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Payday Punishment: Sweat shopping

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In summer, the gap between rich and poor widens into a great gaping gulf. The swells sip G&T’s under the A/C, while the saps simply swelter. The Brahmins disappear to cottages, camps and the Cote D’Azur. The rest of us work summer jobs.

Now, granted, just having to working during the summer sucks. But some jobs can really turn your psyche to a pit of blood. In our ever-expanding effort to serve Newcity’s readers, here’s an ultra-scientific cheat sheet of gigs to avoid at all costs. (Just remember, there’s always work at the ward office. Just tell ’em Little Richie sent you.)

[To the right of each job go four numbers, designating its humiliation/anguish level (H), long-term damage (L), meltdown quotient (M) and Yuck! factor (Y). 1=highest, 3=lowest]

* Toll collector: It’s probably an urban legend, but I once heard toll collectors have the highest rate of suicide within the civil service. And it sounded probable. The basic conditions for the job seem pretty wretched: You spend the day inside a narrow plastic box, inhaling carbon-monoxide fumes from idling cars. Plus, during the summer, you have to watch carload after carload of people stream breezily by, loaded down with boats and coolers and all the other carefree accouterments of the summer trips you’re not taking.
H 1 , L 1 , M 2, Y 3

* Insulation installer: Along the spectrum of comfort levels, fiberglass fibers on bare skin falls somewhere between eating sand and getting flayed alive. Naturally, it feels terrible inside your lungs. Safety and sanity would suggest long sleeves and a mask for this task. But when you’re stuck in a hot house’s rafters, having your mouth, arms and legs enclosed can quickly induce stunning bouts of claustrophobia. So every once in a while, ditch the safeguards and breathe free. Thus, by the end of the day, your body and lungs were coated with both running sweat and glassy fibers.
H 3, L 1 , M 1 , Y 2

* Dishwasher: Never a particularly amusing job, rinsing plates takes on a special surreal quality in summer, when hot water, oven heat, rinsing steam and the season’s natural humidity combine to create a stove-side inferno. “I used to tape two pairs of plastic gloves on my hands to protect them from getting scalded,” a friend recalls. “But the first pair always melted.”
H 1 , L 3 , M 1 , Y 2

* Roofer: On the surface, this seems great: long days burnishing to a golden brown in the summer sun. Unfortunately, roofers tend to face the roof, yielding a one-sided tan that makes you resemble an unflipped burger abandoned on the grill. Plus, as you probably remember from thermodynamics class, heat rises. Ergo, roofs get infernally hot. And if you’re really lucky, da boss’ll make you lay tar down on the hot roof while wearing big, sweaty boots and aping some dinosaur stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits.
H 3, L 2 , M 1, Y 2

* Steam presser in dry-cleaning plant: Clothes have a long association with the term “sweatshop.” In modern days, multinational corporations have shifted many such jobs conveniently overseas and out-of-sight locales. But we still have dry-cleaning plants to keep workers literally dripping with sweat. Not to mention granting a prime opportunity to expose themselves to the chemical carcinogen percoethylene. As one former dry-cleaner and current Newcity staffer remarked: “Perc’s bad. You find yourself starting to go loopy after a while. And every day, you walk out a little bit loopier.”
H 3, L 1 , M 1, Y 3

*Anything requiring a three-piece suit: Yeah, yeah, you get air conditioning—if it works. But unless you live right next to the office, the commute’s a killer. No matter how big your paycheck, there’s something viscerally galling about watching people walk by in shorts, as your armpit-sweat circles expand under that tight vest, moistly straining to meet each other in the middle of your white button-down shirt.
H 1 , L 3 , M 1 , Y 3

* Roadkill clean-up crew: House gets hot. People open doors. Pets escape. Truck crushes pets. You clean it up. Um, um, fun. Not to mention all those wild animals disoriented by mating seasons, or the fact that intestines fry right quick on the toasty tarmac. And out-of-school kids will stop to watch you spatulate carcasses.
H 2, L 3 , M 3, Y1

* Promotional animal: Even if you really like kids, dressing up as some mattress dealer’s anthropomorphized gorilla/bunny/St. Bernard gets old quick. Those outfits have all the breathability of shag carpeting, a real plus when August’s hazy, humid days roll around. Plus, ever since last year’s mall attack on a Barney actor, there’s the threat of copy-cat conflicts. On the flip side, people can’t see inside the disguise, which spares you some iota of the humiliation. And you won’t have to shave.
H 2 , L 3, M 1 , Y 3
(Marc Spiegler)

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