Saturday, February 16, 2013

It's A Dirty Job

Recently, thanks to a good friend, I discovered a television show called "Dirty Jobs".  While I knew the show existed, I'd never seen an episode until these past few days when I watched several.  Okay, a whole bunch.  Quite a lot, really.  What can I say, it's a good show.  Hosted by Mike Rowe, the show gives a glimpse into the daily operations of jobs that keep the country functioning.  Jobs for which not many people will voluntarily sign up.  Gross jobs.  Wet jobs.  Stinky jobs.  Dirty jobs.

Mike Rowe is a fascinating person.  He has been in show business forever and came up with the idea for the Dirty Jobs show as an homage to his father and grandfather who both were blue collar workers.  In the show, Mike takes on the position of apprentice for jobs such as sewer inspector, leather tanner, and road kill collector.  Previously, he spent time working as a QVC host, opera singer, voice-over actor and other similar, clean occupations.

Certainly, I can relate to the dirty part of a lot of these jobs.  Dealing with poo, mud, large animals and smells no one would consider bottling and selling goes with the territory of a riding stable.  While Mike began the show as a bit of a light-hearted look at some disgusting work, he came to the realization that without people doing these jobs, life would come to a standstill and be buried under piles of muck.  Not every job is fancy.  As he points out, for every cell phone out there, there are hundreds of people putting together circuitry, packaging products, shipping boxes and making sure those phones make it into the hands of the public.   Mike developed a profound respect for the people doing dirty jobs and is now an advocate for tradesmen and women (  He also recognized that people in those positions assume responsibility for the risk involved.  They know how to be safe.  They know how to be careful.  They know how to stay alive.  Accidents happen of course, but these are not the people out there suing a fast food chain for making hot coffee.

Take responsibility for the risk.  If more people would do this then my insurance rates would go down.  Riding stables have tremendous liability insurance cost due to the number of lawsuits that arise from injuries in dealing with or being around horses.  There is a risk in being within 20 meters of a horse, you would think people would assume that, but no.  For example, a woman riding her own horse across the yard at a public riding stable, sued the stable owner when the horse tripped causing the woman to fall off and break an arm.  Should the stable owner have made sure the turf in the yard was completely level?  Or not allowed riders to cross the yard while mounted on a horse?  At some point, a rider has to take the responsibility for her own safety.  Despite any number of release of liability forms people are asked to sign before engaging in equestrian pursuits, a horse owner or property owner can still be taken to court and have to spend thousands of dollars in defense, on top of all the thousands of dollars spent on insurance.

At one of the barns where I work, more and more safety rules are put into force every week.  It seems the students can just not stay out of harm's way.  Before everyone ends up in haz-mat suits and protective eye gear with safety harnesses suspending them from cranes while horses are shackled and led by 2 burly men, students better start taking some of the responsibility on themselves.  If they are not fit enough to ride, then they need to hit the gym.  If they don't know enough, they need to read some books or watch some videos and pay better attention to the instructor.  However, it is never an instructor's job to keep a rider safe.  Nor is it the horse's job to keep a rider safe.  Who should keep the rider safe, then?  Her own darn self, that's who. 

Just this morning, while turning out horses here at home, my helper for chores strapped on ice cleats to her boots.  I didn't think they were necessary, didn't seem all that icy to me, but she was taking responsibility for her own safety.  She wasn't relying on anyone else to keep her fanny off the ice, or taking someone's word for it, but doing whatever was necessary, just in case of a slip up, to keep herself upright.  Just like the people featured in the tv program will tell you, you gotta do what you gotta do.  It may be dangerous, stinky or dirty (and often all three) but sometimes the job has to be done anyway.  

Risk isn't necessary, but responsibility is.