So I still want to be a rockstar/astronaut when I grow up...
October 16, 2009 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious to know about the people out there with fun, interesting, unusual, or quirky jobs. All lines of work considered, as long as it's fun/something you feel excited about doing most days and/or something my high school guidance counselor wouldn't have known about.

For example, there's some guys I know who drive around the country, buy up old antique radio and broadcasting gear, and resell overseas. They broker other equipment as well, and they are always on the chase. They're like treasure hunters. It's an unusual job, and it's stressful, but pretty fun at times, and probably something you wouldn't find in the help wanted section. Of course, driving around the country buying people's old crap isn't everyone's idea of fun, so it's all relative. I was brought up with the idea that work should feel like work, but as I'm gettting older, I realize that's BS, work can feel fun and exciting, if not all the time, then some of the time. I'm not as much looking for specific things I should do with my life (although, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open), as just interested in what unusual jobs are out there that people are doing. Or usual jobs that people find fun, just because. (I define fun as other people might describe passion, like you get into the flow, you feel uplifted, you really like doing a lot of the time. You're hooked.)

Bonus points for how you found your job and what you did to get where you are.
posted by Rocket26 to Work & Money (39 answers total) 94 users marked this as a favorite
 
I built car washes for a couple years. Service and repair, too. Lots of mechanic work, hoses, aesthetics, experiment (what washes, what dries the best for this location?) It was a blast. The guy I worked for was an ass, and I got screwed by only being paid as an "independent contractor", but the actual work was fun. One of the other installers and I still get together over beers and reminisce about the time the forklift fell in the substandard concrete, or the wiring diagram that was backwards, or...

I got the job because the boss had a warehouse of parts underneath a buddy of mine's apartment.
posted by notsnot at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2009


I don't know if this is really all that quirky, but my job is to fire magnetic pulses into people's skulls, figure out where their brain is particularly active based on the level of oxygen in the blood at any given spot, and then try to tease out what this means for how kids develop different sorts of social cognition.

I love it every day. Some days, it can be a grind, but the thrill of scientific discovery is a high like no other. Like all jobs, there's a lot of crap that goes along with it, but I get to work with cool intelligent people, get to work with kids, and get to stare at brains a lot.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I make stained glass windows. Most of the time I love this work more than anything I've ever done. Work has been slow the last couple of weeks, but I was at the shop full time, off the clock, while the owner was out of town. He didn't ask me to do this, I wanted to, because I care about the place.

I started by taking a class. Did a couple of projects for family. One day I ran into the owner, we talked, etc. For the first few months, I hated it, I hated him, but I kept at it. At some point, I realized that he was making me a different person, and I wanted to be that person. This has been a very traditional apprenticeship in many ways. So I'm recently over the mythical 10,000 hour point of mastery - maybe 12,000 now - and it just keeps getting better.

I get to make beautiful things. I get to be good at something. I get respect and admiration for my craftsmanship. This is unbelievably valuable.
posted by yesster at 8:11 AM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


I manage a department of outsource document digitizers. A bank, or county, or funeral home, or somebody else - anyone with a record-heavy process - might buy scanners from us to do their new work, but they don't have the manpower to do their 100-years-plus of past records. So, as an added service, we digitize their old records for them, so at any time we might have a variety of interesting projects going on. It's "fun" in the sense that it appeals greatly to people who enjoy history and old paper. Student records from the 50s with their old class photos stapled inside, bank files with stock certificates from long-dead corporations, 24"x36" aerial photos from highway departments, hand-drawn maps from the establishment of new towns, boxes and boxes of death certificates. On a regular basis, my employees also suddenly yell out funny names - so far today, we've had a "Batman" - or bring me something they don't know what to do with, a genuine 1870s homestead deed on vellum or a passport for instance. The cool stuff, however, is interspersed with mind-numbing repetitive data entry tasks, so it has its ups and downs. I got the job because I have a mish-mosh of programming and image processing skills, along with having worked in a bank's mortgage department and an insurance company in the past, which covers the majority of documents we see here. I'd say the job puts most of its weight on the "quirky", a little in the "unusual" and "interesting", and sporatically in the "fun" categories.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:13 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


At one point, a guy I knew in college (and for a few years afterward) managed to somehow pursue two of his passions into careers; he had studied stage combat choreography in college and proved to be a genius at it, so he had a lot of work performing it, choreographing fights for shows, teaching combat, etc. But he also liked working on puzzles, and at one point met a guy who ran those cornfield mazes -- and one thing led to another and he started designing the patterns for the mazes that they did, to the point where he was regularly flying out to various cornfields a couple times a week each spring surveying the planting of the corn, and then again a couple times a week each fall to survey them mowing the final design into the field.

