bull penis, or smelling paper towels.