A TV Entry – I Heart “Dirty Jobs”

I wish Discovery was still making this show. I don’t know if it’s on hiatus or done or what, but I loved this show. For those of you unfamiliar with this show, a man named Mike Rowe (obviously a masochist) goes around the country doing jobs that “make civilized life possible” (so the introduction goes). He, and the brave technical crew, get the chance to see sights and smell smells that I didn’t think were possible. The crew gets nearly as dirty as he does, and while they don’t have to do the job, they do have to lug around heavy equipment.

Mike, and his crew, are very good-natured about the work they end up doing/filming. Mike often takes great pleasure in deliberately getting the crew as dirty as he is. He also takes great pleasure in slipping in as many double entrendres as he can. I admire a man who is told by a pig farmer how to breed a sow (it involves a cathader) and doesn’t even flinch. He didn’t complain; he did what the guy told him and got the very dirty job done. He’s been in a sewer treatment plant, several farms (I learned much more about raising turkeys and egg farms than I ever wanted to know and have subsequently changed my eating habits), a couple of fishing boats, and hip deep in mud and other substances several times. I’m sure there are vets who have inseminated fewer animals than he has. You probably don’t want to know what he did when he visited the sheep rancher during lambing season (he has a pretty good speech about it somewhere that’s probably on Youtube). He climbs dizzying heights and handles equipment that could easily remove a limb. He’s a pretty big guy who’s inevitably squeezed into some pretty tight spaces. To make matters worse, his camera guys, who are while not as broad as he is, are just as tall if not taller, and they have to squeeze into the same places. I’ve rarely seen him throw up, even in situations where merely viewing the episode is enough to make me feel like tossing my cookies. And if you see any episode where he looks at the camera and says, “this is bad,” whatever he’s referring to is really bad.

But the best part of the show was how very awful Mike was at most of the jobs. Sure, any idiot can scrub a tank (he seems like the type to agree). I’m referring more to jobs that most of us probably regard the same way – any idiot can do them. But that’s not true. There’s one episode where he’s given the task of putting stripes on golf balls (to show the balls are recycled, not new). This seems simple and the person showing him how to do it was fast and precise. Mike was… less so. His stripes were crooked, doubled over, and awful, plus, he was ten times slower than the regular golf ball striper. In another episode, he’s given the task of packing small bags of potato chips into a box for shipping. Seems simple. The woman working with him was wicked fast. She had a system down – three bags in one hand, two bags in the other, five scoops and the box was packed. Mike didn’t get the system down and soon bags started piling up at the end of the line. He was so slow and did so poorly the plant manager actually told him to leave the line because he couldn’t afford to have Mike working on it. He gets to be a garbageman for a night and the regular garbageman leaves Mike in the dust, so to speak. When he tries to make a surfboard, pretty much everything he does is done badly, with the extra twist that he can’t even surf.

The show illustrates just how much work goes on most people take for granted, and how difficult such work is to do well. With proper training, yes, probably anyone can do it, but without that training and years of experience, it’s a lot harder than it looks. I have a great respect for people willing to do these dirty, smelly, disgusting, physically demanding jobs. There used to a be website on Discovery to suggest dirty jobs. If it’s still up, go there. I’m not shilling for the show, I just want to see more of Mike screwing up the seemingly simplest of tasks. It’s schadenfreude, true, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.


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S. J. Drew is an aspiring writer who finally entered the blogosphere to shamelessly promote that writing (as evidenced by the title of the blog). Whether or not this works remains to be seen, but S. J. hopes you are at least entertained. And if you're actually reading this, that's probably a good sign.

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