A local newspaper did a feature article about his having "the two quirkest jobs ever". I think the picture featured him standing in the middle of a cornfield with a broadsword in his hand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, you guys are actually inspiring me. I love this.
posted by Rocket26 at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2009


I was talking to a friend yesterday, who has just joined a very "media" London club.

Anyways, last week he got talking at the bar to a mid-twenties female accountant* for a very big talent agency. She proceeded to tell my friend that the weekend before, she'd been at a party dressed in only her knickers and a pair of suspenders.

The party was the final day of a three day bender, during which the accountant had not been home, nor changed her clothes. Some dude at the party ended up buying her knickers for £150, at which point she was just left in her suspenders.

So, if you want to know what the quirky end of the accountancy business looks like, I guess it is working for a talent agency.

*He swears blind she was an accountant.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2009


I work as an adapted aquatics instructor, mostly with kids. "Adapted Aquatics" refers to teaching water skills (swimming, diving, water safety, etc.) to people with disabilities. I work in a program that is open to the broader community (priority goes to kwd and their siblings), so I get a wide range of swimmers. It can be *really* challenging sometimes ("Here is a 3-year-old with Down Syndrome and Autism - he's non-verbal - he's never been in the water before - teach him to swim!"), but is mostly very very rewarding - and it's awesome to be able to exercise my creativity pretty much every day (i.e. figuring out ways to work with different disabilities that affect mobility/motor control to enable the kids to swim independently). If I have days when I feel like I need to drag myself into work, it's usually about my own tiredness level, or workplace politics-type stuff - never the work itself.

I got into the work because I had been in aquatics for a long time (more on the lifeguarding/training lifeguards side of thing, though), and when I got out of that, I wanted to find something that would be more challenging than the run-of-the-mill rec programs (not that there's anything wrong with those - I learned to swim/did my qualifications thanks to my local P&R programming). I *never* would have guessed in high school that I would turn out to love working with kids with disabilities - or that I would teach in a P.E.-type area (I was truly awful in gym class). And the work has prompted me to start a diploma program in occ therapist/physiotherapist assisting - I'm hoping to keep working with kids, and apply what I do in a broader range of settings.
posted by purlgurly at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2009


I met a guy once who was a mountain guide in the summer and in the winter he did avalanche control at a ski resort in Utah. He got to light dynamite and fire howitzers to set off avalanches. How cool is that? I think he made about $7.00 a month but he got discount gear and loved his job.

He was also on Mt. Everest when they found Mallory's body, but I don't think he got paid for that.
posted by bondcliff at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2009


I have a friend that runs a community outreach program for new immigrants. Basically she gets paid to go to the zoo, go hiking, kayaking, sledding, skating, with people (and lots of kids) that have never had the chance to do that sort of thing.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2009


Lots of interesting stories on here: IAmA subreddit.
posted by o0dano0o at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


My life as an air traffic controller is something I've always looked back on with wonder... I couldn't wait to get to work, couldn't wait to get on position and start working aircraft. It's not glamorous or really quirky, but it was something I was good at and loved doing - THAT'S the secret of a good job.

I ended up an air traffic controller because I joined the Navy to be a rescue swimmer. They told me I couldn't do that because of the pins in my knee, so when they asked me what I wanted to do instead I swirled my finger around the list and let it drop - just to see where my finger would end up. Next thing I knew I was off to ATC school. I just stumbled into it literally not knowing what I was doing, but ended up top of the class. I think my passion found me, not the other way around...
posted by matty at 8:59 AM on October 16, 2009


I teach figure skating to beginners. Spent most of my life sitting in a cubicle writing grants (well, I still do that too), but got the figure skating bug in my late thirties. Started going to coaching seminars, got accredited by the national coaches' federation, and now I teach little kids how to skate every afternoon. I put it here because although I never thought of it as quirky, the most common reaction when I tell people what I do, is "you're kidding!" So I guess it's an unusual job to have. (I never skated as a child.)
posted by nax at 9:01 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I design pervasive games and curate a monthly event for artists and designers to try out their own pervasive game ideas. (Pervasive games are a bit tricky to define, but they take place in the real world and often involve theatre or running around or fiction or art or music or, well, pretty much anything interesting really. Treasure hunts and scavenger hunts are both well-known types of pervasive games, as are those games where you use GPS on a phone to chase people around, though I haven't had very much to do with those particular subgenres.)

