Popular Mechanics published a list of four dozen or so “Coolest Gigs on Earth.”
They ought to have said “manliest.” This isn’t The Atlantic or Time. This is Popular Mechanics!
The catalog is admirably inclusive, but it smacks of padding. For example, “Food Scientist” is pegged. This is a job which I’m sure is at least interesting—the guy profiled develops, among other things, blended iced coffee—but it isn’t manly.
Like “Food Scientist”, “Statistician” can be interesting. But is it a manly gig? “Don’t mess with him, Jim. He’s a statistician!”
Before laughing, try swapping your own title for mine. See if the sentence becomes less ridiculous. We “Account Managers”, “Financial Specialists”, “Insurance Brokers”, “Customer Relation Managers” are all in the same meek boat.
What’s a manly job? One that if you were to announce it at the bar—a drinking establishment where Pinot Grigio is not on the menu—the men sitting there would not smirk. Preferably, it is something that is done with your hands. Bonus points if it requires dangerous tools. A manly job is one that makes something tangible. It does something noticeable. It’s one that, at the end of the day, you can look back and actually see progress.
Here, then, are my entries. I’ve taken as many as I could from Popular Mechanics (marked with PM) and made inclusions where they were negligent. The entries are in rough order of what I’d rather be doing. Daydreaming is, of course, the real purpose of the list.
- PM Try that “Don’t mess with” sentence with “Bladesmith” as the occupation. It’s a fancier name for Blacksmith. Few titles sound manlier. PM profiles Burt Foster, who can make knives “that can chop through a 2 x 4, shave hair off an arm and bend 90 degrees.” He can also snap your neck in two and is impervious to heat.
- PM Stuntman. If you’ve seen—and appreciated—Burt Reynolds in Hooper, then nothing more need be said.
- PM Baseball Bat Maker. Johnny Damon steps up to the plate and takes the first pitch for a strike. Inge is on third from an earlier single, Ordoñez walked to first. Tigers are down by two runs. Crack! Home run! Tigers win! And it was your bat that did it. That’s both cool and manly.
- PM Field Mechanic. Any kind of mechanic, to include tool and die men, is surely manly. But fixing flats under fire ratchets up the required testosterone. This is one of the military professions PM included without resorting to admitting the necessity of soldiering.
- PM Grand Canyon River Guide. River Guide—Outback Guide, Tundra Guide, Jungle or Steppe Guide, any kind of expert of navigating nature’s nastiness—just smacks of a movie waiting to be. Here’s rugged Walker Mackay, who has lived on the river all his life. He’s taken hundreds of tours. But something is different about this one. Maybe it’s a chase, maybe it’s hidden treasure, maybe even something about a modern Hole in the Wall Gang. Adventure is just around the next bend.
- Soldier. The profession of arms is nowadays seen as low class when it’s not downright despised. People say, “We support our troops” by which they mean, “Those fools couldn’t find any other job.” An army is an indulgence and not a necessity. History is filled with societies anxious to beat their swords into plowshares only to find their neighbors have done the opposite. But what of men like Alexander, Patton, Ceasar, Joshua, Nelson, Washington, Wellington. That I can just write their last names and that you know exactly who I mean and why, shows the true importance of this profession.
- PM Demolition Blaster What true man doesn’t like to blow stuff up? And to get paid to do it? Sheer bliss.
- PM Fisherman On the open, raging sea. Trying not to be washed overboard. Drinking rum. Hauling in tons of smelly fish. Gutting, scaling and hacking them into Mrs Paul’s you leave to others.
- PM Distilleryman Drink up, men. Anybody can make beer: too many have. These days, microbrew ingredients more closely resemble fruit pie than beer. But it takes a real man to make whiskey.
- Astronaut. A rocketman on a mission to the stars! Even the training is brutal. Nothing is manlier. Unless on that mission, aliens are attacking and you are the Last Hope. Staving off an alien invasion must be the pinnacle of manliness.
Athlete is not on the list because it’s not a job a man can keep much past thirty. Unless it’s golf or curling. Fine sports. But manly?