Thursday, March 16, 2006

The world's worst jobs

Unlike the majority of the human race, I love my job. Of course, when your job involves poking fun at people, what's not to love? The fact that I get PAID to do it only makes it more satisfying. Also, the fact that I work 45 minutes a day. Okay, that's not really true but that's typically the length of my shows. I've always felt guilty when the show organizer says, "Greg, you want anything up there on stage? A stool? A glass of water?" How can I say yes when my audience works ten hour days and probably doesn't get refreshment and relaxation breaks?

Very rarely do I get up and say, "I don't want to go to work today." Actually, in the 17 years I've been doing stand-up comedy, I'm not sure I've ever said that. Sure, there have been times when, midway through the day, I've thought that it would be more comfortable to stay home rather than drive downtown and hang out at a smoky comedy club for five hours. Or stay in the hotel room instead of heading down to the meeting room and performing a dinner show for of a bunch of salesmen, who are drunk and sunburned from the afternoon golf outing.

But I have no complaints. There are people who toil daily at truly miserable jobs. For some it's by choice. Others have no choice and no career options. But as I travel around the country and see the different ways people make a living, occasionally I want to scream, "why are you working here?"

So, in no particular order, I'm going to list what I consider to be the 10 worst jobs in the work world. I won't list them all at once for I haven't yet identified all ten. So check back to this blog often and I'll try and come up with a new horrible occupation each week. Or feel free to email me your contribution. Even if it's YOUR job.

Before we go any further, I have already identified who has the BEST job in the world. That would be Jim Nantz of CBS Sports. He's the lead broadcaster of March Madness. Then, after two weeks doing play by play for about a dozen nail-biting, buzzer-beating, college hoops games, he flies directly to Augusta and broadcasts the Masters. Probably gets to play the course too just so he can unwind. 'Nuff said.

Count your blessings Jim Nantz - you could be stuck toiling at one of these gigs:

1) Check in clerk at the Hooters Hotel in Las Vegas. It was only a matter of time before Hooters put its big greasy, spicy thumbprint on the Vegas strip. The web site for the hotel says, "imagine yourself in a beach house, in the middle of the desert, having a party with the Hooters girls." Oooh, just the kind of people I want to hang out with. Hooters even has its own airline to transport its guests directly to Vegas - and on to the hotel. That's why I feel for the check in clerks. They are the first humans the arriving guests come in contact with after their long flight on HOOTERS AIR! I can only imagine the conversation.

GUEST: Hey doll face. You looking to party tonight? Just gimme a room key and keep one for yourself so you know where to find me. And hey babe, nice hooters!

HIS TRAVELING COMPANION: Uh Jim, why are you hitting on the bellboy?

2) Daytona Beach hotel maid during Spring Break

Eventually there is going to come a day when all hotel rooms become self service, meaning you'll have to clean your room yourself. If you want to leave the room with the bed unmade, towels all over the floor and the toilet unflushed, so be it. But you'll return to the identical scene six hours later.

I stay in about 100 hotels a year. And every time I see maids pushing huge towel-laden carts down the hall, I wonder what they were thinking when they applied for the job. Surely they can't enjoy cleaning up after people who become pigs just because they think they're entitled to. And I put myself in this category. At home I use one towel for four weeks. At the Marriott, I use four towels for one shower. If you're a maid, you're stuck in a vicious, never-ending cycle of back-breaking labor. Think about it - it's your first day on the job. You arrive at work and open the first door on your floor. You wipe the mirror, mop the tile, vacuum every inch of carpet, crawl under the bed until you find the TV remote, pick dental floss off the bathroom floor, wipe pubic hair from the sink (while wondering how it got there), replace the stolen shampoo and do it all in 20 minutes. Your back is pounding, bile in your throat is rising and you've probably been exposed to numerous diseases. But the room looks spotless! And your supervisor checks your work and says, "That was wonderful. Now go do it again 13 more times. And if you continue to perform at this level, we'll let you clean the Penthouse Suite."

See what I mean? Eventually even Third World immigrants will look at this profession and say, "Screw it. I'm going back to the Sudan."

However, if you want to be a maid, at least pick a cool hotel. Pick the Four Seasons where some fat cat businessman might leave a 100 dollar bill on the nightstand. Pick a honeymooner's paradise in Hawaii where the guests might not leave the room all day, enabling you to go home early. But DON'T pick anything in a Spring Break destination like Daytona, South Padre Island, Cancun, or any other location where college students (read THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY) go to get drunk, throw up off balconies, plummet from balconies and die.

I speak from experience on this one. I went to Daytona Beach on Spring Break during my freshman year at Northwestern. I vowed never to return yet found myself back there two years later. Each time six of us crammed into a hotel room referred to as a "double," meaning it would hold two comfortably. Four slept in the beds, and two on the floor, laying on the sand that we tracked in each evening. At least one of us was throwing up each night while the others tried to help with remedies like, "Dude, you gotta have something in your system. Have a Bud."

