If you think your line of work is hard to explain at parties, imagine having one of these strange jobs.
Want to make a living shoving people around? Maybe you’re looking for something more service-oriented, like helping people evade traffic tickets. One of these six strange jobs just might be for you.
1. Toqueros (Mexico)
Looking for a job where you can shock people? In Mexico customers line up to pay for a shock (or toque). All you need is a box with six rechargeable AA batteries, an inverter and a transformer that controls the voltage, and you’re in business. The shock can reach up to 100 volts, and the toque is a more controlled version of sticking your finger in an electrical outlet. After having their victims grasp one handle in each hand — the positive and negative charges — the toquero flicks a switch, keeping the dial at zero. As you might expect, this is the worst part — that moment of calm while the contraption begins to buzz. The toquero turns the dial. “It starts out feeling like tickles,” says Sergio, a paying customer, who managed to endure a shock that registered 10 on the dial. “Then your arms begin to cramp up. And then everything tightens up. You can’t move. You can’t let go. You’re stuck.” The excitement of nearly electrocuting strangers should be enough to attract droves of sadists to this profession, but if you’re still not convinced, consider this: on a Friday or Saturday night, many toqueros can make $25 U.S., which goes a long way in Mexico.
2. Oshiya, or Train Stuffers (Japan)
Do you enjoy pushing people around? In Japan, you can be employed to shove passengers into subway cars during rush hour to ensure the carriages are filled to capacity. They’ll even give you an official uniform, fancy white gloves and a unique hat. Before you pack your bags and board a plane for Japan, though, consider this: 11 million commuters use Tokyo’s transport network every morning. Trains arrive approximately every five minutes. To make matters worse, the subway is extremely overcrowded (often running at 200% over rated capacity). As a train pusher, you’ll have to get acquainted with the idea of violently shoving passengers into trains until they’re jammed so tightly against one another they can barely move, and you’ll need to grow accustomed to the nagging image of passengers’ faces crushed and contorted against windows, jammed into claustrophobic carriages until they can barely breathe. The good news (though it’s hardly good at all, unless you’re a train pusher, that is) is that passengers seem to have become accustomed to these horrid conditions. Adam Shergold reported on the phenomenon in The Daily Mail, stating that “regular commuters have become deft at performing what is known as the Tokyo pirouette, which allows them to slide into the carriage and then stand without having to make eye contact with those who have moved aside.” When examining a series of pictures taken of passengers, he describes the passengers “closing their eyes and trying to think about something other than the crush,” while others yawn and stare stoically into space.” This seems to be changing, however, since fights between frustrated commuters have become increasingly common, and police have reported a rise in commuter incidents, including assaults. Still, if this kind of sadism is up your alley, a position as a train pusher may be for you.
3. Ear Cleaners (India)
Have a strange predilection for ears? Why not move to India and become an ear cleaner? All you need is a little patience, along with some cotton, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide and an ear pick, and you’re ready to join the ear cleaners bustling through the streets of Mumbai. Though each cleaning takes only a few minutes, the pay is a bit discouraging, since the average ear cleaner in Mumbai earns only about 30 cents for a standard cleaning. The upside is that you can charge for additional services, including daubs of lotion, coconut oil and tonics. And the customer base seems to be steady. “Customers are not that hard to find,” says Babu Sheth, a man who’s spent the last 20 years cleaning ears. “There is no specific spot for getting customers. I usually find them while roaming. I get around 15 customers on a daily basis. Very often, they come to you.”
4. License Plate Blockers (Iran)
If you loathe surveillance cameras and possess a strange affinity for license plates, license plate blocking may be for you. In an effort to control traffic pollution and congestion, Iranian authorities in Tehran have devised a system that allows cars with certain license plates on the road on particular days of the week (plates ending with odd numbers on one day, plates ending with even numbers on another day). Traffic cameras are implemented to monitor the tag numbers of drivers. As a result, many Iranians have resorted to hiring individuals to stand behind their cars to cover the last digits of the license plate so their license number cannot be captured by the cameras. If you have an uncanny ability to avoid surveillance cameras, and you don’t mind spending your day shielding license plates with your body, this profession may be for you.
5. Bicycle Dredgers (Amsterdam)
How would you feel about fishing bicycles from canals with a large hydraulic claw? Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly places in the world, and because of its numerous waterways (165 canals stretching over 60 miles), it only makes sense that bicycles wind up underwater. How many, you ask? It’s difficult to be certain, but estimates suggest between 12,000 and 15,000 bikes wind up in canals every year. As you might expect, with that many bicycles clogging up waterways all over Amsterdam, someone has to dredge the canals to ensure they are clear for boat traffic. Bicycle dredgers (also known as bicycle fishers or bike diggers) are employed by Amsterdam’s Water Authority to keep canals clean, specifically by using a large hydraulic claw to trawl the waters for bikes and other debris. When the “fishermen” find a bike, they remove it before loading it onto a barge, which will then deliver the bicycle to a recycler. And if you think this a recent phenomenon, you’d be wrong. Companies in Amsterdam have been bike fishing since the 1960s, says Diane Kleinhout, a spokesperson for Waternet, an agency tasked with keeping the canals clean. According to Kleinhout, so many bikes were piling up in the canals that they were scraping the bottom of boats. How do bikes end up submerged, you ask? No one knows for certain, though there are many theories. Some say thieves toss the bikes into the canals to dispose of the evidence. Others blame a lack of guardrails. Aside from bicycles, other items that dredgers commonly pull from the canals include scooters, wheelchairs, shopping carts, safes and automobiles.
6. Professional Mourners (Nigeria)
Always dreamed of riding a motorbike during a funeral procession while making lots of noise? If so, you may want to consider a career as a professional mourner. In Nigeria, grieving families believe the deceased are best honored by noise, so it only makes sense that they would employ people to speed around the city on motorbikes during the funeral procession blowing whistles and honking horns. Many grieving families even pay mourners to scream and chant the deceased person’s name for hours, hoping the funeral procession will be the loudest anyone has ever heard and, therefore, the most honorable. “They pay us to make noise and use our bikes to go round the city,” one professional mourner said. “They will buy whistles and alcohol. We will then do the job. We have to show people that the person who has just died was important.” If you’re considering this line of work, the good news is that since loud processions are seen as the most honorable, many families are willing to pay professional mourners six to twelve dollars for the service — a considerable amount of money in Nigeria.