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The best unknown job you never wished you had

Monday, September 29, 2014

The hand-painted sign in Belmont read, “J Pemberton. Professional pot cleaner,” with cell number to call.

Hahaaaaaa! I bawled with laughter. That has got to be the wackiest job title ever.

Then I saw the sign again, in Woodbrook, which meant J Pemberton was serious about this pot-washing thing. That led me to do some research. Professional pot washing is not just a matter of detergent and a wire scrubber. Hotels and restaurants need to keep their pots and pans free of that baked-on grease and general ickiness.

Technology has given pot washers some help: there are rotating brushes with electric motors and recirculating soakers and electric heaters that get the water to the right temperature. But the experts say that hand washing is still the ideal way to get the job done.

On the other hand, the sign could have nothing to do with recirculating soakers but may have been a public complaint by an under-appreciated Woman of the House whose family never washes up after Sunday dinner and the signs were her way of shaming them for ruining her manicure.

Still, “professional pot cleaner” takes this week’s prize for the Best Unknown Job You Never Wished You Had.

It deposes the former winner which was “mattress tester,” a post held for 40 years by comic strip anti-hero Li’l Abner—the post required him to test the sleepability of mattresses in the Dogpatch mattress factory, which meant he slept all day. A tough job, because Li’l Abner probably tossed and turned all night, having snoozed all day, thereby disturbing his body’s circadian rhythms, which can lead to stress, irritability and baldness.

Before you frill up your nose at pot cleaners and mattress testers, you should know that wacko jobs can actually pay well.

Last week, I discovered I could make more than US$55,000 a year as a bingo manager or ice-cream tester. Abigail Gehring’s book Odd Jobs: how to have fun and make money in a bad economy is an insider’s guide to total work zaniness. Her father, who had a master’s degree, was known in their hometown in Vermont, USA, as the Hot Dog Man and spent his days behind his metal pushcart, in a supermarket parking lot. He made enough money to put his four children through college. 

Her book describes 100 unusual jobs that do not require sitting in an office and wearing a suit. The list includes embalmer, genetic counsellor (you tell families they could have a deformed child and what to do about it and you don’t need a medical degree, just be good at breaking bad news), human statue and—of course—personal shopper. 

I have sent her an e-mail explaining that she needs to add “opinionista” to her list.

Just the other day I came across a vacancy for Director of Know-How, a title which sounds like it belongs on the door of the Professor Dumbledore’s office at Hogwarts. The job sounded right up my alley too—calling for top-notch communication skills and the “ability to develop talent’’ at a big UK company.

Until I realised it was just a plain old marketing position, where I would “lead the Know-How Sales Team” and “develop the strategic Know-How Marketing Initiatives.” In other words, I was going to be just another drone, but with a corner office and longer title on my embossed business cards.

Jobs have become much more creative since people began posting resumes online. Instead of just being human resources specialists or motivational speakers, people now get to be wizards and gurus. One LinkedIn user introduces himself the Wizard of Lightbulb Moments, meaning he helps clients unlock new ideas. Another LinkedIn job-seeker called himself a “retail Jedi,” which, one supposes, means he is a heck of a salesman.

But all the jedis, ninjas, wizards, gurus and know-how bosses out there have to give props to our own Santana who has the best job ever. 

Santana, the most famous puppet since Kermit the Frog, goes to the US embassy (in the YouTube short by Roger Alexis) to get a visa and on the application form he describes himself as “Professional Bad Man.”

Not surprisingly, he didn’t get the visa. 

Send stories about your unusual job at [email protected]


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