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Front Page » April 1, 2008 » Opinion » Staff column: Dirty jobs are anything but romantic
Published 2,744 days ago

Staff column: Dirty jobs are anything but romantic

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There is a popular television series called Dirty Jobs with a man named Mike Rowe that appears on cable television every week. In this series he works with and around people who have some of the most disgusting and hard jobs to do, in the most difficult of circumstances.

How to describe what a dirty job is I think depends on the person. Some might consider cleaning toilets a dirty job, while for others it is just part of life. Sometimes a dirty job refers to what has to be done in a bad situation, not that one is physically involved in grime and refuse, but they are figuratively dealing with a messy situation.

Which is worse? A physically dirty job or one where decisions and actions that need to be taken are part of the makeup?

I have done a lot of dirty jobs in my life; some of each kind. After having three different careers in my life, with the present one being what I hope to be the final one, I have had my fill of both kinds. Wading in an overflowing sewer pit to repair plumbing holds nothing worse than having to let someone who needs a job in the worst way go from their employment because a company is making a reduction in force.

In fact having done both, and worse, I would prefer the sewer drain any day. But I also have seen people have to do much worse than I have too.

The dirtiest job must be combat in war. I have not experienced it, but it must be terrible. Not only is the fear in a person's own mind great, but the fact they must do the things they do, has to be horrible. There is no good war when it comes to this kind of thing.

According to news reports in mid-March President George W. Bush told some soldiers in Afghanistan during a televised conference that " must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger..." He also added a thanks for their service at the end of the comment.

I have never been in combat, nor in the military, but I am sure the only thing that makes war romantic is when it is shown on the big screen and one is seated in a comfy chair with popcorn in one hand and a coke in the other. In talking with other people who have seen the horrors of war, they have no illusions about it.

That is not to say that wars aren't sometimes necessary. World War II has been called "the good war" because it was totally necessary; the Japanese armed forces could have probably invaded the west coast and if they had wanted right after Pearl Harbor. Luckily for the United States that was not in the immediate plans. In Europe there was never a greater evil than Hitler and the Nazi's. These people and their nations were direct threats to the United States.

However that didn't make the job of fighting that war any "nicer" or "cleaner" for the guys who did it.

I remember my uncle's stories of fighting during the invasion of Sicily, when a grenade landed nearby him and he laid on the ground with his guts hanging out for three days before help could reach him. Until the day he died he took pride in showing off his scars and showing the pieces of metal that were under his skin that had never been removed. He deserved to feel proud of his service, but he never said any of it was romantic.

And then there was a friend's dad who had fought the Japanese when the Americans retook the Philippines. He told me that he was in hand to hand combat with Japanese Marines and that in once instance he had to slit a mans throat. Up until the last time I heard that story a number of years ago, every night he dreamt of that man chasing him through the jungle with a machete. He said a good night was when he only dreamt it once.

Those of us who have never spent a day being shot at or shelled have no idea of what it is like. We don't know how it feels to have our buddy's blood all over our body after he was blown apart next to us by a mortar shell, or what the smell of napalm mixed with burning flesh smells like. We can't really judge what that must be like unless we face it ourselves.

But I do know it must be far from romantic, Mr. President.

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April 1, 2008
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