Heifer-impregnator, cool your ego. Steel smelter, thanks for burning off your hands and all, but you won't be receiving a plaque this week.
When publications run lists of the worst careers, they usually teem with occupations involving cramped environments, extremely hot or cold conditions, and, of course, fecal matter. But here in Cleveland, those working conditions can simply be described as Being Broke & Raising Kids. So this week, we're taking you beyond the mundane torture of everyday life to find those jobs that literally pull the very soul from your chest, throw it on the ground, and beat it with some ball bearings wrapped in a sock.
Because let's face it: While violating cows can get messy, it's a desk job compared to working for the mayor. Wouldn't you agree?
#10 The Guy Who Confiscates Weed at the House of Blues
Estimated Pay: $100/night
Benefits: Our weed
Yours is a truly Paxil-worthy existence. You trudge up from your bedroom in your grandmother's basement, wearing your yellow-and-black-striped work shirt. But before you head out the door, you take a good, long look in the mirror, and stare deep into the eyes of a painful reality: You're the Guy Who Confiscates Weed at the House of Blues.
You know us well. We're the Guys Who Take Out Our Weed When the Song Commands It. We paid good money for these Ben Harper tickets, and we're here for the complete experience. So when Harper sings "Burn One Down," we plan on doing just that.
We have to, really: Do you realize how discouraged, say, Bone Thugs might be if they looked into the crowd while performing "Blaze It" and saw not a single person blazing it? They usually follow that subtle ode with the more explicitly titled "Weed Song." That's why we brought two joints — neither of which we plan on forfeiting to you, Mr. Professional Mellow-Harsher.
You shouldn't act surprised; you know our policy. Yet nearly every time we attempt our mission, you follow the overpowering aroma directly to that Humboldt County Miracle-Gro clutched between our fingers.
"Give it here," you demand, grabbing our arm and blinding us with your industrial-strength flashlight.
"No way, man," we explain. "Bonnie Raitt just said 'Puff that.'"
But you just don't get it. "I don't got a problem with you smoking weed," you said during our last visit, when we asked you to comment on your existence. "Just don't do it here."
"Well, we can't exactly get Blues Traveler to do a set in our den while we take bong rips, now can we?"
That was when you reached behind our ear and took the Auxiliary Emergency Joint.
Come on, man, it's Puddle of Mudd!
#9 The Mascot That's So Inoffensive It's Offensive
Estimated Pay: $80,000/year
Benefits: Full health coverage, 17,000 unused rally towels
You're the guy who wears the Slider costume. In other words, you are Cleveland's hand gingerly patting the outraged Native American community on the back, as if to say, "Chillax. We get it. We can't ditch the name or the sweet-ass Chief Wahoo logo, because we really like all that shit. But instead of featuring a wacky Native American mascot dancing on the dugout to Daddy Yankee, which we would totally prefer, we're going to grudgingly go with plan B: the overweight, fuchsia, bootleg Phillie Phanatic."
The Indians keep your true identity secret, Inoffensive Mascot, but this isn't exactly uncovering Deep Throat. It's pretty easy to guess what your career trajectory was before you stepped into those furry boots: You're an ex-dance major who failed to make the gymnastics cut for the 2000 Olympics. Because your third cousin is the dead aunt of Aaron Fultz's half-brother, you were given a tryout for the job. You got it, barely, and you now spend 81 days a year doing the two-step to "This Is Why I'm Hot" while nearly drowning in your own sweat from wearing a 68-pound costume on a July afternoon.
In the off-season, you're sent anywhere someone can pony up the $350 fee, be it a bar mitzvah in the Heights ("Shalom, Slider!") or a Warehouse District party where yuppies blow coke off your smooth eyeballs ("Hold still, dude!").
In moments of self-contemplation, one question plagues you: Will you have to wear this damn costume in hell?
#8 Neighborhood Crack Dealer
Estimated Pay: $27,000/year
Benefits: Free cocaine, sex, cheeseburgers
Yes, you're the purveyor of the scourge that keeps the ghetto paralyzed. But it's not as swell a gig as Young Jeezy makes it out to be.