Eventually morning light came and we slithered out of the room and down to the beach, leaving the maid with a pile of filth and disease more suited for Abu Ghraib than a Florida hotel.

3) Lost luggage airport employee

What is customer training like at this job? Joe, welcome to the lost luggage department. It will be your job to stand behind this counter and try to locate luggage that has been misplaced somewhere in the world. Keep in mind that everybody who approaches you will be a...pissed off, b...late...and c...personally blaming you for their lost bags even though you are nothing more than a minimum-wage employee who we hired just because we couldn't find anybody else who wanted the job.

Seriously, do these employees ever encounter non-hostile people? Does anybody ever approach them, smile and say, "if it's not too much trouble, can you try and locate my bag? It's black, has a handle and contains the suit I plan to wear for my interview. Oh, it's on its way to Shanghai? Okay, just get it back to me at your earliest convenience. I'm sure my prospective boss will understand why I'll be presenting my resume wearing shorts and a "blow me" T-shirt.
I consider myself a fairly accomodating person but I have definitely given the lost luggage employees a piece of my mind on occasion. Since I don't have my piece of luggage, this is the best I can offer.

4) Bricklayer

Notice that this job doesn't come with any stipulations. I didn't say, "bricklayer in San Francisco during an earthquake" or "bricklayer in Iraq seconds before a missile strike." No, bricklayer is truly a shitty job even if you are a "bricklayer at Scarlett Johannson's home while she sunbathes naked."

There is a home being built next door to mine. It's one of those massive suburban structures known in realty circles as a "McMansion." I came across that term several weeks ago while reading the Sunday Chicago Tribune. The trend these days in the 'burbs" is to knock down a tiny home and replace it with a MONSTER home. A home where the garage is bigger than the whole house that preceded it. A home that requires help from Mapquest to get from the bedroom to the kitchen. I can't figure out this trend. When it comes to cell phones, we want one that is so small, it fits between our eyebrows but when it comes to living space, indeed we like our SPACE. And somehow we manage to fill it. Our current home is more than 1,000 square feet larger than our old home yet, within months, we had filled every square inch with "stuff," leading my wife to fret that we skimped on dimensions. The reason we have no room left over for other things (like a place to eat) is, like most women, my wife saves every personal possession she ever acquired. Nursery school drawings, Girl Scout projects, high school letters, you name it, it's somewhere in our house. Her wedding dress sits neatly folded in a large box on a basement shelf. She saves it so, according to her, our girls can wear it at their weddings. I question this logic. Since when do kids want to wear anything that belonged to their parents? I don't think I've ever said to my Dad, "Gee Dad, thanks for the argyle sweater. I think I will step outside now and get the crap kicked out of me."

Anyway, back to bricklaying. This is a profession with technology that has changed not one iota since the Middle Ages or whenever brick was first invented. Okay, maybe they used stone back then but the building process was the same: Cut one, slather on some mortar, stick it on, cut one, slather on some mortar, stick it on. Eventually, Westminster Abbey is completed!

Now fast forward 800 years. We can build a car using robotic arms, send documents around the world by clicking a mouse and prepare dinner in 45 seconds. But the guys outside my window are building a house by cutting a brick, slathering on some mortar, sticking it on, cutting another one... It's like trying to schedule jet landings at O'Hare using a sundial. I just hope bricklaying pays well. Maybe if these guys hustle, they can make upwards of 20 shillings.

5) World Cup soccer referee

Soccer fans in Europe and South America are, how should I put it, TRULY FRIGGING NUTS when it comes to cheering for their favorite team. So why would anybody want to be in a position that determines the outcome of these games? Let me tell you how crazy soccer fans are. I was in New York City in 1998 when the World Cup was played in the United States. I happened to walk into an Irish bar in Greenwich Village. The great thing about New York is that, unlike most cities, "Irish bar" doesn't mean they serve Guinness on tap and have a neon shamrock in the window. "Irish bar" in New York means every stool is occupied by an Irish citizen. Except during World Cup season when the ENTIRE BAR is occupied by Irish citizens, and all are rip roaring drunk.

When I walked in, the place was up for grabs to say the least. Everyone was wearing soccer uniforms. I thought the actual Irish World Cup team had stopped by to hoist a few. Irish songs were being sung. Of course, not everybody was singing the same song, but who cared? It was like Irish karaoke was breaking out all over the bar. Guys with full beers were running into each other while singing. I stood out like a doughnut at a diabetics convention. And since. like 99.9 percent of America, I didn't follow World Cup, I had no idea what they were celebrating although I had a good idea. Over the din I yelled to a half-drunk patron, "I guess Ireland won today?"

He replied, "No, Ireland didn't even play today. We just found out that Ireland made it to the next round."

I wondered what the bar would have been like if Ireland had actually COMPETED that day.

Yes, this was my entry into the passion of soccer. Now I imagined all those bar patrons turning their wrath on a referee who dared make a call against their team. I envisioned "pieces 'o ref" strewn up down a street. No thanks.

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