Bring on the lonely.
March 8, 2007 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Where do the misanthropists work?

I'm curious to know what occupations have the least human contact - both face to face or phone/email sort of stuff. I'm not just talking about Joe Public but also work colleagues, employees, management - in short, EVERYONE.

Bonus points to anyone who can suggest this type of job that is NOT also remotely located - I was thinking along the lines of night-shift security, mortuary worker, or data-entry drone as opposed to forest warden or remote mining camp operator.
posted by ninazer0 to Human Relations (38 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I work in a chem. lab. There's only a few others in the lab, and the thing about chemists is we all tend to be anti-social. So I basically get along with my other misanthropic coworkers. Kind of strange, I know.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:36 PM on March 8, 2007

Writing. Composing. Painting. Sculpting. Editing. Programming.

If you mean someone else is cutting you a regular paycheck, then there's the old stand-by, stuffing envelopes at home.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:38 PM on March 8, 2007

Programming from home could be a job where you have almost no human contact. If you got things delivered and lived somewhere out of the way you could just about never see anyone.
posted by sien at 2:40 PM on March 8, 2007

Just about any night or graveyard shift. I've heard good things about working the Moday-Friday (or possibly Sun-Thurs) graveyard shift for bail bondsmen. The guy i spoke with said he was essentially paid to sleep.
posted by lekvar at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2007

Where do the misanthropists work?
As soon as I read that, I thought "HR!" if there's any profession that demand contempt for your fellow human beings, it's that one.

But it seems like you're asking about professions that are isolated., So all the answers above work.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:49 PM on March 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

night auditor ?
posted by lobstah at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2007

Some janitorial work would have very little human contact, but others work in teams. Similarly, where I live there are some landscapers who work alone, just one guy with a pickup truck and a bunch of machinery. You would have to talk to clients occasionally, but not every day.

Long distance truck driver would be pretty high on the list.

Anything that involved telecommuting.

In theory research could be that lonely, but in practice most universities seem to be set up to require a lot of time in meetings, classrooms, and so on, in addition to the time in the lab/library/field. But if you were an unaffiliated or independent scholar, you could have lots of alone time (and not much money, probably, but that is a different question).

Modern farming is often very isolating, at least the machine-intensive kind that is done without hired help (as compared to wine making, say, with less machinery and much larger work crews).
posted by Forktine at 3:06 PM on March 8, 2007

Night shift at a commercial print shop. Skeleton crew and conversation-defeating cacaphony. Most good sized corporations will have one of these.
posted by cortex at 3:09 PM on March 8, 2007

I worked in a pathology department once, and it's acknowledged (at least amongst pathologists) that if you're a weirdo with no social skills or bedside manner, and a medic, you choose pathology. Some of them were lovely people, but eye contact? Nah.

In computer science, it's the theoreticians who are often the strange and isolated ones. They don't even really need computers, it's all done sat on their own with pencil and paper.
posted by handee at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2007

Lighthouse keeper

Forest ranger
posted by amtho at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2007

Night shift at a commercial print shop. Skeleton crew and conversation-defeating cacaphony. Most good sized corporations will have one of these.

Just make sure it's not a print shop at a company where people are working late nights. If you go work at an investment bank where analysts are scrabbling to get a pitchbook finished at 3am and printed by 6am for the Managing Director's flight, well...a misanthropic print shop dude is going to find himself in a lot of conflicts.
posted by mullacc at 3:13 PM on March 8, 2007

Just a note: these is only one manned lighthouse left, last time I checked, in the US (Brewster Island). That job might be a little tough to get.
posted by artdrectr at 3:21 PM on March 8, 2007

I pulled night shift in a newspaper's prepress department for a few months where my only human contact each night was receiving the day's files and handing off to the press operator. Some nights that amounted to about ten minutes. It was definitely not my scene. These days I do a lot of contract programming at home, which also means days of isolation, but chat, email and phone with clients mitigates it somewhat.

If you don't care about a career and you really crave isolation, get a night watchman's job at a storage facility. You're paid to be alone -- seeing a human being mandates phoning the police.
posted by ardgedee at 3:23 PM on March 8, 2007


Bingo. In an office of close to a hundred people, I'm able to limit the amount of contact I have nearly to the amount of contact I want, primarily by requiring that project-related communications be via e-mail so that I have a record.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:43 PM on March 8, 2007

Fire spotter. If you play your cards right, you sit in a cabin in the middle of a forest for weeks on end, staring at the horizon for signs of forest fire.
posted by lekvar at 3:45 PM on March 8, 2007

Delivering AM newspapers.
posted by peep at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2007

My most misanthropic friend sells high end doll clothes on eBay. He buys his fabric and equipment online, his "models" are dolls, his sales pitch is a series of digital photos, and of course his customers are hundreds of miles away.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:06 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I once worked as a "logger" or transcriber for a TV newsmagazine program.