Your ass throbs from sitting on the hood of a 1986 Buick all day. Your pants sag from the weight of all those dimes and pennies; your customers tend to pay in accumulated change. Your groin area aches from a work-related affliction, about which we declined to hear more details (this is a family newspaper).
Those cinematic moments you believed would mark your coming-of-age as a kingpin — weighing money because it's coming in too quickly to count, bribing police lieutenants on piers, yelling into pay phones at guys named Manolo — just don't happen in Hough. The only Colombian you know is Juan Valdez. Sometimes, when you're guzzling Pepto-Bismol to fend off stress pains, you think to yourself, "I worked myself all the way up from being the guy on the corner who yells 'Tooo-eeee!' when he sees a cop, and for what?"
Then there's the matter of your depraved clientele. They photocopy dollars onto green paper, try to trade you broken Sega Genesis consoles, and crawl behind you to tie your shoelaces together, hoping that when you trip, a vial will slip out of your bubble jacket. Your workday is as packed with brainless high jinks as a Mexican game show — or worse, a bachelor party at Tequila Ranch.
And you're looking at doing this for the next seven months, until someone with a cooler nickname decides to shoot you for talking to his woman at a bar last Friday — even though you were in Lorain that night, chasing down a guy named Pink Eye who still owes you 14 bucks from April. But, oops, mistakes happen.
#7 Bum With a Weak Con
Estimated Pay: $7.46/day
Benefits: Fresh air
When you're a Bum With a Strong Con, the world is your ATM. Simply tell some sucker about your starving sextuplets, and watch him stand at the supermarket checkout while you buy baby formula with his $20. Then, as soon as you're out of the Samaritan's sight, return with the formula and receipt, and voilà! There's a three-day Jim Beam Festival under the Carnegie Bridge, and you're the Grand Marshal.
But being a Bum With a Weak Con? That's a different story. When "Slim," whose territory is the Warehouse District, gets thirsty, he unveils the crappiest con in Cleveland.
"Lenny! We meet again!" he yells to every man who walks past St. Clair and West Sixth. Most passersby, typically named something other than Lenny, glare disdainfully at Slim and keep walking. Occasionally, the target might correct the misinformed beggar — "No, my name's Rod" — offering Slim a chance to confuse the guy into submission: "Shit, I know that, Todd, long time no see, baby!"
Then he goes for the money pitch while Lenny/Rod/Todd is reeling: "Lemme get ten or twenty dollars. I'll give it right back!"
Slim's royal flush is the guy who happens to be named Lenny, and is enough of a drunk to believe he may have befriended a bum when blacked out. "I've gotten two of those," says Slim, who's been a Bum With a Weak Con for nine years now. "Both times, they were pretending hard that they remembered me."
Of course, Slim's weak con is further weakened by his choice of names. According to namestatistics.com, Lenny is the 968th most popular name in the country. Why not boost his odds and go with, say, John?
"John?" responds Slim incredulously. "That's too fuckin' obvious that I'm playing around. Lenny, people think I'm for real."
#6 The Cop Who Guards Hollywood Video
Estimated Pay: $18/hour
Benefits: Free popcorn and the chance to memorize every line in Heat
Every Cleveland cop needs a side gig so he can afford extra layers of Kevlar for those long, cold nights on East 93rd. But you couldn't be the cop who guards the end zone at Browns stadium, could you? Or even the cop who enforces the "penis in pants" rule at Christie's?
No, you're the hard-luck case who works nights at the video store, sitting on a stool near the door, waiting for that heist that never comes. You're forced to overhear World of Warcraft debates between pimple-faced clerks, as the soul-piercing sounds of Daddy Day Care loop endlessly on the TVs overhead.
Unfortunately, Cleveland's law enforcement runs on a model popular in Latin America — namely, We Can't Afford It, Pendejo, so Pay the Cop Yourself. Which is where you come in.