Some things I have done so far this week that were a totally legitimate part of my job: I got involved by playing Journey to the End of the Night at the 2007 Hide&Seek Festival, a sort-of city-sized game of Red Rover originally designed by SF0. It was pretty amazing - I was newish to London at the time, and spending four or five hours trying to make my way across the city, paranoid at every corner, chasers lurking at bus-stop after bus-stop, was an astonishing way to get to know it better. The chasers were wearing red, and for a couple of weeks afterwards I was nervous every time I saw someone in red moving in the corner of my eye.

So I wrote to the organisers and said "hello, that was great! I play games a lot and my thesis is sorta kinda relevant to this stuff so is there, um, anything I can help with?". There was; I helped out with bits of game design and story design, and then did it some more, and then some more. And then once I'd done it a few times I figured I could legitimately call myself a freelance game designer, so I started doing that. Every now and then, it turned out, telling people that that's what I was would lead to more work, either designing my own stuff or helping other people out with theirs.

For the first year or so of this, I had a boring admin job as well in order to actually, you know, eat; but for the last eighteen months, it's just been games and more games. It's consistently astonishing to me that this is possible. I love it.
posted by severalbees at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2009 [25 favorites]


I work in museums developing and delivering programming for different audiences. This basically means looking at what's on display - whether it be tall ships, historic houses, tools, textiles, fine art, or whatever -, grasping the main ideas, imagining the possible tangents and angles that stretch out from that, and then trying to create fun, educational experiences for people to come and take part in as a way of interacting at a deeper level with the museum and the collection. I've worked doing programming for all kinds of audiences, beginning with school groups, families, and the public, and today I direct specifically adult programs aimed at adult recreational learners, professionals like teachers and real-estate agents, people with Alzheimer's or disabilities, museum donors, hobbyists and explorer types.

I love the work because I'm always learning something, from 18th century food preservation to painting conservation to knot tying to sea chanteys to whatever the museum might teach, and because it is constantly varying with changes in season, exhibition calendar, projects and initiatives, and the academic year. My training for this work was basically thinking I was going to become a primary grades teacher, and studying a lot of learning theory in college along with an interdisciplinary major, and then working my way up the ladder through a real variety of museum education programs positions, complemented by internships, coursework, seminars, and professional development experiences.
posted by Miko at 9:47 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Legalizing drugs and changing the laws to get people out of prison.

Seriously, I work for a non-profit advocacy group on drug policy issues. It took me two graduate degrees and twenty years of public health work to get here, but I love my job and love where I work. I started out as an activist, working on things that were important to me and to my community, went back to grad school to get more skills, and I've worked for non-profits and local government. So yeah, ending marijuana prohibition is part of what I work on now. Not easy, by any stretch, but fun--hell yes. Even for a non-pot smoker like myself.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:48 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't have a job, I have several. I used to work at a newspaper but I gave up that job about five years ago and since then have been freelancing.

During the growing season, I work for an orchard in Michigan that sells at farmers markets in Chicago. That keeps me going back and forth between the farm and the city, and has me running our stand at the markets.

I completely fell into the job. I was helping out a friend who was working at another farm's stand when my now-boss came around asking if anyone was looking for work. I was at the time, because the one editing gig I had was eating away at my sanity and soul. (I was proofing Sears ads on the second shift.)

So I went to work for the farm, while keeping a bit of editing and writing going on the side. Now, I'm juggling the farm job with a temporary gig as a copy editor at a newspaper. Work for the farm is tapering off for the season, so I'll be spending more time on editing and writing now — economy permitting.
posted by veggieboy at 9:49 AM on October 16, 2009


My special someone dropped out of the corporate rat race several years ago to start an unusual dual career. One of her two businesses is garden design, like landscape design only it's purely residential and while she'll do the installation, she doesn't do the maintenance. The other is respite care and life skills training for disabled or differently-abled youth and adults.

