Captain Obvious eavesdrops

by mayberry on March 11, 2010

As I flew home the other day, I was listening to the man across the aisle discussing his job with his seatmate. He was a pilot, one of eight who worked for some superrich, carefully unnamed Canadian oilman. He ferried the man and his business associates all over the world (“I’m still on Beijing time,” he said. “Once when we were in Switzerland,” he said). That night he was on his way to pick up a brand new plane for his boss. He’d give it a spin, kick the tires, and then fly it to Delaware or Kansas, whichever was more financially expedient, so his boss could complete the transaction.

I just sat there and thought Is this guy for real? People actually live this way? This is a job? I knew the answers were “maybe,” “yes,” and “most certainly,” but I still marveled.

Back when I used to read the New York Times wedding announcements religiously, my favorite part (except for spotting people I knew, including, once, an ex) was reading about people’s jobs. Tons of lawyers and doctors and Wall Street types, of course. But every once in awhile one of the JDs or MDs marries a dolphin trainer or a waste-water engineer or a professional BMX biker. And I’d remember there are a lot of ways to make a living (or at least a few bucks).

What’s the weirdest job you ever had, or heard of?


Nancy March 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Forgive the diversion from your question, but I love to read the NYT and other big paper wedding announcements where the descriptions of what the newlyweds’ parents’ jobs are can be bigger and more detailed than any text relating to the nuptials themselves. (“Buffy’s mother, Mrs. Frances Alva Withington-Meyers, retired last year as the chief administrative officer for Ferrets and Fashion, a charitable organization whose goal is to raise awareness of the tragedy of animal nakedness. Mrs. Withington-Meyers now looks forward to the prospect of raising her grandchildren when Buffy and Harold get busy after the honeymoon.”

(p.s., I’m sure there are some fascinating jobs here in DC, but I’m mostly familiar with those run-of-the-mill types: accountant, lawyer, etc.)

Jennifer (ponderosa) March 11, 2010 at 1:19 pm

On the chairlift the other day my seat-mate told me he designs/creates the recipes that become the pre-made, boxed food for sale at Trader Joe’s. I thought that was an awesome job. I also know a guy who guides people up mountains all over the world, which is cool/scary : )

MY job is TOTALLY BORING. (Not the parenting job but the one that pays my mortgage.)

Leslie March 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I sometimes develop recipes for brand-name cookbooks you’d never buy, and theme recipe magazines you’d never notice (think Smoothies, next to Reader’s Digest and about the same size). Silly, if not weird.
I look to The New Yorker for stories about fascinating and bizarre jobs that would never occur to me otherwise. That’s how I learned about perfume engineers and Alain Robert, that French guy who scales buildings. And, my favorite, the people who determine color palettes for paint companies (and, ultimately, our living rooms).

Lady M March 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

The weirdest jobs – avocado rustler. vs avocado tracker. In Southern California some year back, it was not unusual for farmers to discover that their avocado groves had been stripped overnight by thieves. The police had special agents that would find where they’d been sold. Apparently, you can tell they are stolen crops because they’ll still have leaves attached, or the size of avocado won’t be the same within the same box.

During high school, I’d console myself on tough days that maybe I could become an agricultural police agent!

Jen March 12, 2010 at 7:31 am

I always dreaded it when my parents would ask me about the occupations of guys I was dating. It was always something strange like “underground oil tank tester” or “pheasant butcher” but I think the weirdest one was “steel drum shiner”. He was a roadie for a steel drum band and it was his job to travel around with them and polish them up for each gig!

Gretchen March 12, 2010 at 10:05 am

Hmm… I pollenated corn for a couple summers. Perfect for a teenager: minimal work that ended with a great tan.

magpie March 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

i’ve led a boring life of non-weird jobs.

Bon March 12, 2010 at 4:56 pm

i was a nude artists’ model once, for a year around the end of college. not terribly weird, really. best thing i ever did for the eating disorder and attendant loathing that consumed me during that period. i learned to see that my lumpy bits, through others’ eyes, were not nearly so disgusting as i’d feared.

i also spent a summer making young Japanese girls cry at the Anne of Green Gables museum in PEI. there i was, dressed up as Diana in my puffed sleeves, breaking it to them that Anne was actually a literary character after they’d flown halfway ’round the world to see her. bummer.

Farmers Wife March 13, 2010 at 3:09 am

God I feel so boring now, I would love to be able to say “once, when I was in Switzerland…..”

patois March 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

I gots nada.

roo March 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s just so perfect I can’t resist bringing it up:

Once, when I was working backstage at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, I saw that one man had the enviable job of oiling the supermodels.

Love what you do, never work a day in your life.

Kimberly March 15, 2010 at 6:18 pm

My weirdest job was in a box factory. We made the boxes that greeting card sets go in (boxed Christmas cards, or those sets of all-occasion cards). We also made boxes for Tiffany’s, which was the cool part.

I know someone who works at one of those living historical farms. She spends her days in 19th century garb talking to people as if it is still the 19th century.