It takes every ounce of cognitive juice to stay sane at these jobs.
Work comes in all shades of duties, responsibilities, pay scales, and stress levels.
No one job is similar to another. Beside other factors, there’s just so much variation even within a particular job from one location to another. A lifeguard at Australia’s popular Bondi beach might be dealing with a whole different set of challenges, say, from the lifeguards of a beach in Dubai or Miami.
But regardless of the responsibility level of a job or its salary, rote and mundane jobs with a high level of responsibility exist within our societies. No matter how mundane or mind-numbing these jobs might be, the stakes are high, and the pressure is constantly on the employees not to fall asleep or grow complacent at the task. However, the jobs mentioned in this article must not be confused for boring jobs. Jobs which are inherently boring, but don’t necessarily have high levels of risk attached to them.
These jobs aren’t just boring. They’re mindnumbingly insane and mentally exhausting! But, with critical aspects attached to them at the same time. That’s what makes them so insane. It’s this critical life-and-death nature of these jobs which separates them from boring jobs which are just repetitive in nature.
Here are 4 jobs which are the epitome of insanity:
A security Guard
Straight off the bat, the very first one that comes to mind is the job of a security guard. Almost all establishments, big or small, employ the services of security guards nowadays. In big metro cities, migrants from surrounding towns and villages form a major chunk of the applicants for this particular role. It is a low-skilled task that doesnt’ require much in the form of pre-existing skills for which training cannot be provided on the job. Barely making minimum wage, these men are then forced to further save up their meagre earnings to send back to their villages in order to support their families living there.
However, this particular aspiration comes at a huge cost. The job of a security guard is boring and monotonous. Besides maintaining a visitor log book, keeping a close watch on the movement of housekeeping staff, opening and closing gates, doing the nightly rounds of the colony, monitoring CCTV footage, phoning up residents to let them know about their visitors or packages, and sometimes helping residents with their luggage, their job is pretty routine and predictable.
All the above-mentioned tasks are only subsets of the main role of a security guard, which is manning the apartment to make sure that no intruder gets inside, and aren’t tasks in themselves. These functions might not even happen that frequently, and the level of involvement of security in these ancilliary tasks changes on a daily basis. Their main job remains to be sitting idle, keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings as the day progresses, no matter how dull or colourless it may seem. I shudder to even think about it.
How could someone possibly spend a full 8 hours of their job just sitting on a bench inside a cabin or out in the sun waiting for something to happen?
No wonder my apartment security personnel are constantly on their phones or caught dozing off. With CCTV cameras monitoring the entry and exit gates, the basement and the common areas, and their cabins placed right at the gates, there’s nothing much else left for them to do. If you thought that was insane, think about how mindnumbing it would be for night watchmen. They don’t even get to do all the secondary tasks mentioned above. No wonder they’re constantly slumbering off in the night in their cabins, even though they’re supposed to be wide awake and alert to any intruders trying to breach the boundaries of the apartment.
No matter how boring and monotonous it may be, the importance of a security guard constantly staying vigilant and alert is revealed only when some kind of mishap does take place. A person with malicious intentions could easily get in and threaten the lives of the residents, should any of the security staff let their guard down. This is what happens when a security guard chooses to pass the time by scrolling on his phone or sleeping in his cabin. CCTV’s are pointless as they only help in gathering evidence after a crime has taken place, and do nothing to stop a crime right as it is happening.
The local pool I swim at has a lifeguard on duty at all times. There’s three of them, in fact. So even if one wants to take a break, there’s always someone to take his place and continue watching the pool.
Swimmers aren’t allowed to get into the water if there isn’t one around. Suffice to say, it is the most important role that is vital to the profitability and success of the pool. But no matter how important this job might be, it remains to be within the realm of the boring and mundane. Notwithstanding the occassional rescue that has to be facilitated every now and then, the job of a lifeguard at a swimming pool is pretty bleak and uninspiring. His days are filled with vast stretches of emptyness where nothing substantial happens. He is forced to contend with the most boring parts of the job in order to be most effective when it comes to actually doing the job, which is saving drowning people.
