Have you ever worked a job that's slowly slipping behind the curtain because society just doesn't need that particular function performed anymore? Maybe your gig as a professional cow tipper winds up in the gutter because tons of rural teens are willing to do that shit for free, or maybe your budding career as a Roman fire-breather was somewhat hindered by the fact that you set up shop in Pompeii circa A.D. 79. Sometimes entire occupations go under because the march of technology has rendered them obsolete. It's just the way it works.
Still, there are certain seemingly passe professions that we could totally use today, no matter how backward they may appear.
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As we have told you before, there used to be a class of brave people whose sole job responsibility was to get you out of the bed in the morning. In the times before the alarm clock, the knocker-up was king. Tasked with the all-important mission of waking people the hell up so they wouldn't be late for work (a truly admirable quest during the Industrial Revolution, when everyone and their mom worked until they fell into a nightly coma), these everyday heroes drew their wages from going door to door and banging on peoples' windows until they woke up. Since the bedrooms were usually on the second floor, your average knocker-up was generally armed with a large knob-ended pole that could be used to reach the higher windows. Presumably this sturdy tool also came in handy when the inevitable guy-who-reacts-to-all-wake-up-calls-with-bloody-murder came along.
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"Today, I beat your window. Tomorrow, I might beat your ass."
If you don't see why a guy whose only professional talent is to wake up the unwilling would find employment in modern times, just ask yourself: How many times have you hit the snooze button during the last couple of weeks? The answer is "well over a dozen," don't pretend that it isn't. Despite the fact that our modern gadgets feature a zillion ways to wake us up in a manner most pleasant, we are and remain a species of fuck-awful oversleepers. Not only is this snooze-induced lateness a massive pain in the ass for you personally, but it's also costing the world economy a whole bunch of cash. The U.K. alone loses $15 billion to chronic employee lateness every goddamn year.
Now ask yourself: Which one is easier to ignore at 6 a.m.: the smooth tunes of Kenny G from your iPhone, or a screaming man banging on your window with a large blunt instrument until you wake the hell up? Talk your community into hiring a few of these guys, and you'd never be late for a meeting/lecture/morning cartoon marathon ever again.
Hell, even if you're the sort of sleeper that will happily snore through a goddamn plane crash, chances are that the companies that would inevitably form to wrestle for control of this fledgling industry would be more than willing to arrange some more ... effective wake-up systems.
"Sir, this is your 5:30 wake-up call."
Just $15 a month, and you'll never want to sleep again!
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We all know the town crier as that asshole from historical movies who's wandering about the city in ceremonial garb, being all "Hear ye, hear ye!" and clanging a bell at infernal hours to precede whatever random "all's well" announcement or execution order he has to blurt out. These people still exist as an official ceremonial position in a handful of places around the world, but the advent of print media more or less killed them off as an actual profession.
Still, it's good to remember that town criers were way the hell more than just stupid-looking fops annoying people with news of new taxes and shit. They were an extension of the crown, and as such they enjoyed a good deal of protection. Know the phrase "Don't shoot the messenger"? These guys were the messenger, and that was less of a humorous saying and more of a direct threat from the ruler: Touch these guys, and you're fucked. Sure, this led into a certain amount of power abuse, such as criers "sampling" the ale in various pubs to make sure it was "of fine taste and not injurious to health." Still, even this led to the criers accidentally inventing both food standards control and pub signs, as they took to nailing approving messages on the doors of whatever taverns offered them a free flagon that didn't make them throw up too much.
Dudes might have been annoying as seven hells, but they sure could carry their weight, is what I'm saying here.
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"In ale. We could carry our weight in ale."
Although it's easy to see town criers as relics of times o' bullshit that have no place in the modern day and age, I would posit an argument that there's a place for them in our society. Sure, we have access to all sorts of gadgets and tablets and smartphones that can offer us any news item in the world should we so desire, but be honest: How often do you use your information machines for actually seeing what's happening in the world? Chances are you probably use them mostly for social media and email and maybe some forums and Web comic sites you sometimes browse when you're not quite drunk enough to pass out. Or maybe you're the kind of person who does constantly scour the Internet for news and information, in which case you're probably getting incredibly frustrated in a ton of discussions, as half the people you know only browse the Internet for Facebook and pony porn.
Town criers would guarantee that we'd all be up to a certain level of knowledge of current situations. Sure, maybe they couldn't fill us in on all the details of all the stories and offer their own valuable insight on the issue, but is that a bad thing? I mean, Fox News likes to give us insight on news items, and look how well it's working for their reputation. Today, having a bunch of bell-swinging people scream the news headlines all around town would be more effective than ever, because once they make us aware of said headlines, we have all the information in the world on the subject, right in our pockets. As an added bonus, no one has an excuse to dance the "I'm not really following the news" jig at the coffee table anymore, so if they do it, you finally know for sure they just loathe the very idea of talking with you.
And if some people start giving shit to the town crier, I'm sure we don't even need to set up a whole "protection of the crown" thing anymore. We could just arrange the complainers' news to be delivered through more ... specialized means.
"Sir, this is your personalized 5:30 news, and incidentally I'm totally shitfaced from my ale-sampling tour earlier.
Mind if I sit on your lap for a moment?"