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Now I don't want to get off on a rant here, but aside from gravity and how good it feels to put a Q-tip too far into your ear, nothing quite unites mankind like the fact that at one time or another, just about all of us have had lousy jobs.

You know, my grandfather always used to say, "Dennis," and around five minutes later I'd say, "Yes, grampa?" And then he'd say, "Dennis, always do something you love, and you never work a day in your life." Of course, my grandfather operated the hoof-grinder at a Hormel plant and was extremely sarcastic.

You would think that, in this economy, nobody would have to settle for a bad job. Why, then, would someone willingly subject themselves to an environment where they are constantly humiliated, degraded and debased? Well, the answer is quite simple: my writers have no green cards.

There are many ways to know that you have a bad job. For instance, if you have to carry out the body of the guy whose place you are taking. If you're employed at a Post Office next to a co-worker who's constantly muttering under his breath, and the only word you can ever make out is your first name. And most importantly, you never want to be the bathroom attendant at an Indian restaurant.

You know, the problem with bad jobs is that often, they make you dress the part. Every time I go to the food court at a mall and I see those girls at that lemonade and corn-dog place wearing the red-hot pants and the multicolored hats, I have to bite my tongue to keep from screaming, "Sell your blood."

I once worked as an usher in a movie theater when I was a teenager. I had to wear black tuxedo pants, a white ruffled shirt and a black bow tie, all topped off with a burgundy polyester jacket with the company crest over my left breast. Christ, I looked like a prom narc. You know, you wanna be wearing formal attire when the guy whose dick you're shining a flashlight on looks up at you and says, "Pray for me?"

As a matter of fact, I've had lots of bad jobs. There was the Fotomat gig where a lady got testy because her pictures weren't there in 24 hours as promised. I tried to keep it together, but when she called me an incompetent minimum-wage slug, I told her I had to send her order back to the lab because the photographs of her ass wouldn't fit in the booth.

I have several friends who have, in my opinion, the worst jobs anyone could possibly imagine. But they are either fucking with my head or completely insane, because they think they've got life by the balls. My friend Joey works cleaning out the small-object filter screen at a major urban sewage-treatment plant. He calls himself a "flow facilitation engineer," insists the job has many perks and often winks at me as he makes large purchases with buckets full of damp, stinky, loose change.

For 25 years my friend Cliff has scooped dead animals off country roads for a living. Cliff fancies himself a "pelt wrangler." He also insists that the rewards of his job go beyond the paycheck, as he casts a proud glance toward his fur-lined den, out of which he operates his all-natural, eyes-are-still-in-'em toupee business.

And then there's Lindell, who puts electronic-surveillance ankle bracelets on people who've been put under house arrest. Lindell loves being part of the criminal justice system because he feels that too many people are immoral and unethical and besides, from time to time a hooker will give him a hand job for loosening the bracelet a notch.

The point I'm making is that if your self esteem, your sense of who you are, is entirely wrapped up in what you do for a living, then I feel sorry for you. Because there is so much more to who a person is than how he collects a check. There's family. There's friends. There's hobbies. And above all, there's going down to your local Subway shop and staring through the window at the guy your age in the canary-yellow "sandwich artist" polo shirt, sweating over a provolone and salami hoagie like he's defusing a bomb, and thanking God that you are not him.

In closing, I think the biggest mistake we make vis-a-vis our jobs is always determining the value of the job solely by how much it pays. Take Regis Philbin, for example. Sure, he's making a lot of money, but come on, he has to punctuate stupid questions and moronic answers with insipid banter, all the while sitting across from some mindless idiot who doesn't even belong on television in the first place. And now, he's got that new game show on, too.

Of course, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.


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