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Hundreds find solace in site bemoaning jobs



Published: Mon, October 30, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Reading about others with bad jobs is good therapy, experts say.

SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

OK, so your job stinks.

Your boss is the Peter Principle incarnate, elevated to mind-numbing incompetence; co-workers are backstabbing scavengers of spoiled dreams; and your workload has doubled as health and retirement benefits fall under the corporate budget ax.

You can whine. You can quit. You can even get fired in a fit of momentarily satisfying, yet ultimately impoverishing, and perhaps imprisoning, rage.

Or, you can point your Internet browser and do what more than 1,000 do every day -- head to www.worst-jobs.com to indulge one of the oldest of human traits, delighting in the deeper misery of others.

A banner headline offers workplace-weary visitors immediate solace: "So, you think you have the worst job in the world. Think again!"

Stuart Macfarlane, a Glasgow, Scotland, information technology consultant who launched the site in February, promises that, "There are many jobs out there that are much, much worse."

For those convinced otherwise, he invites brief entries for his "Worst Jobs Trophy." With the caveat that he cannot verify any of the e-mailed contributions by a global village of disgruntled, usually anonymous employees, you are invited to consider the curious case of one "Hans."

Top entry

So far, Hans is Macfarlane's inside favorite for the trophy. The Swedish toilet attendant writes that he works at a Stockholm clinic that treats constipation. Hans complains that when patients are cured, the facilities are often overwhelmed -- leaving him the subsequent cleanup and plumbing repairs.

"What do I get paid for this disgusting job? Eighty-thousand Swedish krona [about 11,000 a year]. Not a lot for all the crap I take," Hans wrote.

The therapeutic value of worst-jobs.com and other such sites should not be dismissed, says Janiece Pompa, president of the Utah Psychological Association.

"I love sites like this," she says. "If we read about someone in worse condition than we are, we seem to feel better. It's a human thing, the way we are built."

Cheri S. Reynolds, a University of Utah educational psychology professor, agrees that an occasional quick fix from such sites can help stressed employees cope.

"'Misery loves company' is a phrase that has endured forever. Misery is a lot like a wound that won't heal without fresh air; this is one way to bring it out into the light, to share it," she says. "It can also be inspirational, finding out about people like [Hans], who are there for us when we need them."

By the sexes

The site breaks down horrible employment by various categories. The Worst Jobs for Men, as might be expected, leans toward the scatological. No. 1 is "flatulence analyst." While exaggerated for comic effect, it actually has roots in a recent published study by a Minnesota gastrointestinalologist exploring diagnoses by nose, as it were.

Other male worst jobs regale site visitors with the downsides of mosquito research (multiple bites), sensory deprivation test subject (hallucinations), zoo keepers (dismemberment, cage cleanup duty) and roofer (low pay, danger, searing heat from tar).

Site visitors' entries for Worst Jobs for Women are not lacking in disgusting characteristics, either. Poultry processors need stomachs of iron to pull long shifts plucking, cutting and gutting various fowl; bikini waxers, day-care workers; and high school counselors seem secretly inclined toward sado-masochism.

The No. 1 worst job nominated by female surfers: Blue Cheese Factory Laborer. It might make a tasty salad dressing, but this pungent cheese elicits a decidedly negative response from those on the production lines.

Consider that the characteristic aroma of blue cheese, and its color, both come from letting the dairy by-product decay into mold. Workers complain of the smell sticking to clothing and hair, and because odors are carried by microscopic molecules of cheesy mold, guess what's in your lungs and all over your body after a day at work?

Feel better about your own daily grind? Web editor Macfarlane says that's the idea. But he stresses his site's primary purpose is to entertain.

"Certainly from the feedback I have received, some people are getting a laugh, and that is all I want," he says.




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