It's not about the house.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Somebody's Gotta Do It...

Well, we had to cancel the St. Patrick's Day party. I loaded in 16 pounds of corned beef, ten pounds of potatoes, six pounds of onions, five pounds of carrots, four pounds of parsnips, two turnips, one giant cabbage and four cases of beer. I spent the week cleaning up the house from the construction mess and the porch from storing wood there in the winter. I pulled the decorations down from the attic two days ahead of time and filled the house with fresh-cut daffodils and little pots of faux-shamrocks the day before. I was so efficient, so organized, so ready - and then I woke up St. Patrick's Day morning and I had the euphemism. I'm mostly better now, but you'll forgive me for taking down the green background this morning because it was making me a litle queasy.

I spent the weekend in bed watching television - normally something I would love an excuse to do - but for the first ten hours there was absolutely nothing on. I watched The Real Housewives of Orange County (and later heard David Rakoff describe it on This American Life as "like watching paint dry - shallow, fake-breasted, Republican paint"). I watched a mini-marathon of Three's Company on TV Land and felt sorry for all the blonde girls because they weren't Suzanne Somers - until they showed a Chrissy episode and I felt bad for her because she was. I actually watched the last half of a Surreal Life Games but mustered up the energy to lunge for the remote when I Love New York came on. I was sick enough already, thank you.

That's when I discovered my new favorite show. It's called Dirty Jobs, and it's on the Discovery Channel. They were showing what turned out to be an all-weekend - meaning all through even Saturday night and until I fell asleep on Sunday - marathon. It can't be a new show if there are that many episodes kicking around, but I'd never heard of it before.

There's a host named Mike something, and he's cute and smart and fit and funny in a sexy-math-teacher kind of way (i.e., smart enough to know when to turn on the cute/fit/funny act and when to tone it down). If I'm being honest here, I'd have to say that he's the reason I left the TV on that channel, because the premise of the show - people write in with the myriad truly disgusting ways there are out there to earn a living, and he goes to work with them for a day and films it - certainly wasn't conducive to my getting well anytime soon.

I watched him make flowerpots out of cow poo, clean the inside of a 104-year-old boiler, sweep up Giraffe droppings at the San Francisco zoo, dismantle rotten floats after the Rose Bowl Parade, try to tell the difference between this odd insect's eggs and poo, mine salt using ammonium nitrate explosives, and dig through dried-up owl poo for teeny animal bones (actually, I think the owl stuff came out the other way, but there was a recurring excretory theme).

It's fascinating. Especially because all the people who do all these awful jobs seem so cheerful about them. It's possible, of course, that having a TV crew on hand and a cute, smart, sexy math teacher to do your job for you can have a mood-elevating effect (the few women he encounters are, without exception, positively giddy). But for the most part - even including the airport incinerator operator, who was really disturbingly creepy in a Sling-Blade-starring-Larry-"Bud"-Melman kind of way - I believed that all these people really loved their dirty jobs.

Until he got to New Orleans.

The poor bastards working residential demolition in New Orleans had all had jobs they loved before the storm and this wasn't anything like any of them. They'd been bouncers, financial something-or-others, butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers - and now they were slinging sledgehammers in rotten houses because, as one of them put it, "we have a love for the city and want to see it survive - and also because we need the paycheck." Another guy, when Mike couldn't get the sledgehammer through the wall and asked what they normally do in this situation, said "hit it harder" and put the hammer through on his first try. A third fellow, asked by Mr. Cute/Smart what kind of cockroaches were swarming over all the food that had been abandoned in the cupboard, answered flatly "I don't know. I try not to think about them very much."

Now, I don't know anything about the misery that New Orleans has been these past few years, but I do know a little bit about dismantling a rotten house. We didn't have cockroaches, thank god, but we did have slime and mold and black-stink mildew and bronchial infections. Johnny did most of the actual work because he's chivalrous like that, but I lived in the house all through it and I helped load the dumpster. And let me tell you - I don't know what they're paying those butchers and bakers down in the Crescent City, but there isn't enough money in the world...

Thank god he went from there to expressing a poodle's anal glands. Otherwise I might have gotten sick.

1 comment:

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

My husband is a new convert to that show too. I find it really yucky, but I'm with you about the host. He is a lot of fun to watch.

Hope you feel better soon!