You spend 50 hours a week arresting guys with the IQs of toaster ovens. Then, because the city's so dangerous — and because you're so broke from sending your kids to Catholic school that you'll work for a security guard's wage and free DVD rentals — Hollywood decides to pass on the rent-a-cop and actually rents a cop, like with a gun and stuff.
The sum result is that you're working the door for an additional 15 hours a week, watching the stoners file in and out with Dazed and Confused and Klondike Bites.
Swear to God, you find yourself thinking as your hand slides over your holster, the next time one of these hippies asks me if Short Circuit is in stock . . .
#5 Frank Jackson's SpeechWriter
Estimated Pay: $65,000/year
Excerpt from an e-mail between a departing Jackson speechwriter and his replacement:
From: [email protected]
OK, I got good news and bad news. First, the bad: You see that guy spilling banana pudding onto a budget report as he licks that bowl clean? Yeah, that's the guy you write speeches for. First tip: Never use words of more than two syllables.
Frank's key to success is that he never does anything, so he's never been caught doing anything bad. He spent two decades on the city council, during which he nearly mastered how to properly spell "Old Brooklyn." Since he beat Jane Campbell, 12 votes to 10, he's pretty much ignored every major issue — spiking murder rates, disastrous schools, and a cabinet full of professional crooks. If this guy was mayor of SimCity, you'd have to start a new game every 15 minutes.
So I'm sure you're wondering: What all is Frankie supposed to speech about? This is where the creative aspects of your liberal arts education come in, my man. Sure, homicide is up, but did you know that under FJ, attempted homicide is way down? Our manslaughter stats are just like Switzerland's! It's all about accentuating the positive. It can actually be pretty fun, when you get into it. :)
Here's the good news: Nobody ever listens to anything Frank says, so feel free to screw around. When I got bored, I'd drop him off at a press conference without preparing anything, then time how long the mayor of a major American city could silently blow saliva bubbles (17 minutes is his personal best).
It's not always easy, so expect the overwhelming guilt to occasionally keep you up nights. But this is city work. You can sleep under your desk all day and still be considered the most productive employee in the office.
Good luck, bro!
#4 Bishop of Cleveland
Estimated Pay: None: Vow of poverty required
Benefits: Eternal life, free gym membership
Well, Bishop Lennon, you must have really pissed off some high-level pointy hats to get this assignment. Before you landed in Cleveland, you were an auxiliary bishop of the Boston Diocese, which is like the New York Yankees of the American Catholic Church. You were rubbing shoulders with big names like Cardinal O'Malley and Most Reverend Robert "Rub Some Holy Water on It" Hennessey. Everyone wore robes of 1,000-thread-count silk and hats sharp enough to cut a rib-eye.
In other words, life was good. And when the Boston Diocese was exposed for accommodating more kiddie love than Neverland Ranch, you weren't charged with the task of doing anything about it. You were auxiliary — which was like being a utility infielder with a good glove and no bat. No one expects Josh Barfield to carry the team.
Then you got shipped to Cleveland, a Double-A team in the Ecclesiastical Circuit's Guilt-Ridden Division, and went from backup second baseman to staff ace. You quickly discovered that while Cleveland may be a second-tier metropolis, our altar boys are just as seductive as Boston's.
The gravity of the situation hit when your request for stained-glass funds was rejected by the Vatican with a terse memo that read, "Blow the glass yourself, asshole; your diocese owes $87 million in abuse settlements."
Meanwhile, the press keeps calling, asking when you're going to punish those 14 priests currently suspended with pay — some for five years now — while their fate is decided. The Vatican replies to your pleas for help with e-mails that read, "Stall, stall, stall . . ." And every time you break out the Ouija board to beseech the Holy Father for guidance, his response reminds you why you've got the worst job around: "W-H-E-R-E-S-C-L-E-V-E-L-A-N-D-?"
#3 Investigator, Office of Professional Standards, Cleveland Police Department
Estimated Pay: $45,000/year
Benefits: Doughnuts and weak coffee every Friday; Pre-stained tie from department every Christmas
Basically, you're a hall monitor. But in this hall, all the bullies carry guns.