Any non-fictional television show (news, entertainment, probably reality shows as well), has people who do this. Basically, for any segment of a few minutes or more, they have hours of footage. The producers and editors don't want to have to look through all that footage, so they need it all written down on paper that they can use as a guide when editing--transcripts of the interviews, and a shot-by-shot listing of the B-roll including camera moves, etc. As a logger, you sit there with headphones on and watch the footage and transcribe it, pausing and shuttling backwards when you can't keep up with it in real time.

Some shows may have actual employees to do this. I was a freelancer, paid per tape. I could come in at any hour of the day or night and take whatever tapes were next in the queue; the amount of work I'd done was recorded on log sheets and in the computer system, so there was no supervisor interaction needed.

I happened to know a couple of other people who worked there, and therefore wasn't totally without human contact. But it really would have been possible to do the whole job, after the initial orientation, for months at a time without exchanging a single word with anyone other than the person who handed me my paycheck, and maybe a "G'night" to the security guard.
posted by staggernation at 4:11 PM on March 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

(By the way, I'm sure everything's digital now rather than dealing with Betamax tapes--I did this in around 1997--but the job still exists.)
posted by staggernation at 4:16 PM on March 8, 2007

Second or third the editing. I'm a freelance book editor. The pages (yeah, actual paper) come to me from a great distance, I edit them and mail them back. I see the UPS guy and my postmaster. Beats all to heck being an editor of a newspaper, where everyone and his dog come in to growl at you or make ridiculous demands.
posted by bryon at 4:35 PM on March 8, 2007

Offshore. God, the people I have met out here. Listerine drinkers, ex-cons, NA members...former SEALs, former Cuban SEALs, bikers, ex-cops...
posted by atchafalaya at 5:02 PM on March 8, 2007

I worked in a pathology department once, and it's acknowledged (at least amongst pathologists) that if you're a weirdo with no social skills or bedside manner, and a medic, you choose pathology. Some of them were lovely people, but eye contact? Nah.

Ouch. You're hurting this pathologist's feelings. We're too busy telling other doctors what's wrong with their patients to talk to other people.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 5:10 PM on March 8, 2007

operating zambonis or floor waxers in the middle of the night. by yourself.
posted by starbaby at 5:32 PM on March 8, 2007

Third shift cop in the hood.

Extra misanthrope bonus: you can club the shit out of anyone that bothers you.
posted by popechunk at 8:54 PM on March 8, 2007

Office Depot Service Plan phone support
posted by 4ster at 9:42 PM on March 8, 2007

Traffic counting. Seriously. You get to travel around and you count cars at intersections. You have limited contact with other people, you work pretty independently because most outfits have one central office and then lots of 1-2 man offices throughout the areas they offer their services to.
posted by farmersckn at 10:32 PM on March 8, 2007

IT for public universities. (I'm so serious.)
posted by SpecialK at 10:39 PM on March 8, 2007

Online poker.
posted by cmyr at 10:40 PM on March 8, 2007

eBay seller! but you'd have to deal with many confused buyers.
posted by kitalea at 11:19 PM on March 8, 2007

I went on SSI for my "mental disability". But if you have a (legal, tax-paying) work history you might get SSD.
posted by davy at 11:56 PM on March 8, 2007

You will be shocked to find that computers are definitely not where they work. Much to many computer geeks' disappointment, most jobs in the computer field need to have an awful lot of communicating and people skills on the job. I'm just saying, because so many people turn to that field in search of solitude and they get quite a shock.
posted by giggleknickers at 12:05 AM on March 9, 2007

Yeah, lab science.

The really beautiful thing about bench work -- apart from the work -- is that there are people all over the place, but your work is your own to do at your own pace, and most people are fairly completely autonomous. People who are gregarious work alongside misanthropists and it's fine -- people are too busy and involved in their work to trip off each other, and it's all about the work. Let your freak flag fly, take an oath of silence, whatever -- just keep churning out the data, and nobody will bother you.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:19 AM on March 9, 2007

Agreed with staggernation above on being a logger/transcriber or digitizer.

