Photo: Overture Films
If you’ve ever been overlooked for a promotion, or stuck in traffic during your commute, you might think you have a terrible job. But the fact is that even if your job is terrible, and your boss or co-workers suck, you’ve probably got a pretty good thing going. We live in a pretty amazing world where you can make a living doing just about anything (I’m looking at you kids who are famous on YouTube). But that hasn’t always been the case. In the not too distant past people were forced into careers. And if you are forced into a career, it’s probably not the job you were seeking.
So, while your job may suck, just know that it’s not as terrible as the jobs listed below.
10 Terrible Jobs Throughout History
1.) Nightsoil Man
Before modern day plumbing, cesspools and privies had to be cleaned out from the days turds. Humans are disgusting, and having the ability to flush our waste away is a luxury that is taken for granted. Think about having to clean out a state fair porta-potty, but you have to do it by hand. That was the job of a nightsoil man.
2.) Biowaste Cook
This is a more modern job. I’m pretty sure they threw the word “cook” in there to church it up a bit. This lucky person is in charge of gathering all kinds of medical wastes, such as semen, blood, feces, teeth, limbs, and putting them into bags, and incinerating them. I enjoy tossing things in a fire as much as the next guy, but go ahead and count me out if I’m tossing arms and legs in there.
3.) Crime Scene Cleaner
This person probably works closely with a biowaste cook. But imagine having to enter the gory scene of a crime after the police are done with it and cleaning up after it. Where the hell do you even get started? The pay for this type of job isn’t terrible, but it would have to be to compensate for all the nightmares. Plus, a six-figure salary could probably buy you a surgery to get the smell of death out of your nose.
Speaking of crime scene cleaners and biowaste cooks, back in olden times there were people called resurrectionists. Now, it might sound like some kind of Holy job bestowed upon a priest or something, but it wasn’t. A resurrectionist’s job was to dig up dead bodies and sell them to doctors, or anatomists, or really anyone who would give them money for a corpse. This job combines the hard labor of digging giant holes in the earth with the disgustingness of pulling a rotting body out of that hole! But hey, we wouldn’t be where we are today medically without them, so… thanks?
These jobs get lumped together because they are both people who scavenged for valuables in undesirable places. A tosher would crawl around in sewers looking for anything of value that may have wound up down there. Mudlarks scavenged the banks of the Thames River. Both would have to wade through vile liquids in search of something they could sell. This makes people who go around collecting aluminum cans seem like white collar workers.
6.) Chimney Sweepers
The good thing about child labor is they work for cheap, the bad thing is it’s now illegal. Kids made the best chimney sweepers because they were tiny humans and could fit in tight spaces. But it was a shit job because they got paid next to nothing and had a great chance of not living very long.
7.) Hazmat Diver
These guys get to be covered from head to toe in a hazmat suit to dive into unspeakable filth to make repairs, retrieve something, or unclog something. The visibility is usually around zero, and one tiny rip in the suit will, at the very least, make you vomit, at the most, kill you. They are paid handsomely for their work, which is the only saving grace from jumping into a pool of shit.
8.) Snake Milker
While we’re on dangerous jobs, here’s one that still exists today. And no, a snake milker isn’t a cool new name for someone in the porn industry. Snakes have long been milked for their venom, which is then used to create antivenin to treat snake bites. I’m not sure how much they get paid, but it’s not enough. Also, how much to snake handling preachers make?
9.) Soap Maker
Tyler Durden made soap making great again in the film Fight Club, but it wasn’t always this way. Before all our machines and chemicals, soap was just made out of animal fat. And literally any animal would do. So if you see a dead horse on the side of the road, that’s a huge haul! Now you just have to boil the animal guts, skim off the fat and reboiling until you have tallow. Then reboiling that with lye and you’re in the money! But you can also go blind from the gasses. So good luck with that!
10.) Leech Gatherer
This job seems like it would be pretty simple, just hop in some fetid water and let leeches get on you. Then take those leeches off and BAM! Money in the bank. I’m sure the people who did this job had their own style, but that’s how I would have done it. Leeches were apparently needed for medical bloodletting, so someone had to get the leeches. I’m still not sure why doctors thought taking blood out of someone would make them healthier, but medicine also thought smoking had its benefits, so what do I know.