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Someone's got to do it

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By John Pawlak

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread and the inhospitable climate of Antarctica would dissuade even the most foolish among us. With temperatures dipping to 50 degrees below zero and frigid winds chewing the landscape, the only sign of life you might expect is that of a colony of penguins.

Well, that and perhaps a German fluid dynamics research team studying the “rectal pressures necessary for penguins to project their poo over a distance of 40-52 cm.”

Researching the viscosity parameters and trajectory of expelled penguin poo? Exactly how does one apply for a job like that? Is this where they get the phrase that Ph.D.  stands for “piled higher and deeper?”

As the old saying goes, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it and yet these jobs and many others even stranger, do exist.

In Japan, subways employ “pushers” (called oshiya) — workers paid to shove people into the subway train cars. Pack ‘em in like sardines. In Iceland, people hire seers to detect elves. Lithuania debt collectors hire witches to help induce delinquent clients to pay more quickly.

We may live in the 21st century, but you can still hire a dowser to walk around your property with a forked stick to find water.

You can hire a “ghost researcher” who will help exorcise your haunted house. And of course, you can’t throw a Tarot card without hitting a palm reader in San Francisco. People even write books on how to tell “real” ones from “charlatans.”  Maybe someone asking for money to read your palm could be a clue?

Ever look at those occupations listed in movie credits? Assistant rigging gaffer’s best boy grip? Special effects consultant for conforming sound editor. Standby painter. Fiberglass technician. Dental prosthetics consultant.

What next? Coffee cup design concept engineer?

The food industry also has its share of culinary oddities. The foods in magazine advertisements look good enough to eat, don’t they?

Well, don’t try it! Somewhere out there, a “Food Prop Artist” uses white glue to simulate milk, glycerin to give foods a nice glaze, wood stains for that perfect barbeque look and lit cigarettes positioned behind the food to simulate steam.

Japanese restaurants hire piscivorous acupuncturists to “calm dying fish” so that the soon-to-be sushi relaxes and tastes better. Yes, I’ll have an order of tranquil tuna, some serene salmon and a mollified mackerel please.

The list of “legitimate” occupations that tax one’s imagination is endless. People paid to sniff underarms (testing deodorants). Chicken sexers (looking really close to determine the gender of chicks).

Child name consultants (someone who gets paid to help you name your kid). In Taiwan, people are hired to cry at funerals (you know, when no one who knew the guy is really sad about it).

According to breed standards, prize-winning Bulldogs must “convey an impression of determination, strength and activity.”  Watch the Bulldog handlers closely and you’ll see them tickling the dog’s scrotum. Yes, this apparently induces the desired expression on the face of the Bulldog. Someone out there gets paid to teach people how to do this. Now you know why they call them dog handlers.

But there are two occupations that I find highly particularly amusing (if not distressing at times). The first is weather prediction. When the weather reporter tells me “there’s a 50 percent chance of rain this evening,” my math brain starts hurting.

He is literally saying, “Will it rain tonight? Well, maybe it will, maybe it won’t.”  And he gets paid to say this? I really need to find a better job.

The second is politics. Essentially, politicians are paid to spend money. The job seems to entail deciding what to spend it on, but it’s never a question as to whether or not the money will be spent. It’s always spent.

Have you ever seen a politician not spend money? Now that’s a job I’d like to have. Get elected, spend money, then spend money to get reelected so that you can spend more money.  

I don’t know. Do you think that maybe if we paid them more, we could get them to spend less?