Ah, just another day outside of the Central Library: Beautiful maybe-sunny-maybe-rainy-probably-cloudy weather, roving gangs of Greenpeace canvassers hunting down unsuspecting pedestrians for their signature, the occasional person shouting obscenities at an imaginary friend/hands-free cell phone, and, of course, men in climbing gear rappelling down the glass on the side of the library.
These climbers are, as the downtown regular library-goers know, the building’s window washers. The washers clean the entire building twice a year and it takes the crew six weeks to finish washing the 9,994 windows. Coming as no surprise to anyone, the Central Library is considered to be unusually shaped by the window washing industry and requires a non-traditional style of cleaning. The cleaning crew, many of whom are rock and mountain climbers, use a system of ropes hooked to attachment points located throughout the outer steel web of the library to get around.
Curious about other atypical and unusual professions? Maybe looking to take on a truly odd job yourself? Hey, times are tough and work is work! Nancy Rica Schiff’s Odd Jobs: Portraits of Unusual Occupations gives a brief description of dozens of truly bizarre employment opportunities. Maybe an armpit sniffer (to test the effectiveness of deodorant, of course) is not what you wanted to be when you grew up, but somebody has to do it, right? A similarly named book, Odd Jobs: 101 Ways to Make an Extra Buck by Abigail R. Gehring, goes even farther by adding salary and required qualifications for becoming, say, a human statue or motivational dancer, which is useful information in these dark economic times. Also, if you ever wondered what the job market looked like a few millennia ago, check out Vicki León’s Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Possessions of the Ancient World.
For books about other people who hitchhike from one weird job to another, Ayun Holliday details her past jobs, such as a costume designer, department store mascot and a mime, in Job Hopper: The Checkered Career of a Down-market Dilettante, and Claudia Shear writes about her various jobs in Blown Sideways Through Life, including working as a whorehouse receptionist and a nude model. Other books about experiences in less-than-usual professions include Elliot Neal Hester’s Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant’s Tales of Sex, Rage, and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet and Alexa Albert’s research of the Nevada legalized prostitution industry in Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women.
If you are interested in something more, uh, morbid, there is Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI, which graphically details Dana Kollmann’s work as a crime scene investigator. Another non-fiction choice is Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, where Marcy Roach researches what exactly happens to bodies after people die and the people who work with them (the dead bodies). Television also has some bizarre jobs for a premise: Six Feet Under follows a fictional family of morticians and Dead Like Me follows a Seattleite named George who becomes employed as a grim reaper after her unexpected death.
Speaking of fiction, try out the novel Pest Control by Bill Fitzhugh, about a pest exterminator mistaken for a hit man, or The Exterminators graphic novel series (Bug Brothers is the first) by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore, also about exterminators who are facing off against violent, mutated bugs. For lighter, less gruesome fiction reads featuring some atypical professions, consider Julia London’s Wedding Survivor, about the organizers of an extreme wedding for a celebrity couple, or Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Kiss an Angel (only on audio CD), focusing on a woman whose father arranges for her to be married to the manager of a traveling circus.
If you’re looking for a job—odd, or not—check the Library’s online Job and Career Resources, or come in and talk with us. ~ Tim S.