4 Vast Jobs That Fell to One Single Guy

All fortune cookie fortunes were made by one man
4 Vast Jobs That Fell to One Single Guy

Some people think of themselves as mere cogs in a machine. That’s not nearly as insulting a title as it sounds. Yank out one cog, and the whole machine stops working, so if you’re a cog in the machine, congratulations! You’re essential.

Still, some cogs are bigger than others — and shinier. You have jobs out there that sound like the work of whole industries, and then it turns out the entire thing’s done by just one man, working in one room. 

The Fortune Teller

You probably know that fortune cookies are American, not Chinese. You might not know that, before that, they were Japanese. People in Kyoto were putting paper fortunes in cracker cookies back in the 19th century. The fortune cookie that we know now was invented by a Japanese immigrant living in San Francisco in 1909. Or, it was invented by a Chinese immigrant living in Los Angeles in 1918. These are two dueling origin stories, and a California tribunal took up the matter of which was true in 1983, deciding in San Francisco’s favor

fortune cookies

Meritt Thomas/Unsplash

Did we mention the tribunal was in San Francisco?

Various people and various companies baked fortune cookies. By the 1990s, one company dominated all the others. Most Chinese restaurants in America ended up buying their cookies from Wonton Food, based in Queens. Many workers there collaborate on the cookie-making process, but the job of composing the fortunes fell to one man: Donald Lau. When the company hired him in the 1980s, they already had an old library of fortunes, but they decided some had become outdated (e.g., “Find someone as gay as you are”). Lau wrote all their fortunes going forward — and also managed accounts, since writing two-line fortunes isn’t a full-time job.

By 1995, he said he was tired of coming up with new fortunes, and he shifted mostly to curating the ones he’d previously written. In 2005, he announced he was truly done with the job and was passing on his duties to a successor. In 2016, he announced that he’d never found a successor and had still had the job all those years, but this time, he really was passing the job on, seriously now. 

If you ever crack open a cookie and see an ad instead of a fortune, or see something clearly composed by A.I., curse the passage of time and wish that Lau never passed the torch. 

The Rolls Painter

We want you to take a moment and go look at your Rolls-Royce. We know, that’s a confusing instruction, as a typical reader keeps four or five of their Rolls-Royces at each residence, but we’re specifically referring to a Rolls that has a coach stripe. That’s a thin line of paint that runs the entire length of the car. Every coach line was painted by Mark Court, in England. Here’s a video Rolls-Royce put out about him a dozen years ago, and he’s held on to the job since then:

The narrator of the video speaks in a very cultured British accent. Then comes Court, who speaks a bit differently, in a voice we might associate more with a village. He did in fact have a job painting pub signs in an English village before he went to the Rolls bosses in Germany and showed off his craft to land his current job. He heard there’d be a Rolls-Royce factory opening in his village, and he thought he might get work painting the cars. He did, but it wound up being a much more specialized job on many more cars than he could have imagined. 

He uses a squirrel-hair brush to paint the coach lines. This type of hair works best, and we can only imagine the trial-and-error process that determined this fact. The paint he uses is also special, as it instantly bonds with the car’s metal. It cannot be altered or touched-up before some final varnish seals it in. He must paint correctly on the first try, after which it cannot be erased. According to him, he never makes mistakes. If he ever does, we suppose the car is immediately scrapped, and his bosses at Rolls-Royce execute one hostage. 

The Beer Gatekeeper

America has a lot of beer. Americans drink about 18 gallons of the stuff per person per year (this is an average figure, which is artificially inflated by outlier Greg). America also has a lot of beers. There are tens of thousands of different breweries in the country, each putting out its own brands, to the point that we have no way of officially counting just how many varieties of beer there are. 

Some 30,000 new beers hit the market annually. Every single one of them has to go to the Treasury Department for approval. We’re not talking about the beverage itself, which is regulated by various other departments, by various different people. We mean the labels on the bottles, which go to the Tax and Trade Bureau, where one single man approves or rejects them. The last time the media checked in on the place, this man was named Kent Martin. We know nothing about him, other than his reputation for ruthlessness, as told by beer companies who've suffered his rejection. 

Sea Dog Wild Blueberry Beer

Erik Cleves Kristensen

This beer got accepted because it has a doggie. 

Kent “Battle” Martin (we don’t know his age or what he looks like, but we know his nickname) has rejected beer labels for many reasons. Unsurprisingly, beer cannot claim to be medicinal. Surprisingly, this led him to reject one label with the King of Hearts on it, as the heart can symbolize health. Even more surprisingly, beer cannot advertise that it will make you drunk. For this reason, he rejected a label with Santa Claus, in which Santa’s eyes looked too googly

In the 1990s, one Oregon beermaker had his American flag-themed label rejected on the grounds that “the U.S. flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” We can’t help but think of one or two ads outside of beer labels that have run afoul of that regulation, but we suppose not all regulators can be as diligent as “Battle” Martin. 

The Grammy Maker

If we tell you that one man is behind an absurd number of Grammys, you’d probably think we’re talking about some extremely prolific music producer. And such people do exist. For example, did you know that the lead singer from OneRepublic has written like 300 songs, mostly for other artists? But that’s not what we want to tell you about today. No, one person isn’t behind just many Grammys. One person makes all the Grammys. 

That’s because we’re not talking about the songs. We’re talking about the physical statues. Grammy statues are all made by Billings Artworks in Colorado. It’s a team of five craftspeople, and the final assembly, as well as all the engraving, is done by John Billings. Earlier, he did all the additional steps himself as well, then he took on these assistants when the process became more complicated. For starters, it now involves mixing a custom metal.

Yes, Grammys, though they’re gilded, are made of a special alloy of Billings’ own invention. He calls it Grammium, and it exists nowhere else. This metal isn’t poured into big molds to mass produce whole statues. The team must carve the pieces of each statue and make them by hand; it takes a total of 15 hours per award.

Grammy manufacture

Billings Artworks

This is for symbolism’s sake. Music is art.

The manufacturing process is pictured on Billings’ website, in a section titled “Make Your Own Grammy.” “Making your own Grammy is easy,” it cheekily tells you. “Just follow these simple steps.” If you do make one, you’ll technically have just a statue, not an award. It’ll still be a more legitimate Grammy than Coldplay getting Record of the Year that one time. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?