Is Southern Florida a Worker's Paradise?

By - August 26, 2014

People, or at least real estate agents, call southern Florida paradise. And it does have its charm for those who like a mix of humidity, unbearable heat, mosquitoes, ditches full of alligators, and occasional hurricanes. Of course it helps if you retire to God's Waiting Room with enough money to enjoy the palm trees and ocean views without leaving your air-conditioned high-rise condo or climate-controlled Mercedes. But what is life like here if you work for a living?

(Flickr photo by Maurice Raymond)

Well, now that Florida's real estate market is booming again, you could enjoy 110-degree sunshine on new roofs, installing shingles. Servicing the portable toilets used by all those construction workers is another possibility. But the jobs here aren't all this good. Here are six that you probably won't want to apply for...

1. Livestock Masturbator

There are more than a million cows in Florida, and along with other farm animals they are commonly inseminated artificially. The thing about artificial insemination is that, well, it's artificial, not natural. The parents of the offspring never see each other. So how does the sperm get to the egg? That's where you come in, if you're lucky enough to have the job of livestock masturbator.

Of course, you won't be called that. You get the title "AI Technician," or, as you'll have to explain to that girl at the bar who asks what it stands for, "Uh, that would be Artificial Insemination Technician." Then you'll have to explain the work, which my more descriptive job title does pretty well.

Sometimes you'll get to use an artificial vagina or electro-ejaculation device for collecting semen, which is nice for those days when your hand cramps up as you sweat and slap away the flies with the other hand while you massage that bull to a happy ending.

2. Farm Slave

Okay, slave labor is a thing of the past according to Florida tomato growers. Well, not exactly the far away past. It's estimated that there have been over 1,200 people freed from agricultural slavery rings in Florida since 1996.

Even if you're not enslaved, bending over in the hot sun all day to pick tomatoes is not a pleasant job. But if you pick really fast -- you know, right up to the point where you almost pass out from heat exhaustion -- then that 50 cents you get for each 30-pound bushel can add up. Well, at least it would if growers didn't deduct high fees for the substandard housing and food they provide for you. It might get better someday, like when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange stops threatening growers with $100,000 fines for the crime of paying workers an extra penny-per-pound.

Then, with those extra pennies, you can leave on your days off from the fields around Immokalee, to shop in nearby Naples, alongside one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the country. Call it one of the perks of the job.

3. Airboat Operator

Now you might think this is a great job, since you get to cruise around the everglades like Dennis Weaver in "Gentle Ben." Of course, if you got that reference you're probably too old to get the job. And it isn't as glamorous as it might seem.

As a tour captain you'll be carrying a load of old people and their whiny grandkids into the "Everglades," which is just another name for a big swamp. Mosquitoes are an important part of the work environment. But maybe it still seems like a fun job, right?

Tell that to Wallace Weatherholt. He used to work as an airboat captain for Captain Doug's Everglades Tours in Everglades City, Florida until an alligator bit his hand off in 2012. Then he faced criminal prosecution and possible jail time for illegally feeding the gator. Geez, give the guy a break (or a hand). He just wanted his passengers to have a special show. Well they certainly got that.

4. Septic Tank Servicer

Being a septic tank cleaner has to be a pretty crappy job. After all, you have to dodge the fecal bombs that splash out of the tanks you scrub. But for the most part you can probably avoid the mess if you use the tools correctly. On the other hand, as a septic tank repair person you have to get right inside there. Talk about being up shit creek without a paddle! Even if the tank is beyond repair and is just being replaced you'll have to dig it out, and then reach around and under the leaky mess to tie straps on it.

If marriage is in your plans, consider tying the knot before you apply for this job -- that might be the only way. And expect your spouse to hose you down outside after work before allowing you in the house. Also, you might want to claw your way up to the top -- you know, become the owner of the business. That way you can hire help and stay cleaner, because, as you know, shit rolls downhill.

5. Sign Holder

Now here's a gem for those job seekers who like to work outside. I did this briefly last year, so you can read about my experience as a sign holder here on this website.

Choose this career in south Florida and you'll have the pleasure of standing by the side of the highway holding a sign all day in the pleasantly unending sunshine, and the challenge of fighting the breezes that threaten to tear a six-foot-high placard from your hands while you try to look enthusiastic. Just try to avoid the fate of the Naples sign holder killed by a driver while doing his job.

The good news is that on January 1, 2014, the Florida minimum wage was raised to $7.93 per hour. That's 68 cents over the federal minimum wage, a premium that allows you to buy enough sunblock and bottled water to survive eight hours holding up that sign.

6. Crime Scene Cleaner

Crime and trauma scene decontamination (CTS Decon) workers are paid pretty well. In fact, crime scene cleaners can make $25 per hour with a little bit of training. But you only have to think for a moment about what the job involves -- especially here in southern Florida -- to understand why it made this list.

Consider the following scenario: A retiree living alone in a trailer outside Miami dies one morning before he turns the air-conditioning on, and is found two weeks later by a neighbor who smells something funny from a quarter-mile away. After making their report, who do the police call to scoop up the swarms of maggots that are finishing off the old guy, and to scrape up the body parts that dripped on the floor? It could be you, if you somehow chose a career in CTS Decon.

Then there are the murders you'll have to clean up after. No, that's not cottage cheese on the wall. Did I mention that many people lose bowel control when they are shot to death? Ah, another day, another dollar in paradise.

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