Besdies watching a few kids slip and fall while running around the pool or their naughty shenanigans in the water, there’s nothing else in the form of entertainment that could possibly come close to liven up the day of a lifeguard. The only change in scenario might be when there are training batches going on, where he doesnt have to be at the top of his game since the coaches are there to do that. Otherwise, it’s a pretty mindnumbing job to just watch people swim and do their swimming pool antics all day long. He can’t even look at his phone to pass the time. Because someone might have already drowned by then. His hawk-eye uninterrupted laser like focus on each and every swimmer in the pool is what will ultimately make the difference between life and death.
While he can occassionally let his guard down for regular expert swimmers who know how to handle themselves, his concentration is still by and large focussed on the pool and there’s absolutely no scope for distractions.
Now that’s a pretty tough one to wake oneself up to every morning.
So what happens when a lifeguard lets his guard down for even a second or two? Someone drowns, isn’t it? No matter how dull or lacklustre the job might be, a lifeguard cannot afford to take it easy for even a few seconds while on duty. Unlike employees working desk jobs, he cannot entertain himself by speaking to someone on the phone or scrolling through social media. Regardless of the number of swimmers in the pool, he needs to pay the same amount of attention to it, which is a 100%! Whether the pool is filled to the brim over the weekend with two dozen recreational swimmers, or has just 5–10 competitive swimmers doing practice laps on an odd weekday afternoon, the lifeguard has to maintain the same level of vigilance and alertness. This is non-negotiable.
An Airline pilot
The job of an airline pilot is a deadly combination of routine, repetitive, and taxing, yet the consequences of being dulled by said repetitiveness is scary and lethal. It is well known that once a routine has been established in any job, a sense of complacency and carelessness starts to follow.
“Complacency provides us with a degree of self-satisfaction this is especially so when accompanied by unawareness of the potential (or actual) dangers and deficiencies. Which in the context of safety simply means that complacency can be dangerous.
The potential Human factor exposure related to repetitive tasks is that the worker simply becomes so competent that an assumption of total understanding becomes normal. Thus we reach the threshold of complacency. We the maintenance staff no longer see the need to consult the documentation. If the task was ever changed it would be missed!”
Besides take-offs and landings, pilots have to deal with mindnumbing hours of empty time inside the cockpit doing nothing but staring at the sky and their monitors. Hence, it comes as absolutely no surprise when a recent survey revealed that 66% pilots reported routinely dozing off in the cockpit.
Planes have literally crashed in the past due to this ‘daytime sleepiness’ epidemic afflicting pilots worldwide.
In fact, due to the mindnumbing levels of boredom experienced by piltos, and the rates of flying fatigued being remarkably high, certain countries have legalized snoozing, with a standard procedure called CRIP to be followed for it. Sure, they may get to tour new countries, work with a diverse set of people, savour local delicacies, and learn about new cultures. But those things signify “the icing on the cake” at best, and do not take away from the boring repetitive nature of their jobs.
Pilots are nonetheless, exceedingly bored with the repetitive nature of their jobs combined with the level of automation inside the cockpit requiring the least amount of input from them. This ultimately leads to the “threshold of complacency” mentioned above, beyond which attention to detail starts to falter and they become more lax at their duties, leading to accidents and near misses.
The public is well versed with the critical aspect that comes with a pilots job all too well. We all know what happens when a pilot fails to pay attention or sleeps on the job, don’t we? Planes come crashing down from the sky, they overshoot their landing ports, they run out of fuel, they crash into other planes, and so much more.
Ethiopian Airlines pilots 'overshoot runway after falling asleep'
The Ethiopian Airlines pilots dozed off at 37,000ft but woke to land the plane, an aviation journal says.
No matter how bland and uninspiring the job might eventually come to be (“threshold of complacency”), a pilot must stay vigilant and alert at all times. He/She must be focussed, observant, and must be able to spot something out of the ordinary before disaster can strike. He is expected to make sane and informed decisions in the heat of the moment despite the boring and repetitive nature of his job 99% of the time.
