Wading Through the Shit: Why I Hate Telling People I Work at a Sewage Farm

By Reader Ben Standing on at

Irritation can take many forms, from listening to tinny music on bad headphones to enduring being served by over-trendy hipster baristas in over-trendy coffee shops.

But the real irritation in my life, which happens to me at least half-a-dozen times a week, boils down to one throw-away reply trotted out when I mention my job to someone I’ve just met. As an example: I meet Dick (named so for two reasons: firstly it ties with ‘Fanny’ as the one of the funniest names in existence. Secondly that title is entirely appropriate in this case:

Dick: “So what do you do for a living?”

Me: “I mend sewage farms”

And here it goes, Dick is primed and ready to burst with the most irritating thing routinely said to me:

Dick: “Well, somebody has to do it”.

He fucking said it.

At this point I offer Dick a nice firm handshake; nothing makes people squirm more than a ‘sewage man’ holding hands with them. I know that the Dicks of this world have the best intentions but it’s frankly a rude thing to say to somebody; it’s a value-judgement. To my ears, Dick’s spouting this:

“I have a hateful job working with computers, with an ever-swinging redundancy sword of Damacles above my head, and I'm on a much, much lower salary than I lead people to believe. But thankfully I’m not in the position where I have to play with shit for a living. By the grace of my station in life the lower echelons deal with that for me. Good on you chap, you plucky little urchin, keep greasing the wheels of the free-market for me won’t you!”

You see Dick, my job is a respectable profession, a thankless task. Dick could always have said: “actually, that’s a job I’ve never considered!”, or even the honest: “well, frankly, that sounds disgusting”, but at least there isn’t a value judgement nailed to that statement. But of course all the Dicks out there won’t say anything of the sort, they’ll continue to merrily offend.

I know many people in my industry who are educated, articulate, intelligent people. They’ve realised there is a market for such work and they do their jobs proudly. They can be interesting jobs. At least the shit won’t be outsourced, taken over. And it’s certainly not chasing a vanishing market.

Dick, when you sit in your office looking over that rainy car park from your window, think of me; I’ll look out of my office window and think of you...

Ben is a former nurse and biochemistry student turned sewage dude. When he's not knee deep in faeces he can be found with a camera taking nice pictures of anything but.

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[Image credit: Business Green]