How did you end up here? Simple: You paid way too much attention, and accidentally noticed your fellow officers doing whatever the hell they wanted. Working side jobs while on duty. Administering beatdowns. Shooting people. Distributing cocaine. Every cop's seen it. But you were the moron cursed with curiosity. Hey, isn't that against department rules?
When you asked the chief, his eyes lit up. He gave you an extra stripe, plopped you behind a desk, and told you that week's caseload of citizen complaints would arrive shortly. When they were delivered by Greek freighter and you had to unload them yourself — Sorry, we already burned through the forklift budget — that's when you realized you wouldn't make it home in time to watch The Shield. Ever.
The worst of it: Other cops just don't act natural around you anymore. Take last Tuesday, when you spotted your ex-partner sitting in his squad car and asked him if he wanted to grab a beer. "Nope, I'm on duty," he responded gruffly.
Then a guy with an eye patch approached and handed your old partner a bag full of money. He wouldn't take it. Even pretended like he didn't know the guy. That's not like Jimmy, you thought to yourself, dumbfounded. Not like Jimmy at all . . .
Estimated Pay: Volunteer position
Benefits: Entrance into the Celestial Kingdom
Get a load of the employee handbook: No alcohol. No caffeine. No cigarettes. No gay sex. No unmarried sex. And certainly no sex with unclean animals like goats, sheep, and Unitarians.
Then there are the things you have to do: Wear full-bodied underwear at all times and go to church three times a week. Plus, you have to pretend — really convincingly — to believe that a) God lives on a star near Planet Kolob; b) the Garden of Eden is in Missouri; c) dark skin is the result of sin; and d) you can't go swimming in Atlantic City because Satan rules the waters and you'll lose every round of blackjack in the hereafter.
Following all these rules is one thing when you live in Utah, the Silicon Valley of Mormonism. It's pretty hard to sin when all the women are wearing 1860s pioneer dresses. But in Cleveland, there are only about 1,200 Mormons, which means the world is filled with temptations, like Diet Coke and Zima.
Then there's the matter of salary. Not only is Mormonism unpaid, but employees are required to kick 10 percent from their second jobs up to corporate headquarters. It's like being in the Mafia, or Amway.
We voiced our confusion to 30-year Mormon veteran Fosi Smith at a church in West Park. "Being Mormon is not a job," she says. "It's a devoted way of life."
So is being a stripper, but at least they get free buffalo wings.
#1 Tall White Guy at the End of the Bench
Estimated Pay: $400,000/season
Benefits: Large pension, Zydrunas Ilgauskas' leftover groupies
No NBA team is complete without a peach-hued seven-footer jutting from the end the bench like an Easter Island totem. The approximate size of a lighthouse, as awkward and clumsy as Gerald Ford, yours is a sad, if lucrative, existence.
Before every game, you dutifully suit up, pulling on your size Sasquatch shoes and ankle splints. You know it will take an injury, a blowout, or the entire coaching staff suffering a brain aneurysm for you to tear away your tear-aways tonight.
You spend most games slugging down a bathtub's worth of Gatorade, perspiring from the sheer exertion it takes to keep your mammoth body operating, as your ass gradually wears moon craters in the seat under you.
In those rare contests where you do play, you're stationed under the basket, charged with missing easy layups and staying the hell out of the way. Alas, none of this comes easy to you. You're so winded after jogging from the bench that you anxiously scan the sidelines, hoping paramedics have an orca-sized stretcher ready, since your feet really hurt from all this work.
Due to a chronically high turnover rate, the end of the Cavs' bench is currently without a Tall White Guy. Ira Newble is really getting lonely down there. So if you duck when entering a parking garage, have no melanin, and fall on your ass the second your feet touch polished wood, you should consider getting yourself an agent. Sure, the position sucks. But it beats being a Tall White Bum With a Weak Con. Now that job would suck.