A highway truck driver transporting goods across vast national and international boundaries has a huge responsibility on his/her shoulders. He is forced to drive through all kinds of terrain, withstand all weather extremes, and eat, sleep, and rest in the most unlikeliest of places. The very nature of his job puts him out of touch with his family for months together. Most truck drivers will get to hug their kids and bond with their families only a handful times in a year. The vast majority of their lives are spent on the vast network of city roads, state highways, and national highways that run along the length and breadth of the country.
With road transport constituting a big percentage of supply chains around the world, truckers are the lifeline the country. After all, there’s only so many places ships, trains, and planes can go. And because of this, truckers form a crucial part of connectivity between the most interior parts of a country to the mainlands where all the ports are located.
We hear about freeway accidents in the U.S.A and other developed countries all the time.
A trucker falls asleep at the wheel and the 18-wheel mammoth of a vehicle slides off the road careening into and decimating everything in its path, causing untold amounts of pain and suffering. In the case of livestock containers, things get a bit more gory as the asphalt is splattered with the blood and guts of terrified animals screaming in pain. This mindnumbing and boring job has massive costs attached to it, should one fall asleep at the wheel unintentionally.
Well, enough light has been shed on the critical nature of trucker jobs. Unlike an airplane, once a trucker falls asleep on the job there really is no turning back or recovering from it. The rate of highway accidents from truckers dozing off at the wheel got so high at one point that the United States decided to mandate HOS rules with adequate technology implemented on all vehicles to prevent tired truckers from driving fatigued and sleep-deprived. This system penalizes drivers should they choose to violate the limits of their ‘Shift’, ‘Break’, or ‘Drive’ clocks, with sufficient warnings given an hour before they can cross any of those limits.
This prevents catastrophic collissions and pile ups from taking place on the highway, saving thousands of human and animal lives in the process.
While a large number of fatalities over the course of the years in the United States and other countries has led to procedural changes in the trucking industry, large scale highway pile-ups continue to happen at an alarming rate.
The crucial and critical aspects of these jobs combined with their routine and monotonous nature make for a dangerous cocktail of mindnumbing insanity. One has to stay alert and vigilant at these jobs no matter how boring they might be, or a disaster could take place. All these examples illustrate that while automation might be good in certain areas, they are more of a bane in the others, and employees must be trained not to rely on them too heavily.
This also shows that one needs to be of a calm mind, level headed and peaceful in nature in order to execute these tasks. An idle mind is the devils workshop. And it is in these exact idle moments where someone failed to pay attention that things went horribly wrong.
While all these jobs seem to be bunched into the category of boring and mundane with an element of risk of detachment attached to them, they are functionally different. When given the option, many people might choose the job of a lifeguard over a trucker. Or Some might choose being an airline pilot over a lifeguard. After all, no matter how boring or mundane these jobs might be, they have differing cultural elements within them. Of course, the job of a security guard will be frowned upon in social circles, and a pilot will be revered and applauded, while the lifeguard and trucker might fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
We must not forget why people take certain jobs. No matter how frustrating or boring they might be, some people choose them not because they are passionate about them, but to enrich their social standing and long term prospects for life, such as marriage, family, and career. Others have bills to pay, families to feed, and kids to put through school. The thought of not being able to make these payments on time forces them to contend with the boring nature of these jobs and somehow stay put before they can find something more engaging.
Many professionals in these career paths are then seen switching jobs once those milestones have been crossed. On the flip side, some people are passionate about such jobs and know how to keep themselves sane in the absence of any action. Besides, it would be a grave mistake to lump all of these jobs together under a single category just because they are functionally similar. We know for a fact that these jobs aren’t one and the same and have varying degrees of difference depending on the environment in which they’re being executed.
A lifeguard on Australia’s famous Bondi beach is going to have an insanely action-packed day as opposed to the lifeguard at my local swimming pool.
A security guard at a mall has remarkably way more challenges to deal with compared to the guards posted at my apartment gates.
An airline pilot working for a popular commercial carrier has way more responsibility on his hands as compared to a pilot who only operates private jets, air cargo, and tourist planes.
Thus, even these seemingly boring jobs come with different ranges of engagement owing to their environments, greatly affecting their attraction and appeal.
Have you ever worked a monotonous and routine job with criticality attached to it? What methods did you use to stay sane on the job? Do let me know in the comments bar to the side.