4 Deceptively Difficult Jobs Everyone Thinks They Can Do

Money for nothing and chicks for free. That's what Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler famously implied about the work habits of rock stars, on the only song he's recorded that probably still earns him plenty of both.

You have to be at least 35 to understand that joke, and even then, it's a long shot. What I'm getting at is this: to a lot of people, what the athletes, actors, musicians, and various other entertainers of the world do for money doesn't look much like work. When you're spending your days laboring over an assembly line or sandwich artist-ing office workers' "healthy" lunches, it's hard to imagine that the song and dance sector ever sees anything in the way of job stress.

Awful work stories are the topic of discussion on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...

... where I'm joined by comics Dave Waite (new album Hotdoggin' in stores now) and Cat Rhinehart (My Stupid Overactive Imagination on YouTube).

As for this column, let's talk about a few of those "jobs that aren't really jobs" that almost everyone assumes they can do. Up first ...

#4. Photographer

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A lot of people in this world call themselves "photographers," and about 90 percent of them have a lot of goddamn nerve for doing so. Contrary to what countless Instagram users believe, taking pictures people (should) pay money for does not involve owning an iPhone and having a keen eye for filters. Sure, you might snap some cool pictures with that kind of setup, but that's because sometimes there's cool shit happening that you happen to be on hand to see. Whatever it was, it looked exactly as interesting to the naked eye as it does in your phone.

You know what doesn't look awesome in real life? A wedding. Never. Not once.

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They're almost always held in one of a handful of locations (church, park, VFW), with receptions afterward at equally standard spots (hotel ballroom, someone's back yard, VFW), and everyone is dressed exactly the same, for the most part. When you factor in how every single person there wishes they were anywhere else, it becomes remarkably difficult to put together a series of photos that make the event seem like a memory worth cherishing.

Nevertheless, countless brides have trusted "the friend from work who has a really good camera" with the important job of documenting their special day. It's very likely that those people aren't friends anymore. For one thing, "a really good camera" probably doesn't mean the kind of rig that professional photographers haul to work. As you'll see in this list of the best cameras for wedding photography, the low-end prices are somewhere in the $2,000 neighborhood, with some models closer to the $6,000 - $7,000 range.

You should be able to drive this thing.

Chances are the digital camera your friend's mom bought her from Target for Christmas last year isn't any of those, and even if it was, that's just the camera. Potential wedding picture pros might be further disheartened by this list of "essential gear" for wedding photographers, which reminds you that you'll also need things like extra batteries, stands, lighting, diffusers, and (of course) a second expensive-as-all-hell camera to act as a backup in case your main unit fails.

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You could buy a house (in Detroit) with the money you'll spend!

That's a hefty investment, especially if you have no formal training or instruction in how to use the various lenses and gadgets that the job requires. Someone is going to have to teach you all of that, and they aren't going to do it for free.

Have you done all of those things? If not, make no mistake, you are not a photographer -- you're just a person who owns a camera. People might pay you to take pictures with that camera, but it's only because they don't realize they shouldn't.

#3. Professional Sports Referee

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If you watch sports with any degree of fervor, chances are I'm talking about you in this entry. I'm definitely talking about me, if nothing else. I watch a shit ton of football, and not a game goes by where I don't somehow manage to convince myself that I should give this comedy stuff up for good and pursue my real passion and talent in life, which is calling false starts and holding penalties in National Football League games. It's something I mentioned on my podcast once, to which the lovely and talented Breandan Carter (of Cracked.com fame) replied, "which of the seven positions would you pick?"


Here's the thing: I didn't even know there were seven different positions. I don't know shit about shit as it pertains to officiating a football game, except for the part where I can totally see a 300-pound offensive lineman jump before the ball is snapped, provided I'm watching on a pristine HD screen from the comfort of my own home. Even the chaos of a bar or just a room with other people in it is enough to put me off my game, to such a degree that I have to wait for replays to confirm the validity of any alleged penalties.

Nevertheless, talk to me during a game and try to convince me I couldn't do just as good of a job officiating as those clowns on the field. In that moment, I know this to be true.

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Also, we'd all be best friends.

I don't think I'm the only fan who feels this way, no matter what sport we're talking about. I can't confirm this, unfortunately, mostly because I take watching football so seriously that I refuse to do it with more than one or two people at a time. That makes my sample size way too low for science.

Still, I can't be alone. Or at least I better not be, given the way we scream and curse at the professionals who officiate our sporting contests. Once you're losing your voice as a result of questioning the choices someone makes on the job, you damn well better be able to do that job as well as that person. If not, rightfully, we should just shut the fuck up. For example, it's a massive bummer that all of those Space Shuttles exploded back in the day, but nothing about those tragedies would have prompted me to stand on the sidelines of the next launch waiting for another disaster to happen so I could shout insults at the "rocket scientists" who kept messing up.

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"Come on! How do you not see that microscopic crack in the foam insulation?"

That analogy doesn't make a bit of goddamn sense, but neither does the fact that we pretend as if professional sports officials aren't complete and total marvels of science. Well, NBA and NFL officials, anyway. They do more running during one game than most of us do all year long. If hockey even has referees, they're gliding around on ice like a bunch of Nancy Kerrigan's, and the only things that move less than the umpires at an MLB game are the players and the scoreboard.

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And time.

If we're being totally honest, though, the brave men and and like one or two women who officiate this nation's NFL and NBA games deserve a massive amount of respect for being able to keep up with athletes who are sometimes half their age. Case in point, remember Mike Carey?

If you watch the NFL you certainly do. You probably hated the guy, even if his over-dramatic first down calls were the "Let's get ready to rumble!" of football. Anyway, see that video above, where he legitimately seems to physically intimidate a Philadelphia Eagles linebacker into settling the hell down? He's 62 in that video, and he's not some kind of freak exception. That's Ed Hochuli you're thinking of.

Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images
The only steroid problem in the NFL is finding enough steroids to feed this guy.

Whatever the case, actual game footage is hard to come by, on account of copyright law and all, but watch almost any football or basketball game and at some point you're going to see an elderly dude running step for step with a professional athlete. Study up on the laws and bylines of the game all you want, but unless you're willing to commit to staying in "playing" shape well into your golden years, your chances of lasting as a pro sports official are slim to none.

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Adam Tod Brown

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