Statistically, about 70 percent of you think your job sucks. And you may be right, but sometimes it's nice to sit back and appreciate that mind-numbing tedium still beats gruesome disfigurement and sudden death -- things that are more common than you think. In fact, the modern world was built on jobs with utterly horrific yet oddly random dangers that workers had no choice but to soldier through.
Just consider the fact that ...
#5. Hat Makers Had a Terrifying Brain Disease Named After Them
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What could be more quaint and charming than someone spending their work day making flamboyant felt hats for fancy hat-wearing folk? It seems like the work of a kindly old man in a shop, right next door to the confectioner and wacky inventor. The only thing is, do you ever wonder where the name of the character "The Mad Hatter" came from? It's from the fact that hat making destroys your fucking brain in slow, horrific fashion.
Before the invention of synthetic fabrics, the felt used in the making of hats had to be skinned directly from the corpses of animals. Workers had the delightful option of using either camel urine or their own urine to soak the animal fur until it was soft enough to be removed from the animal without damaging the fur in the process. But then, thankfully, they switched to mercury. Yay! No more going home smelling like camel piss, guys!
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Not ... that there's anything wrong with that. No offense intended, camel.
Of course, you know what they didn't -- that mercury is definitely not something you want to handle without protection. You don't want to breathe it, either -- the compound the workers used produced large amounts of mercury vapor, and thanks to the piss-poor ventilation of the workshops, the workers were regularly exposed to lots of the gas. This caused the workers to develop tremors, also known as "hatter shakes," which made their teeth fall out and caused a whole range of vision and hearing problems. And then it got bad.
Over time, mercury poisoning victims are turned into drooling, bumbling caricatures of their former selves. The workers hallucinated, slurred their speech, and displayed signs of shyness and irritability. They had trouble controlling their tempers, resulting in many an impromptu fistfight at the workplace. They picked fights with their colleagues and strangers who visited the workshops, and sometimes they refused to take orders from bosses, giving rise to the phrase "mad as a hatter."
Hatters gonna hat.
The employees were forced to work under these conditions until the combination of tremors and wacky behavior became too much and they either were fired or simply dropped dead from mercury poisoning. And thus "mad hatter disease" was born. But damn it, when you see a dapper fellow strolling along in a bowler hat, all you can think is "It was all worth it."
#4. Farm Workers Regularly Get Sucked into a Deadly Grain Vortex
Working on a farm: the great American job. Spending your days growing corn and your nights ... drowning to death in that same corn. At least that's the life of the several dozen farm workers who die of grain bin entrapment each year.
A big silo full of corn, as it turns out, is like goddamned quicksand:
So, workers will be inside the silo, cleaning it or whatever, then slip and immediately get sucked into the grain. And while you'd think that lying back in a big pool of corn kernels would be either relaxing or hilarious, and that you could splash around and yell things like "Hey, everybody, I'm the Scrooge McDuck of corn!" the reality is terrifying: One false step and the grain can bury a person in as little as 25 seconds.
And no, you can't just swim your way out. Once it sucks you in, you're done, crushed on all sides by literally tons of the bounty of America's heartland. And this isn't one of those crazy workplace hazards that only existed a hundred years ago -- as many as 80 people have died of grain bin entrapment since 2007, and the rate isn't dropping.
Not a "WHEEE!" moment.
And that's the thing -- lots of substances that seem perfectly harmless in the form of the finished product are man-eating nightmares at the production stage. For example ...
#3. Wet Cement Can Burn Your Skin Off
The photo below is a chemical burn. If you didn't know any better, you might think that person spends his day knee-deep in some harsh cleaning chemical or raw sewage. But that is the kind of thing you may see on the skin of bricklayers, masons, cement pourers, really anyone who works with cement:
Isn't this how the Thing was created?
Most of us who don't give a second thought to such things assume that cement would be no more harmful than stone -- as long as you and it aren't moving toward each other with any velocity, you'd have no problem with, say, pressing it against your genitals. But turning a powder into a solid with nothing more than the addition of water and some stirring requires a serious chemical reaction. And chemicals don't necessarily care what they're reacting to, even if it's the other chemicals that make up your squishy body.
So these "cement burns" are caused by skin exposure to wet Portland cement, which is a type of cement containing alkaline. When mixed with water and applied to its good friend, human skin, Portland cement can literally burn you to the bone and disfigure you horribly and permanently.
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You're tempting fate, dude.
You'd think a product this terrifying and dangerous would be rare and carefully restricted, but it's absolutely common in the construction world, which is precisely why so many people get burned. Amateurs often don't know about the skin-melting properties of this compound, so it's not unusual for someone to let the shit sit on their clothes or skin for hours while they try to get their damned deck finished.
Chemical burns can be insidious like that -- they don't feel like anything at first. It's not until well after the end of the workday that your skin starts to change color and fall off. And while you're in the hospital getting skin grafts, you can reflect on the fact that just stopping to scrub with soap and water would have prevented it. And if you think we're exaggerating with this "skin falling off" bit, keep in mind that U.K. handyman Kevan Bloomfield lost his fucking leg after sitting in Portland cement for only a few hours. Appreciating that office job yet?
Yeah, there's probably a better place to rest your balls, buddy.