When considering potential professions to enter, one might ask: Why would anyone become a bull semen collector? Or the person who crawls into a concrete mixing truck at night to chip away the hardened cement?
Two words: Instant satisfaction. (No pun intended on the bull thing.)
People who do the dirtiest and sometimes most stomach-turning jobs say they enjoy seeing the quick results of their labor. Unlike a banker who might take months--even years--to complete a deal, or an author who works on a book for a similar period of time, the dirtiest jobs can often be the most rewarding. And for some of these workers, it's all just another day at the orifice.
"They have a sense of completion," says Mike Rowe, Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs host, who travels the country and performs the jobs featured on his show. "When a ditch digger arrives at work, there's no ditch. When he goes home, there's a ditch there."
The same goes for say, a lift pump remover. Each time a toilet is flushed, the waste goes to the treatment plant to be processed. The first place it enters in the plant is the lift pump chamber, which is about five stories high. If the pump breaks, that five-story chamber fills with human waste. When that occurs, a person wearing a protective full-body suit and a breathing mask enters the chamber and swims through tons of human waste to tie a cable to the top of the pump so it can be lifted and everything filtered out.
Human waste becomes poisonous at certain levels, so several alarms are attached to the "swimmer's" body to alert the person when the air becomes life-threatening.
Being an esthetician is dirty in a different way. These workers perform various beautifying procedures, including extracting pus from a client's face during a facial and waxing the entire genital area for a bikini wax.
Sometimes human bodies are dirtier than making drill mud. To ease that fact, Anita Schuessler, an education manager at Bliss Spas in New York, says she and her staff repeat a mantra: "Every part of the body is like the elbow," she says. It also helps that they distribute gynecological cleansing wipes to clients before "intimate" procedures. Though she admits, "This is not a job for the faint of heart."
But she enjoys the work because it provides "an instant result." She points out that a hydrating mask feels great, but it's the extractions that have the longest lasting results.
"The only time I ever ask myself what am I doing here is when I wax a man's back," says Schuessler. Besides, it takes a lot of concentration to perform a bikini wax. She compares it to a puzzle; rather than putting the pieces together, she's taking them apart. Add to that efforts to relax the client and do it all in 30 minutes--there really isn't time to be grossed out.
On a much more serious note, there's the crime scene cleaning crew. These are the people who show up to clean the scenes of murders, suicides or other situations where which human matter needs to be removed. A typical day on the job for Kent Berg, owner of BioCare in Greenville, S.C., includes cleaning blood, hair, tissue, skin and teeth from furniture, floors, walls, ceilings and accessories.
To do this, he and his staff wear full-body "moon suits" with two pairs of gloves taped on, waterproof booties and a face shield. For particularly noxious sites, these workers wear full respirators to filter out bacteria and odors.
"Most people go into it, including myself, because we recognize that if we didn't do it, the clean-up would be left to the families or business owners," says Berg, who was previously an assistant director of emergency medical services. It's gruesome, but we felt we'd rather take it on than leave it for families."
His goal? That when he and his staff leave for the day, no one can tell something horrendous has occurred.