The Dirty Job of Adulthood

13 Jan

Mike Rowe

Just how bad do you think your job is?  The Wall Street Journal annually publishes a list of the worst jobs, based on things such as pay, benefits, and safety.  Perennially included are many romantic sounding occupations such as lumberjack, fisherman, and even cowboy. But for the really disgusting ones,  you  have to  catch the Discovery Channel program called “Dirty Jobs”.  In this show, Mike Rowe the talented but unfortunate    host profiles some of the slimiest jobs possible and then personally tries his hand at them. Rattlesnake catchers, pig sloppers,  and  septic-tank technicians are just some of the occupations that might make you feel better about what you do.

Or perhaps you would  like to work for Aftermath, Inc. inPlainfield, Illinois. They specialize in crime scene cleanups.  According to their advertisement, they feature cleanup services for homicides, suicides, unattended deaths, human and animal feces, discharges of guns, home invasions, filth (unspecified) , accidents,  self-inflicted wounds, meth labs, tear gas  and as they put it “much more. I personally don’t  think  I could bear much more. offers  another list of  losers, that  includes occupations such as Porta-Potty Cleaner, Gastroenterologist,  and the ever popular–  Odor Judge.  ”.   

Granted that most of us would not take   a position in which we had to manually remove colonic  polyps,  routinely rate the noxiousness of  halitosis samples, or Pin-Sol® a mass murder site.  However, we all occasionally get stuck with terrible jobs or  least lousy assignments.


           Discussing what it takes  to be an adult best selling author, Robert Fulghum   says,  “A willingness to do your share of cleaning up the mess is a test.  … taking out the garbage of this life is a condition of membership

in the [adult] community.” He goes on to list some of these  every day ordeals:  

  1. cleaning the sink strainer
  2. plunging  out the toilet
  3. cleaning up babies when they poop and pee
  4. cleaning ovens, grease traps, and roasting pans
  5. emptying  the litter box
  6. burying dead pets when they get run over

Below are my three nominations for his list.

Collecting Money 

Whether it is theUnited Way, the coffee fund,  or even collecting to send flowers to a  sick co-worker, getting other people to pony up their share is always a challenge.  People blame the messenger  and you may  have to gently remind them at times. “Hey I did not personally make her  sick, I am just collecting the flipping money!”  Some are suspicious and act like you are going to take the whole $39.50 and fly toRio.

Cleaning the Office Refrigerator

Office refrigerators, like public restrooms, suffer from a lack of  personal ownership. They truly can become a Pandora’s box of horrors. The second place winner in CNN’s Grossest Office Refrigerator contest came from  Louisville  and featured “the sandwich that time forgot”.   

Besides food at various stages of decomposition, some of the  things actually found in office  refrigerators have  included  human stool samples, an ancient mastodon’s partially digested meal,  and cow manure specimens .    

Sooner or later someone gets so disgusted they take it upon themselves to clean the  refrigerator,  likes Hercules cleaning the Augean Stables.  These stables housed three thousand oxen and had not been cleaned for thirty years. So it was quite similar to your average office refrigerator.   Hercules had only one day and he managed to get  the job done by diverting the course of  a river. Perhaps if you work by theOhio Riveryou can try this with your office refrigerator.  I suggest throwing it in. When Hercules was done he hung up the first sign saying,  “Clean up after yourself, Oedipus. Your mother doesn’t work here.”

Doing the Newsletter

My wife, Diane and I once foolishly volunteered for this job in an organization we had just joined.  They disguised it by calling it the Vice-President for Communications— but it was really the newsletter.   It involved being tortured by a temperamental copier, hunting down the guy with the mailing labels, folding thousands of pages,  and learning the totally incomprehensible intricacies of bulk rate mailing.

After a year of unappreciated blood, sweat, and paper cuts, we finally quit. No one else would take the job. In a highly insulting gesture, the president said that from now on the officers would meet for just a “few minutes” each month and take care of it.  These people  were close to requiring  the services of Aftermath, Inc. We did not see another newsletter for over a year. 

But perhaps the worse thing about the job was getting people to send in their articles. It was harder than pulling polyps.


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