One day she might spend the day jumping on a trampoline, watching Sesame Street, and working on interpersonal interaction with an autistic teenager, another she might spend taking a young adult with Down's and OCD to a local festival, and another she might be covered in mud from head to toe from terracing a backyard and planting creepers and bulbs. She sets her own schedule and gets to decide which clients to work with and which to walk away from, for both jobs.
posted by notashroom at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2009


I love all my jobs pretty much.

- I help run MetaFilter which is, to a large degree, customer service stuff, keeping a cool head and getting to watch people ask and answer questions which warms my librarian heart
- I lifeguard at the local pool; it's warm there
- I do some low-level IT for a local vocational high school. They have a contract witha tech company and I'm the intermediary between "My Yahoo is broken" and "Let's pay $100/hour to get the tech guys to insult us before the fix the problem"
- I also work doing what I call "teaching email to old people" which is another way of saying I maintain and hang out in an open lab at this same school two afternoons a week (and yes, get paid for it) and people can come in and work on either their computers or ours and do their thing but they'll have someone nearby to ask questions of if something goes kablooey. This job is all sorts of fun. I can walk to it, which is great, I love the vocational school generally. Most of my "students" range from 55-85 years old and have very little tech experience, don't have broadband at home, don't know much about computers. They're often interesting people in the community so it's help me get to know people everywhere. They've all got fascinating stories and the combination of low-stress computer use/help and just jawing with neat people makes every day a joy doing this. Something about the older crowd too is great. They have very little ego wrapped up in using technology so there's not much hand-holding (which I am not good at) and a lot of "okay let's try this" experimentation. I used to also teach classes at night but that was more work, less fun and stressed me out for the same amont of time.
- I travel and give talks at library conferences about "how we do it here" and rural technology stuff and "web 2.0" technologies. A lot of small town librarians don't get a lot in teh way of professional development and so going and telling them about things that might make their jobs easier is a good time. The library associations pay my way to these things, so I get to travel a LOT on someone else's dime. To give you an idea of what I talk about and how often, you can see a list here.
- My least favorite job is actually working at the library. I'm helping them automate their catalog from a card catalog to an open source online catalog and it's a terrible slog.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I work as a research scientist studying brain-related diseases (Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury, addiction, etc). This in itself is not that unusual. However, sometimes the job involves doing things that, out of context, are just plain weird.

For example, one of our behavioral tests involves dropping mice into a pool with a platform hidden somewhere just beneath the surface. They have to swim around and find the platform, then remember where it is for subsequent tests. A camera tracks their movements. But the camera can't pick them up unless the mice are dark in comparison to the water. So when we run this test on white-colored mice, we first have to color their fur with a Sharpie.

So, yes, part of my job involves coloring mice with a Sharpie. And let me tell you, they hate this.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:08 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Possibly not as unusual as some of the other commenters here, but I still have to add:

I love being an ESL teacher overseas, specifically the developing world. I originally got into it kind of by accident, another job offer fell through, and I applied to a job in West Africa on a whim, but it looks like this is where life will be taking me for awhile. While it's not a high paying job by Western standards, I certainly make enough money to live comfortably locally, as well as keep a safety net in savings.

The most rewarding part of it for me, is when I'm able to teach students who aren't aiming for their Hollywood dream. Sure, some students just want to learn English because they want to "escape", and climb the corporate ladder in the West, but there are some who really want to make a difference. I'll never forget the one teenager (maybe early 20's?) in Guinea, who was desperately trying to learn English, so that he could go to medical school in the West, and come back and help his country. Come back. That's the key. With the next contract that I'm most likely taking, I'll have the chance to teach government officials in a newly autonomous region.

