COLUMN: A dirty job done well

This is my Sunday column for the Oct. 23, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. This is expanded from a broadcast piece I wrote for KAXE last year.

A dirty job done well
By Aaron J. Brown

We are a nation of workers, productive workers, innovative workers who can complete almost any task while maintaining an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are many jobs that don’t allow time for Facebook and Twitter, but you’d better watch out because those jobs aren’t “safe.” Most of those jobs can be completed overseas where Farmville is far less of an abstract concept. Times like this get me thinking about the jobs I’ve had over the years.

A lot of people remember jobs they completely and definitively hated: “take this job and shove it’ jobs if you prefer. I’ve had some jobs that seemed lousy at the time, but every job I’ve had taught me something or at least gave me some pretty good stories. I’ve produced and delivered pizzas, radio programming, daily newspapers printed on actual paper and in one job I literally monitored other people’s jobs, making sure their jobs were OK. I currently teach at a community college. If I do my job well my students find jobs of their own.

Delivering pizzas was a challenge in the pre-GPS/cell phone days. The worst part of delivering pizzas then was the time I you wasn’t delivering pizzas and had to make the food that the cooks hated making. I spent one Fourth of July making vats and vats of coleslaw for a street dance crowd in an Iron Range town. Shredding cabbage. Hand mixing it with whatever that white stuff was. I’ve never been able to eat coleslaw since.

I left the pizza place to work as an overnight disc jockey. This was a pretty cool job for a high school nerd because it inferred the possibility of an exciting social life while providing cover for the lack of such. The worst part of this job was wading out in waist deep snow to whack the giant satellite dish with a stick when it iced over.

Being a newspaper editor is supposed to be prestigious. I remember having to restart the computer server a lot, hearing the Macintosh BONG sound over and over again so that I could access that AP photograph of Tony Blair that my readers would be waiting to ignore in that day’s afternoon edition. It was also an unspoken rule that anytime someone unstable entered the building with an incoherent rant it was my job to discern its purpose without getting stabbed. The man with a Popeye cap and a full-sized crucifix strapped to his back was my favorite.

Perhaps the most important job I haven’t mentioned yet is my job as a dad. We’ve got three young boys and raising them is an absolute, unmitigated joy a significant majority of the time. The worst part of the job was probably the diapers. New parents know that the diaper situation is going to happen and, though it starts awkwardly, you quickly get into the rhythm. But the poo business is a marathon not a sprint. It’s not the first mile that gets you, nor can you predict when your soul will face its greatest challenge (hint: 12 hours after an abrupt dietary change).

I’m one of those modern dads who changed a yeoman’s share of diapers over time. It’s hard work, I say. Better than producing coleslaw in bulk, but only because the hefty bags were leaving the house, not entering it.

The diaper days are gone now but the work remains. These boys need guidance, from reading to zippers and tie shoes. I does not appear that the work will stop until I need help tying shoes myself.

Every job has its importance. If didn’t stink just a little bit, we might not appreciate all the rewards life has to offer.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse but I’ve never had a job I didn’t like…nor have I had the ability to feel victimized. I think it’s a blessing…

  2. “nor have I had the ability to feel victimized.” (?) I presume you are trying to start a fight? Enjoy your victimization free Sunday, sir. I’m watching football.

  3. Ponder’s a candle in the wind… the secondary, not so much…as they’ve been all season.

  4. Yeah, Ponder gives the impression that we might have had a salvageable season if they had just gone with him from the start. Hard to say how much he learned then to now, though. That game was at least watchable – which was a noted improvement.

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