A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Jobs You Don't Want

Originally published: 10 September 2003

I was watching a show called Back To The Floor on Sunday night on SABC3 - it's a reality show of sorts which gets people at the top of their companies to come down to Earth and spend a week working at the lowest rung of their company.

Quite an interesting concept, although all it really achieves is that all the "workers on the floor" get to spend a week bitching about their problems to the poor CEO or manager, in an attempt to get him to do something about it.

The particular episode in question featured the head of a UK firm called Onyx, which has the contract to manage London's waste, and the head honcho spent a week going on the dustmen rounds, helping them collect the rubbish.

The geezers he was working with layed on the Cockney as heavy as they could and spent every spare moment bitching about their shit life as opposed to his great one - the poor fellow didn't have a chance.

But what really struck me about the programme was just how crap a job waste collection is, which in turn made me think of other crap jobs, and in and amongst all this I realised that there are a significant number of jobs - for varying reasons - that you really don't want to have.

With each crap job there is a necessity for it, which means someone has to do it. I trust you'll agree that the examples listed below are best avoided at all costs.

1. Military VIP Aide

The sort of poor bastard who somehow got himself made an aide to a military general, or a White House Chief of Staff, or some other very highly important action figure.

The reason this feller makes it to the top of my list is because he is the first person said VIP turns to in a tense situation and barks out: "Get me a secure line - now, goddamit!"

I don't know about you, but how the hell do you organise a secure line? If I was that aide I would try and appear calm and professional, but would be an ocean of panic beneath my seemingly professional demeanour.

I would hurry away busily - with purpose and intent - and as soon as I'm out the door would look around wildly to find someone who has the technical knowledge to organise a secure line.

With the future of the world hanging on my ability to sort out that goddamn line in 60 seconds flat, the only person I would find would be a fat, bored, gum-chewing secretary, who - without even looking up at me - would lazily pop her bubble, stare at her sticky fingers in disgust, suck the spittle-slick gum back into the slobbering, wet gash she calls a mouth, tap a pencil on the desk a few times as if to convince me she is really thinking about this one (even though it's patently clear she hates me more than life itself), and would emit the following gem on the end of a sigh laden with the burden of the horror that is her life:

"He's out to lunch. Come back in half an hour."

I always get that bitch and were I a VIP aide she would find her way into my life at just the wrong moment.

By now my beeper would be going off madly as the Situation Room staff impatiently tap their brogues on oak-panelled, officious floors, and the VIP is already seeking answers, and - where the hell do you start?

A horror job, I trust you'll agree. One needs to make a careful mental note never to allow oneself to be put in a situation where one is required to get someone a secure line in a hurry.

2. Highway Line-Painter

Never, ever apply for a job as a line-painter on highways - trust me. I used to make the trip by car from Pretoria to Cape Town once a year as a kid, which always involved driving through the Karoo in the heat of December.

If you don't know the Karoo - it's a big ol' desert in the midwest of South Africa, which you drive right through if you take the N1 national highway from North to South.

I've always loved the Karoo, with its odd collection of ancient towns like Matjiesfontein, Leeu-Gamka, Three Sisters and Beaufort West, but what always struck me most about this area of South Africa was that I would always be driving through it at midday, in the blazing December sun, and on any given long stretch of highway I would always see blokes painting lines, at a point roughly equidistant from the nearest town either way.


Nothing - nothing for miles. Not a tap, not a stitch of shelter - just those poor bastards toiling away on black tar in the noonday cruelty of Africa.

You know that nobody would be picking them up until nightfall and with nowhere to go, and a certain number of kilometres to paint, there is simply going to be no respite from the oppressive heat for those fellers.

If you really wanted to help even out the natural balance of things, give those guys the salary a dentist gets and vice-versa - then we'll be looking at a more fair apportioning of wealth.

3. Hairdresser

What - do you want to be the person responsible for buggering up some bird's hairstyle - the very one she was hoping to impress her society friends with that night?

Do you have any idea of the world of pain that is awaiting you should the colour not turn out right, the style of it be too bold, or some other irreversible procedure?

Let me tell you friend - chicks get Ugly, and real fast. You don't want to be messing with the way they look.

It's fine to cut blokes' hair if you really have a burning desire to do so - with blokes you can hack an oversize chunk out just above the ear, which reveals the white of the scalp beneath a thin layer of hair, and the oke will simply tell you not to worry - not in the slightest.

He just wants to get get the hell out of there as quickly as possible in order to avoid the chick who keeps asking him questions while the hairdryer is on.

But woe betide you should your scissors slip and you take a chunk out of a golden fleece belonging to some stressed-out kugel - you will never work in that city again. They have Connections, do chicks, and they will ensure that should you make it out of the country alive, you'll never have hope of ever returning.

You'll be sipping your cocktail on a secluded beach in the Bahamas and some waiter will walk up and hand you a tray containing an envelope. Upon opening it you will discover a lock of hair from the head you scarred with your incompetence and some masked assassin will slip out of nowhere and cut your throat from ear to ear, whispering obscenities about your mother into your ear as your soul screams its way down to hell.

Hairdressing is not to be taken lightly, folks - you would be well-advised to resist all career temptations in this direction.

That's it - I've done my bit to warn you of some of the pitfalls to expect when job-seeking, and what you need avoid, so if you end up in any one of these professions please don't come crying to me.

There are plenty of excellent jobs to apply for - lingerie designer, hardcore porn star, drug-tester, Wealthy European Playboy - the list is endless.

I'd advise you stick to those.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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