Plus, it also has the perks of being able to, say, live in a different country every year for the rest of your life. :)

[Teaching] degree and/or experience often not required, but you better be sure as hell you know what you're doing, and can more than pull it off; your students deserve more than to have to learn from your mistakes.
posted by hasna at 11:20 AM on October 16, 2009


I knew a guy who taught drug harm reduction classes around the country. Basically, his organization had the viewpoint that people are going to do drugs, so it might not hurt to educate them about the drugs, their side effects, harms, dangers, but also tell the good things, so that you're believable. Offer tests to see if street drugs are what they say they are, so that people don't eat rat poison that an unethical dealer may have sold them.

That said, this dude got to travel, lecture, and hangout with people who were just happy he was there. He got to live like a rockstar. It's been a decade since I ran into the guy, and your post both brought him to mind, and made me wonder where he's found his way to today.
posted by talldean at 11:26 AM on October 16, 2009


The best and most rewarding job that I have ever had was a decade ago when I was in my twenties and I worked as a rock climbing guide/instructor during the summers. I lived out of my truck and camped on forest service land, not uncommon in the summer for the seasonal working population of mountain towns in Colorado. I got up every morning, drove to where I could get cell service and called into my employer to see if I had any clients lined up for the day -- if I did I would meet them at the shop and take them climbing for the day of half day. If I didn't I would mostly go climbing or hiking myself.

Most of my clients were families or couples visiting from flatter states who just wanted to try climbing and spend a day in the mountains. Some had been climbing before and wanted to improve their skills and try something more challenging. Most of the time the clients were climbing 30 or 40 feet at a time. Sometimes I took clients hundreds of feet up a rock. Everyone was generally in a great mood, we were playing out in the sunshine, and mostly doing things that most people don't get to do.

My office was the rocks around Estes Park, Colorado which just can't be beat. My colleagues were other dirt bag climbers (a term I use affectionately). We would have a beer in the evenings and talk about our funny or awesome clients. Great times. (I'd still be doing it if there was a way to make a living wage and get health insurance).
posted by fieldtrip at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2009


I have a friend who interviews people claiming refugee status to evaluate the legitimacy of their need for asylum in Canada. He's got some fascinating stories. Super nice guy too--I bet he's really good at his job.
posted by Go Banana at 11:59 AM on October 16, 2009


The oddest job I ever had was reading court transcripts at a court reporting school. I had to speak the words at a specific pace. I have no idea why they didn't just use tapes for this. I wasn't very good at the job either, but I imagine someone going into voice work might have been good at and enjoyed the job.

My grandpa used to be a curator of the reptile house at a zoo. He would get to go on safaris to collect new reptiles for the collection.

My grandpa's friend used to broker the sale of animals to zoos. It wasn't unusual for him to have animals like baby lions at his house before they were transferred to the zoo. Of course, this was 50 years ago when animals weren't as protected as they are now.
posted by parakeetdog at 12:47 PM on October 16, 2009


I'm a freelance marketing copywriter, and some of the stuff that comes my way is fascinating. Clients have included a local pedicab startup, an all-woman bodybuilding team, various arts organizations, and a bunch of software companies that do neat stuff.

I'm also co-founder of a neo-burlesque troupe that is decidedly NOT all about the sexy ladies, but rather is focused on comedy and commentary on popular culture. My colleagues are my best friends and incredible collaborators. I just wish there was more money in it.

Recently, I also started teaching lyra (aerial hoop), in addition to performing at events. It's pretty good money and - better yet - it's inspiring. My students overcome fears and physical limitations, and end up learning something fun that actually transforms their bodies.

Lastly, my partner and I work together in a photography business catering to women. It's pinup photography, but not the sort that requires the client to look like a Vargas model or a rockabilly girl. Seeing clients embracing their bodies and their sexuality is invigorating. And I get to work with my husband...

I'm not making much money, but damn, I love what I do.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 2:28 PM on October 16, 2009


Oh, and I had a friend who spent some time as a plant in strip clubs. His job was to knock out misbehaving patrons. Like, seriously: knock them out with a single punch and take off. That's the job that inspires me.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I make cremation urns for pets. I get to be an artist for a living, counsel people through grief, make my own work "policies" because I have fun making them up, and I get to hear lovely, heartwarming stories from people who are filled with love. Awesome.
posted by Vaike at 6:49 PM on October 16, 2009


This may not be quirky or unusual, but I think it's fun and interesting (otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it), but I managed to parlay my first career as a journalist/reporter and my subsequent career as a web developer into a mix of both.

