Jobs and Occupations
Happy Labor Day!
What better way to spend this annual celebration of work than by reading Paul Lafargue's
1883 treatise The Right To Be Lazy
, in which he made a case for the virtues of idleness.
Some info about Lafargue and The Right To Be Lazy
A lifelong revolutionary, Lafargue was husband to Laura Marx (Karl’s daughter) and friend to Friedrich Engels. He founded the French Workers Party; he was the first socialist elected to a French parliament. He was, in other words, a serious figure, not some louche provocateur or drawing room contrarian, and while there’s an undeniably utopian element to his work, The Right to be Lazy is written as an immediate political intervention, not an exercise in whimsy.
Much of the book consists of a contrast between ideas about work in Lafargue’s day and the very different attitudes held in earlier societies, particularly in classical antiquity. Ancient Greek philosophers regarded work as an activity fit only for slaves. So where others hailed the arrival of modern industry as progress, Lafargue saw regression.
Longtime WU readers might remember that we've posted about Lafargue before
. He made headlines back in 1911 for his unique retirement plan, which consisted of divvying up all he had for ten years of good living and then killing himself when the money ran out.
The year 1850 was also a time when one large life insurance company's records showed its first policy issued to a female, reports the American Council of Life Insurance. She was one Caroline Ingraham, 36, of Madison, N.J. The policy register of November 19th, which contains the entry of Miss Ingraham's policy, lists her occupation as "Woman."
Dixon Evening Telegraph - Nov 19, 1976
In 1973, entrepreneurs Richard and Christine Braunlich launched a business called Conversation. The idea was that it would allow people to pay to have a conversation with an expert "conversationalist." $5 for the first half-hour, and $3 for each additional half-hour. Some details from the SF Examiner
(Feb 11, 1973):
The couple rented space in a commercial building at 445 Colusa Ave. in October, invested their entire savings, and spent hours redecorating and rebuilding the interior...
So far, however, the talkers have been few and far between — only about 40 customers have dropped in since Conversation opened.
About 60 percent of the customers have been women, the Braunliches report, and they talk about subjects ranging from poetry to small family problems.
Sitting in one of 14 tiny booths, customers can talk to one of 20 employees, who are called, appropriately enough, conversationalists.
And more details from the Moline Dispatch
(Feb 13, 1973):
The conversationalists, who work part-time, collect half of a client's fee. The other half of the fee goes to the business. One of the first customers was a lonely divorcee new to the area, according to Engel Devendorf, a marketing executive now working at Conversation.
"She left her two kids at a movie and was here when the door opened," he said. "She just wanted to chat with somebody alive, warm and wiggling. Boy, did she want to talk."
Another woman explained that her husband was a nice guy but boring, and she needed to converse with somebody else once in a while...
"Lots of people with problems don't need professional help, but they do need to talk them over," Devendorf said. "They can go to the hairdresser, a bar or a coffee shop, but some are too shy."
At Conversation, persons with serious psychological difficulties are referred to professionals.
Evidently the business didn't succeed.
San Francisco Examiner - Feb 11, 1973
If you think your job sucks, it could always be worse. You could be smelling pig excrement for $1 a day.
Cedar Rapids Gazette - Aug 25, 1978
When San Diego performance artist Claudio Cano does her act, much of the audience isn’t aware that she’s actually performing, because her performance consists of dressing up as a Latina maid (whom she calls Rosa Hernandez) and sweeping or mopping the floor of art galleries. She notes that people in the galleries will often complain to the front desk about the maid cleaning while they're trying to look at the art, unaware that the "maid" is part of the art.
Cano also sometimes performs outside, where, in her maid outfit, she does stand out more. But even then, she notes, people rarely pay much heed to her, seeming to go out of their way to avoid her.
More info: ClaudiaCano.com
, Only Here Podcast
Cano performing at SDSU Downtown Gallery
Performing at Oceanside Pier
If there were a Cheapskate's Hall of Fame, the Chicago Board of Education would surely have to be in it. In 1994, after gym teacher Clarence Notree heroically saved a group of children from a gunman who had entered the school gym by shielding them with his body, the Board of Education informed him that he wasn't entitled to Workers Compensation for his injuries because saving children wasn't technically part of his job.
After a protracted legal battle, he did finally get a settlement of $13,447.
More info: NY Times
Opelousas Daily World - Sep 30, 1994
Franklin Daily Journal - Sep 30, 1994
Not as bad a job as being a gasmask tester
. But still, pretty bad.
The patient sits behind a privacy screen and exhales into a tube. The breath evaluator sniffs the breath coming from the tube and assesses it.
San Francisco Examiner - Oct 21, 1997
As one of the first female truckers, Edna Ruth Lievsay was a social pioneer. One of her biggest obstacles, however, turned out not to be the trucking company, or the other drivers, but the wives of the other drivers, who refused to let their husbands drive with her, claiming she represented ‘temptation’.
In 1977, 200 of the wives joined together to form a group called “Truckers Families United Unlimited, Inc.” and sued to try to force the company to allow their husbands to refuse to drive with Lievsay. The judge ruled that they had failed to state a valid complaint.
El Paso Times - May 14, 1977
The Tennessean - May 6, 1977
Washington Court House Record-Herald - May 16, 1977
Back in the 1920s, one Chicago cab company had some interesting tests it required its drivers to take. One was a "strength trial for the arms" in which the driver had to hold down a spring with his outstretched arm for as long as he could. There was also a psychological test:
The candidate is required to operate a somewhat complicated series of switches and foot-pedals according to carefully given directions, and while he is doing it, he is given unexpectedly a mild electric shock. The examiner observes to what extent the surprise upsets the equanimity and competence of the driver.
Perhaps Uber should consider similar tests for its drivers.
Popular Mechanics - Oct 1927
Sedalia Democrat - June 15, 1926