Everyone has a job in their past that never quite makes it onto their resume. That black mark on an otherwise spotless record. Most have felt the sting of a mother’s disappointment over one decision or another.
For the vast majority of us, it's an opportunity to move on to bigger and better things. We pick up the pieces and find something a little better suited to our needs. A new door opens and we close the old one behind us, shutting out whatever embarrassment lies behind it.
But some doors resist closing, and some black marks are so burnt-in that they cannot be covered up.
For an example, take a look at the average day of a television stunt tester. All those gross, dehumanizing stunts you see performed on television shows like Fear Factor have to be tested by professionals prior to airing. It can’t be that bad, you say. Contestants do them all the time, you say. And you’re right, but the purpose of the professional is to weed out stunts too extreme or dangerous for contestants to perform.
In 2011, a stuntman for Fear Factor jumped 6-stories and broke both of his ankles when he landed feet first. This is the reality of being a stunt tester. It’s less “beat out six contestants so I can pay the mortgage” and more “I hope I can still climb stairs after this” and “please, God, get the taste of donkey semen out of my mouth.”
So here we commend the dangerous and the gross, the strange and the humiliating. We take a moment to appreciate those industrious few who are willing to rise to challenges when the rest of us cannot. From understanding the true meaning of junked soup cans and Corn Flakes boxes, to chowing down on chicken by-product meal, we take a look at six jobs that your mother probably wouldn’t be proud of…
Garbology, the study of trash, was first practiced at the University of Arizona where it began as an idea for a class project. The field’s primary concern is the gathering and collating of information on the nature of modern garbage.
It’s easy to see why a garbologist might avoid topics of conversation pertaining to their occupation at dinner parties or while on blind dates. Spending a day at the office sifting through rancid diapers and waterlogged Kraft Macaroni & Cheese boxes isn’t something the average person can depict romantically, regardless of the valuable insights their research might produce.
Despite its lack of glamor, garbology has flourished since its debut in 1973. Present-day applications of the field include streamlining waste management protocols, corporate espionage, law enforcement, and developing sustainable recycling methods.
5 Gravity Research Test Subject
It might surprise you to learn that there are ways to earn money while on your back - without resorting to prostitution.
As part of NASA’s Bed Rest Project, test subjects are asked to continuously lie at a six degree tilt for months on end to approximate the effects of weightlessness experienced by astronauts. It sounds like the easiest job on planet Earth, except for the fact that remaining stationary for long periods causes your muscles to atrophy, your bone density to decrease, and your general fitness to decline.
But if you’re the type of person who likes to wheeze asthmatically at the slightest exertion or if you’ve ever seriously asked yourself whether bones are really necessary, you might consider giving NASA a ring. For the rest of us, those of us who like being able to put on both socks without taking a break in between, it’s probably better to leave weightlessness to the astronauts.
4 Sewage Worker
Easily a contender for the title of worst job ever, sewage workers for the Delhi Jal Board in India make just over $3 a day by submerging themselves — unprotected save a pair of briefs — into sewage tanks overflowing with rats, cockroaches and human waste. The tanks, built in unauthorized neighborhoods, are often too constricted to accommodate the amount of sewage that passes through them on a daily basis. As a result, the excess waste must be manually removed.
Disregarding the stench, which is a soft target as far as criticisms go, it’s hard to envision immersing yourself — from head to toe — in excrement while enjoying the protection of little more than a pair of Underoos. After a long day of work, there’s no option to throw a fresh shirt on before heading out to dinner. No, you’d be the guy who always shows up late and got hepatitis from chewing his fingernails.
3 Pet Food Tester
Everyone wants the best for their pets and, by extension, some companies will go to some pretty extreme lengths to ensure the quality of your pet’s food. Pet food testers assume a variety of responsibilities: affirming freshness, removing bones and gristle and, of course, tasting the final product.
As kids, at least once most of us stared down a plateful of vegetable while being told, “just try it, you’d like it if you tried it.” It is improbable that this advice holds up when applied to pet foods. But what if it does? Are you prepared to be the guy who cracks open a can of Fancy Feast at the neighborhood barbecue? Or the girl whose guilty pleasure is a filing cabinet drawer filled with Snausages?
While these nightmarish scenarios may scare away those casually interested in the profession, pet food tasters insist that by, “tasting the food ourselves I think it's a sound way of walking our own talk and helping to assure people we actually mean what we say about product integrity and quality.”
2 Human Billboard
How many bad tattoos have been kiboshed by unimpressed mothers across the globe? In a world where nearly every form of media is stained by advertising, it’s hardly surprising that admen have turned their eyes on the most precious canvas of all: skin.
In 2003, Jim Nelson was paid $7,000 by web hosting service CI Host to get its logo permanently tattooed on the back of his head. An even more extreme example occurred during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, when professional wrestler Eric Hartsburg sold space on his right temple to advertise for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
In terms of abject resignation, there’s hardly a more spiritually demeaning job than becoming a human billboard. To be forced to earn a living by having a company’s logo permanently etched onto your skin as much as says, “I’m not even qualified to flip burgers, it’s a wonder I even remember to breathe.”
1 Paper Towel Sniffer
In what must be the most oddly specific job title ever, “paper towel sniffers,” are employed by major consumer goods companies to ensure that their paper towels remain odorless before, during and after use. While it may be tough to jazz up on your resume, the job pays surprisingly well. Those who land a rare, coveted position can expect to earn between $19,000 and $52,000 per year, depending on their level of experience… whatever that means.
The major issue with being a paper towel sniffer is that it’s hardly glamorous, but is extremely, mind-bogglingly weird. Its one of those jobs that sounds like a poorly executed fictional excuse. Explaining your occupation to most people will likely result in either laughter or the silent assumption that you might as well have just told them you were a spy.