Earlier this year, I got hired as a web developer for a daily newspaper. For me, it's been a perfect marriage. And especially odd, given that my days as a reporter ended in the nascent days of the web.
posted by jrchaplin at 9:20 AM on October 17, 2009


definitely not as exciting as some of these others, and i'm poor as dirt, but i split my time as a dogwalker and a freelance writer. i get to be at home, have complete freedom over my schedule, and walking other people's dogs is a blast, especially those that don't get enough love from their owners. makes me feel like i'm doing at least a little bit of good. (and, i abandoned the corporate world, where i was making a lot of money, to do this)
posted by unlucky.lisp at 11:54 AM on October 17, 2009


My brother used to service the machines that make fresh hamburger patties. Wendy's would be the most well-known since all the other fast-food joints use frozen patties. Unsure as to how he got the job.

I headed the Grand Lodge for the Masons for awhile which is ironic since I'm a woman and it's a men's only organization. I got the job through the local newspaper.
posted by VC Drake at 1:05 PM on October 17, 2009


I'm a scholar of 20th century Japan, but I'm an expert on prostitution. I spend time on typical history sources, but I also spend time on websites and magazines for johns (English and Japanese) and sex workers (Japanese only). Vile though many of their descriptions might be, johns give you a great perspective about the industry, as do sites and magazines where workers to vent about work-related problems and customers. Who would have guessed prostitution magazines come with coupons! Or the need for glossaries in recruiting magazines to break down the nomenclature for new hires. How fortunate that one of my many odd little interests became a career.

Students' eyes pop out when I announce my research interest at the beginning of the semester. US college kids think about sex, but they don't think about sex as work and what it means in a broader institutional sense.

I also look at prostitution and the US military. I recently learned that promiscuity was the original impetus for the USO, for instance! The faces of old veterans light up when given an opening to talk about their experiences in the 1940s and 1950s. So many of them vividly remember "friends" or "friends of friends" who had wacky encounters with women and gangsters in Japan. What fun research, in spite of its grim dimensions.
posted by vincele at 3:52 AM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just found out that I'm losing my job on December 1, and have been contemplating jumping into something totally unrelated. This is incredibly inspiring. Thanks to OP and respondents alike.
posted by McBearclaw at 3:29 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I worked for a whale watching company for a while. Everybody loved their jobs there. The captain, deckhands and biologist spent the days watching whales and on the open ocean, I got to talk to tourists and tell them about the fascinating creatures in the Monterey Bay.

I've worked at a couple farms, too. Farmers love their land and their crop, and fellow workers found the work to be stress-free and fun. It's enjoyable work.

Most of my quirky jobs (I've had many!) have been found via Craigslist or by being in the right place at the right time.
posted by bubsy012 at 9:58 PM on October 18, 2009


I forgot to talk about my favorite job ever. Better than MetaFilter. I was a caretaker for an Odd Fellows Hall in Seattle [not Capitol Hill, but in Ballard] for a few years. The job came with a caretaker's apartment underneath the hall where I lived, rent free, in Seattle in the late nineties. I wrote up a little blurb about it back when I had a vox blog
I lived in the Odd Fellows Hall, on Market Street in Ballard (Seattle) for almost three years, rent free, in a weird basement apartment. It wasn't just a place to live, it was my job. I was the caretaker. Now, having free rent (no bills, not even phone) and a small salary in the 90's in Seattle was sort of awesome, but not as awesome as having costumes in the basement, or something that looked like a real-life skeleton, in a coffin!

I would mop the floor and clean the bathrooms and keep the schedule and open the doors for groups with names like the Loyal Order of the Golden North and the Daughters of Pocohontas. Because the other Odd Fellows Hall was in Capitol Hill, the gayer part of the city, somehow we got a few alternative groups there such as Girth and Mirth (chubbies and chubby chasers) and the Northwest Bears. All these people were, to a fault, nice and interesting and totally different from me.

The apartment was a railroad apartment where only the kitchen on the end has windows that faced the outside. Two more rooms had windows that faced a narrow hallway and one room had just a door with a mysterious ice cream type window and no other windows at all. I moved in their with my then-husband and moved out on my own a few years later. I don't think he ever loved the place as much as I did. Once he moved out, I slept on the couch for a while, and later moved the bed into the living room where it was like perpetual twilight.

