The most insane job I have ever heard of was explained to me on the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and it is this: When they built the bridge, they used many many rivets to hold the beams together. However some really big beams extended out over the middle of the bridge into a nice wide open space with essentially no other supporting structure. For the rivets that needed to go in the stuff along the sides of the bridge the rivet machines could just be hauled along to where the rivets needed to go, the rivets would be dropped super hot out of the machines and right into the appropriate holes. But for the middle part, there was nowhere to put the machine. So it was the job of one man to go out and stand in the middle on top of unfinished beams with a bucket, and have red-hot rivets tossed to him from the machine operators at the side. He had to catch the rivets in the bucket, and then drop them into the appropriate place.
Now that’s a skill. Not exactly useful in modern times admittedly (at least I think we do not still use rivet-catchers when we build bridges). But imagine being able to tell someone that your job is to stand a mile above the ground and catch flying pieces of red-hot steel. That is a category of hardcore you just can’t fucking argue with.
I’ve come across lots of obscure jobs. Yesterday I met someone who earned a living by making and selling humane snake traps on the internet. I have met people who drive hearses for pet cemeteries, teach amateur taxidermy, or design spoons. But though these are frankly quite odd they are all real explainable jobs. I’ve heard it said that if you can’t explain your job to a 5 year old its not a real job, but I didn’t even need that rule of thumb to categorise mine. I had one of those jobs that wouldn’t exist if the world wasn’t so complicated. It wasn’t quite in the same ludicrous corporate cliched category as life coach or middle manager, or as frivolous and first world as snowboarding instructor or the guy who drives the parasailing boat. But I’m pretty sure I’d be on the B Ark*.
Or to put it another way, on post-apocalyptic earth my profession is about as useful as a chocolate kettle. As someone who likes to be at least mentally prepared for post-apocalyptic earth this has always been vaguely troubling. So at least part of the reason I am learning to be a welder is the attraction to general potential usefulness. If I can’t actually make a living from a job explainable to a 5 year old I should probably have some skills that are relevant to one. Or maybe I just want to know that its possible. That maybe I really could run away and learn to make swords for a living, or build bridges. That the fact that I might spend my whole life making money from something I can’t explain without 45 minutes and a whiteboard is somehow ok, because I could stop anytime I want to, really I swear.
Right now I think it is enough to have the choice. But I am not sure I can keep thinking that forever. The temptation to scrap my silly life and start again is definitely there. I’m not sure I’d even lose anything.
*Obscure statement explained in the first paragraph of this