Our Daily Bleg: Occupational Hazards

From a reader named Eric Robinson comes this interesting bleg. (Click here for blegging information, and send your own requests here.)


When I’m at a party and get asked what I do (I am an architect), I always hear one of the same five responses:

+ What kind of architecture do you do?

+ Hey, you can design my dream home!

+ I like Frank Lloyd Wright, do you think he’s good?

+ My brother/father/aunt is an architect.

+ I thought about going into architecture.

All of these responses are fine, but just knowing how consistent they are, it makes me wonder in what ways I ask stereotypical questions of others.

It would be nice to avoid this by having a list of what jobs get what kinds of responses. This idea has led to many interesting party conversations — because many times, the responses are not so nice!

So here’s my bleg question: what are the typical responses you hear when you tell people what you do?

I’ll start things off. When someone asks me what I do and I tell them I’m a writer, they typically say:

+ Oh.

+ Does that mean you just make stuff up?

+ Yeah, I thought about doing that before I became a doctor/lawyer/investment banker (i.e., something productive).

+ So why do you live in New York? Couldn’t you live in Maine or Aruba or somewhere else?

+ Really? Can I have your agent’s phone number?


@blighter re: Fight Club

Fictional actuaries and the appearance of actuaries in works of fiction has been the subject of a number of articles in actuarial journals:


(Sorry Stephen if this is spam)


Lately I've been doing a bit of freelance web design.

I feel this graphic is pretty apt for my conversations:



I'm currently getting a phd in archaeological science, studying tephrochronology, radiocarbon, and OSL dating methods, so props to the archaeology student posting higher up.

Common responses:
1. Oh, dinosaurs!
2. Oh, Indiana Jones!
3. (from people getting phds in chemistry/physics) Archaeology isn't a science/social science isn't a science/other forms of hard science related snobbery.
4. You are going to be unemployed for the rest of your life.

Best response ever:
While going through customs in Detroit, I got asked by the customs agent what I studied.
Me: Archaeology.
Him: Why do you go to school in England? Why not like Greece or Rome where they have archaeology?
Me: ... Um I study the scientific side of archaeology, so there's a really good lab in England...
Him: Oh, like radiocarbon dating?
Me: Right!
Him: Like the Shroud of Turin?
Me: Exactly! In fact that was dated at my lab.
Him: Yeah, well, I think that's bullsh*t.


Mojo Bone

As a musician, I don't get many questions, either because people think they already know what it's like (hint: for most of us, it's entirely unlike being a Beatle or a Stone) or because they've just seen and heard what it is that I do. Generally, they just ask if they can have an autograph or a picture taken with me and whether I need any drugs or fellatio.


I'm a medical editor specializing in OB/GYN. The responses I get are:
- Ew! (charming...)
- So, do you get to look at naked women all day?
- That's great! I've been having this discharge (or itching, or other unpleasant issue) -- what would you do?

catherine the great

I'm a full-time/stay-at-home mom.
1. must be nice! what do you do all day?
2. when are you going back to work?
3. i could never do that. i *have* to use my brain.
4. how old are your kids?
5. me too! hardest job i've ever had! 24/7!


Me: I work on Television Commercials

Them:"So what have you done that I have seen?"

Me: :/

*ding* same response every time, like Pavlov ringing the bell....

Now when people ask, I just say I am Retired.
So then they ask what I USED TO DO.....



Police officer-
The most common question is have you ever shot anyone.

This is usually followed by a story involving a friend/family member (that got a ticket for speeding or running a stop sign or another common violation) with the punchline being "was this a legal stop?"

I learned in supervisor school to just say I work for the city.


I own a business that contracts plumbing and electrical repairs for condo and property management companies. When people ask me what I do for a living, I say that I'm unemployed. It is amazing how many people I meet in social situations who live in a building we have a contract for.


I'm a social worker (administrative social work, not direct client service, though that doesn't seem to matter). Overwhelmingly, I get some combo of:
"good for you!"
"I could never do that"
"that must be so depressing"


Sounds like most people are pretty clueless about jobs that I thought were fairly common (accounting, engineering, medical research, etc). Makes me wonder what it is all these clueless people do for a living. Could it be that almost nobody actually does the jobs that are made famous on TV?

I'm lucky, I guess. I get mostly good responses. My typical encounter goes like this:

"I make video commercials."
"Wow! Sounds fascinating!"
"It is." (Enjoyable conversation ensues.)

Sometimes I get...

"Have you seen ____ (some TV ad)?" (Enjoyable conversation ensues.)

...and every once in a while...

"I'm in a band. Do you also make music videos?" (Probably for less than you'd pay somebody else. For some reason most people who ask that question don't follow up on it.)


I work in the defense industry as a software engineer. That frequently elicits responses of the "can you diagnose and fix my computer based solely on my poor description?" type, as well as "Oh, so if you told me what you do for a living would you have to kill me?" Everyone has their stereotypical responses, but I have it when a particular job has crossover appeal.


I was a fisherman in high school. Almost everyone responds with some variation of "Oh, I really like that shoe The Dealiest Catch. Is it anything like that?" Oddly enough, I'd say 4 out of 5 people can't think of the name of the show. If they don't bring up Dealiest Catch then odds are they are talking about The Perfect Storm.


I'm an economist. A few stock replies are below.

1) Wow! That was so hard in college, I didn't understand it at all. Why did you do this?

2) Oh! I'm so bad at math.

3) What do you research? (my fav.)

4) What do you think of the market's right now?

5) Sorry, just a minute, I need to check on my car.


I'm a pastor.

The number one response is "Oh, I usually don't swear this much."

The number two response is, "Oh, do you get paid?"


@ #162:

How could that possibly end the conversation?!? That sounds incredibly interesting!


I am a computational chemist. people usually says one of these two things:

- A what?!?
- Complicational Chemistry? Uh, interesting... I sucked at chemistry in high school / college / primary / whatever...


Kung fu instructor:

- "Better watch what I say!"
- "Would Bruce Lee beat Tyson/Liddell/Superman/Chuck Norris?"
- "Ever seen Kung Fu Panda?"
- "So, do you have to register your hands with the police as lethal weapons?"
- "How many bricks can you break with your head?"


I'm a geophysicist. Whenever someone asks me what I do, I pretty much have to explain my profession, since no one has any idea what it is...


As an (orchestral) conductor, I find that people make jokes about trains only about 10% of the time. But everyone, universally, in every country and context I've been in, feels obliged to wave their arms about and say, "Like this?"

Yes. Just like that.

Are there any other gesture-based occupational hazards?