Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Worst Job in the World

A couple of years ago I read a story in National Geographic about India’s Untouchables. The article related how severe discrimination prevents these people from getting decent jobs and how they are forced to enter the most degrading occupations imaginable. To illustrate this point they included a picture of an Untouchable standing on a city street in his underpants. He is covered from head to foot with human excrement, and yet he has an enormous shit eatin’ grin (no pun intended) spread across his very likeable face. It is his job to crawl into the sewers when they get blocked up and to remove the plugging wads of poop, dead cats and feminine hygiene products with his bare hands. A few dozen of his fellow sewer workers die of asphyxiation (too much methane not enough oxygen) every year. When he emerges from the manhole after having done his job he generally asks the people around him to hose him off. They often refuse because they don’t want to have anything to do with an Untouchable. When this happens he has to walk home (which is sometimes miles away) completely covered in the crap of the people who refused to squirt a little water his way.

There are a lot of bad jobs in the world. Can you imagine being Michael Moore’s hooker or the president of Pakistan? Despite these strong candidates however, for a long time I thought this shit-covered guy was the champion of bad jobs. But there was something in his smile that troubled me. It was as if he knew there was someone worse off than him. I now know the name of the poor schlub who undoubtedly ignited that Untouchable’s grin: Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate of Great Britain.

Mr. Motion has been given the impossible task of writing a poem to commemorate the blessed union of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. How can he possibly do such a thing without looking like the most ridiculous man in Europe (even despite the fierce competition for the title)? If his past work is any indicator, his opus will be a disgusting blob of treacle. Here’s what he wrote to commemorate the 21st birthday of Prince William:

It's a threshold, a gateway
A landmark birthday;
It's a turning of the page,
A coming of age.

The worst hack at Hallmark would turn red with shame if he were forced to acknowledge authorship of such hideous hooey. I have never seen so many clichés crammed into such a small space. How did this man come to hold an office that has been filled by both Wordsworth and Tennyson? Of course, it doesn’t make any difference who the Poet Laureate of Britain is. Even Shakespeare would look like a fool if he had to write a serious poem about the romance of Charles and Camilla.

In the spirit of helping out a troubled brother across the Atlantic, allow me to offer a couplet Mr. Motion may want to incorporate into his forthcoming ode:

Ah, Camilla, when I die years from now
I’d like to come back as your feminine towel

The whole business is sick-making.

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