My current job is as an assistant editor on a reality show, and I have worked a couple of identical jobs in the past year. Assistant editor is a bit of an inflation - almost all the time I'm used solely as a digitizer.

The crew shoots during the day, comes back with the tapes and I digitize them onto the computer while making DVD copies to send out to transcribers the next morning.

I come into some contact with people, the other editing staff if I'm in during the day, and the crew when they drop off the tapes, but I'm mostly all alone.

Does it work for me? It did for a period, but I'm starting to think about getting out of the industry altogether. But that's no relation to your question.

I'm not sure what the industry is like in Australia, but I imagine there's enough going on in Sydney. Most any production house will require this service, be they small independent companies or the largest entertainment monoliths.

The job can be amazing easy (pop in a tape and press a button, wait 30 minutes, repeat), but you'll need at least some knowledge of major editing software. People want to know you can troubleshoot when something goes wrong. Avid and Final Cut are the two biggies, but there's others as well.

The work can be infrequent, depending on shooting schedules and between jobs. If you can get in on call with 2-4 production companies you're set.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:41 AM on March 9, 2007

Hired assassin, in the private sector.

Or self-employed internet seller. Buying/selling stuff on eBay or selling something you specialise in over the internet in general.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:45 AM on March 9, 2007

I know this is a derail, but since Yellowbinder doesn't have any contact info in his/her profile: Any tips on how to get hired as an AE or digitizer in Toronto? Email's in the profile if you're feeling generous.
posted by Alterscape at 7:19 AM on March 9, 2007

In my experience the Crown Prosecution Service is stuffed with misanthropes.
posted by dmt at 7:25 AM on March 9, 2007

posted by racingjs at 12:40 PM on March 9, 2007


The jobs I've had were mostly found across industry job boards and craigslist. The first one I got that got the ball rolling was actually through, which rarely has a film/tv job listed.

Almost everywhere I've worked has a different way to get digitizing done. Some hire one person to digitize, others have people working round the clock in shifts, others make interns do it.

I interned at a doc company last summer, and spent a solid 2 months digitizing for free, despite the fact that I already knew how to do it. I felt a bit taken advantage of, but I loved the people (I'm not such a misanthropist after all!) and loved when I got to go out shooting or to big events. The film is going to HotDocs and already building buzz, so it turned out to be a good investment in time and a great source of inspiration.

As I said in my previous comment, all you really need to do this job is a bit of knowledge with the editing systems. You can take a course, intern or find someone to lend you a copy of the software so you can figure it out on your own. A reel is not necessary (I still don't have one), but may be helpful if you don't have prior experience or education. A short or some quick mock commercials could show off your skills well.

Again you do need to know how to troubleshoot. From my experience, half of editing is troubleshooting. What do you do when Final Cut Pro digitizes directly into the trash? When the deck won't connect to the computer? How do you solve a problem you've never encountered at 3:00 am when there's no one to call and the work is expected done by morning? This will be something you pick up on the job. Another reason to familiarize yourself with the software as much as possible.

To get a job, check the job boards online (although they often are full of non-paying gigs and paid jobs are few and sometimes far between). Create a profile on and let people know you're out there in the Assistant Editor category. Most importantly, contact every production house you can find and offer them your service. Don't forget about the powerhouses! I have heard Alliance Atlantis is always looking for overnight digitizers, try Corus as well.

In terms of pay, don't expect much, but it's not bad for an entry level job. I'm making $15/hour now, but you might have to start off a bit less, and not expect to ever get much more as just a digitizer. But it is a common first stepping stone to more involved editing jobs. I have heard of people who are content being assistant eds indefinitely.

The pay seems decent, but remember work can be infrequent, so get yourself set up in a couple of companies if you can. Or get a side business going; my eBay store is finally taking off and I quite enjoy the extra $100 or so a week. eBay can be complex, confusing and irrational though, so make sure you know the system before jumping in and especially before opening a store.

I've gotten annoyed with this kind of job. Lots of late hours. Knowing that theoretically you could be replaced within a day with one of the hundreds or thousands of those in this city eager to make a start. Reality TV especially is a hard thing to work on sometimes, I feel like I'm contributing nothing of value to a show that will contribute nothing of value to society. It is easy and occasionally interesting work, best used as a stepping stone to more meaningful things.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:46 PM on March 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

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