Best and worst federal jobs: readers’ nominees

November 25, 2013

We asked Loop fans for their suggestions for best and worst federal jobs — and unsurprisingly, it was mostly the curmudgeons who replied with nominees for the toughest, least desirable gigs.

Here are a few of our favorite reader submissions:

One reader, identified as Salvarsan, tells us that the worst job (which presumably was his) was as public health adviser to the city of Newark. “Working in a basement VD clinic, with no ventilation and no windows. To see the sun, you had to stand outside with the smokers in a tiny parking lot with 12 ft fences topped with razor wire. Counseling crack addicts and trying to document all of their sexual partners from the previous 6-12 months. Wondering if your car would still be there at the end of the day – or if it would only be missing it’s tires or vandalized.”

Yikes. But here’s where he surprised us. “BEST: same job.”

Here’s one that might sound even more daunting. A reader shares the story of the most notorious gig at the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service back in 1970. “It was known as the Rabid Bat Detail,” he wrote. “PHS officers were investigating the spread of rabies in Arizona. This involved checking out bats in caves. Picture guys in hip boots wandering about in bat guano up to their knees while ducking rabid bats swooping overhead.”

And finally, another reader submits a surprising job as a contender for lousiest: President of the United States. “Since every word the President utters and every action the President takes, almost including when and where he goes to the bathroom, are subject to public scrutiny and also to criticism by those who oppose him, his is the worst Federal job,” the reader says.

At least there’s pretty nice housing.

But another reader reminds us that not every gig that comes with sweet perks is as glamorous as it might sound.

The reader says she was a career Foreign Service Officer in the late 1980s at the U.S. consul general  in Bordeaux. Perks: “a nice house with a cook and cleaning lady, a driver for official functions, and entree to wine chateaux and palaces.” Sign us up! But wait, the reader notes that there were downsides aplenty. No pay raises, and a 12-16 hour workday (with no overtime) most days,  including weekends.

She also had to deal with “death threats,” “gun-toting” crazies and no secure electronic communications with the embassy in Paris or with Washington.

So keep that in mind next time you hear of a federal job that sounds pretty nice.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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Al Kamen · November 22, 2013