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Sure, it’s a tough job market for students graduating from college–many of them face a choice between flipping burgers and moving back in with their parents–but quit whining! Throughout history, there have been way tougher occupations. Do you really want to get paid to eat food off corpses? Or steal them for aspiring surgeons? Take that unpaid internship and get over yourself, ’cause you don’t have it as bad as these guys did.
Before the nineteenth century in England, people wanted to make sure that their family members were absolved of sins after death. So, in a cleansing ritual, they’d place a crust of bread on the corpse’s chest, which would supposedly absorb the deceased’s sins, and then hire a sin-eater to consume it. Not only did sin-eaters make a quick buck for ingesting all that evil, they also got a free meal. Not a bad gig!
2. Gong Farmer
“Janitor” isn’t considered a cushy job today, but it’s definitely an improvement over the gong farmer of Tudor England. Before modern plumbing, gong farmers shoveled piles of human waste from cesspits, and transported those piles outside the town. If you showed a picture of a toilet to a gong farmer, he’d cry tears of joy over its sheer beauty.
3. Leech Gatherer
To supply doctors with the leeches they needed to treat their patients, leech gatherers waded into swamps and marshes to collect ‘em. What’s one of the best ways to catch leeches? Stand still and wait for your blood to get sucked. These guys probably had a hunch that leeches had nothing to do with medicine.
4. Resurrection Men
The only cadavers legally available to surgical students were from executed criminals, and there just weren’t enough executions to supply every medical school. So, despite laws against stealing corpses, resurrection men robbed graves and sold the contents to future physicians. Although incredibly gross, some zombie-obsessed “Walking Dead” fans would probably be willing to do this today.
5. Spit Boys
Before the advent of propane grills, spit boys cooked meat for royalty by turning iron rods for hours, without a break and fully clothed, while standing unbearably close to a roaring fire. Their shifts started at 4 a.m., and they weren’t allowed to piss until the workday had ended. Too bad the show “BBQ Pitmasters” wasn’t around back then, ’cause they’d win on endurance alone.