Since I was the caretaker, I could also rent the place for free, and so we, and then later I, would have big parties almost monthly. Called the Rent is Theft series, the big feature was the open mike night we'd call Odd Stock. People could do whatever they wanted on stage as long as it was seven minutes or less. The last time I heard from my ex he was emailing me to say that he's still in Seattle and was having another open mike night and I was invited to come if I was in the area.

Now I live in a town with about 15 times as many people as would come to my biggest parties then. A big party here is getting a few couples together for a BBQ. I still put the job on my resume if I'm looking at doing something involving scheduling or maintenance or living in a hidden hobbit hole in the middle of the big city for free free free. Now I live in a creaky Victorian house in my small town, for free, and wonder if things have changed much after all.
posted by jessamyn at 7:19 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think my favorite job I've ever had was at the airport, working ops. It was in high school/college, the pay and hours stank, but I was around something I loved all day and it sure as hell beat busing tables. I did a little bit of everything - retail work, fueling planes, towing planes, running errands, dealing with tenants and renters. There are always stories to tell from that job, like the time the whole area flooded and I was the only one that made it in to work and had to handle the dozen or so news helicopters that used us as a staging area. Or flying up to New York to pick up the airport owner's personal pilot for his Citation. Staying late in to the night because one of the tenants demanded fuel for his plane at some ungodly hour. Fun times.

The real diehards, though, were the flight instructors. If you want a job that is only worth it for the passion, there you go - low (and irregular) pay, awful hours, dealing with it all so that you build enough time to become an airline pilot. One of our instructors was making good money doing computer work for Bloomberg before he quit and starting teaching with us full time.

As an engineer, I worked on jet engines for awhile. The company itself sucked, but at least I got to tell people that it was, in fact, rocket science (essentially).
posted by backseatpilot at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2009


An answer from a friend of mine:
I don't have (or want) a mefi account, but if you think it fits, maybe you could paste this:

ICT4D - IT work in development has taken me to cities, towns and villages in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, East Timor and Vanuatu (where I now live). I'll be off to South Africa in a little over a month, and expect to spend Christmas on Pentecost island. (Heh, see what I did there?)

I have faced crazy demands in the past (Windows activation from a place with no networks and no telephones? Keeping the minutes for a week-long meeting in a town with no power?) I've had malaria and been hospitalised with kidney stones from dehydration. I've shared the room with rats, roaches, fire ants and geckoes. I've slept on cement and eaten more cold rice than I ever thought possible.

But I've also had breakfast in the clouds, been to the brink of volcanoes, rambled in rain forest and snorkeled in coral reefs so often that it's run-of-the-mill, dined with Ministers of state... and helped make people's lives a little more liveable.

The work is engaging, challenging and stretches one's creativity to the limit, trying to figure out how to mesh Internet technologies with cultures largely unchanged in the last 3000 years. It pays a tiny fraction of what I used to make, but the rewards are infinitely greater.
posted by mendel at 6:46 AM on October 20, 2009


I'm thinking about putting together a zine based on some of these responses! If anyone is interested, please feel free to email me at redlineblues@gmail.com, or if I could email/mefi mail you that would be fab.
posted by Rocket26 at 1:01 PM on October 21, 2009


Yay quirky jobs!

I am an emerging performer, mainly in burlesque, circus, and improv, though I love to perform any sort of thing really. I've only been doing it this past year - I did do some minor school-related performances, but only really got into it this year once uni was over. I went from having hardly any experience whatsoever to being the vagina-loving dominatrix in the Vagina Monologues, coming in 3rd place in a local burlesque competition for a piece about religion, and performing a burlesque/performance art piece with a women's circus for an island festival (this past weekend; so awesome).

I also offer stage services to productions - stage management, selling tickets and merch, research, fanmail, that sorta thing. A lot of my work in this area is volunteered, since I'm pretty new, but it's been great fun. I've worked on burlesque revues, festivals, queer cabarets - the weirder the better.

I'm currently looking for jobs and opportunities to help me do this more. If I could, I'd perform and do stage training full-time, but I need to pay the rent! Thanks for this question, it rocks.
posted by divabat at 8:33 PM on November 2, 2009


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