Advertisement
  1. Archive

IT'S A LIVING // GIVE 'EM DESK JOBS

Everybody thinks journalists have the best job at the Olympics.

"You get to go to all the events," they say. "You're so lucky."

They've got a point. So why rub it in by writing about it? Instead, let's find out who has the worst job at the Olympics.

Is it the person who empties the half-million porto-potties spread out around the city? I staked out a couple in Centennial Park to find out, but the police got suspicious and told me I could be arrested for loitering around a public toilet.

So I walked across the street and found vendor Don Plowowski. He said he hated his job, the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, its president Billy Payne _ and most of all _ sleeping on a table in his booth at night so thieves wouldn't steal his merchandise.

"If I get out of here with one-fifth of what I spent, I'll be lucky," Plowowski said. "This has been a nightmare."

Plowowski invested $140,000 to rent spaces to sell official Olympic merchandise, only to have outlaw vendors sell cheap knockoffs right under his nose.

"When I tried to throw the people out, the police came after me and told me that they were going to arrest me," he said. "I'm living in this booth. Why, I haven't had a warm meal in 12 days. I've been living off of lemonade."

John Davis of London also came to Atlanta looking for a dream job: ticket scalper.

"It is not as good as we all thought it would be," said the Englishman who normally works as a chauffeur. "I've been harassed by the police, taken on tours of Atlanta by taxi drivers who charged me $50, all for what?"

Davis said he'll be lucky if he can pay for his trip.

"We're losing money," he said. "Everybody is selling tickets."

Some Olympic workers, like Uday Ramu of New Brunswick, N.J., took the first job available when his preferred employment fell through.

"This gets old fast," said the 19-year-old Ramu, as he stood in the street with a 40-pound Coke dispenser on his back. "About 3 o'clock you are hating life and wishing you could die."

What about all the free brown-sugar water?

"It is not worth it," he said. "This has got to be one of the worst jobs I have ever done."

But it has to be better than the poor sucker who walks around all day dressed up as a 6-foot baby eagle, handing out fans to tourists.

"Liberty is a symbol of the youth of America," said Bob Hollister, a U.S. Postal worker who had the unenviable job of making sure the bird didn't wind up road kill. "We are trying to change our image."

The 45-pound feather-covered bird suit looked a little hot. I tried to ask Liberty why he didn't melt, but Hollister said the bird was still a baby and hadn't learned how to talk.

Izzy, the 6-foot official Olympic mascot being escorted around Centennial Park in a golf cart, seemed to have a better contract than Liberty.

"It get's hot in there," Izzy's handler said. "But Izzy has a fan inside the suit."

Still, fan or no fan, when it's 95 degrees in the shade and you're stuck in a foam-rubber suit being climbed on by children all day, you can't be having much fun. I tried to ask Izzy how he felt, but a security guard informed me that, like most members of the Dream Team, Izzy doesn't do interviews.

Perhaps Izzy should. Then Izzy might be able to explain exactly what Izzy is.

"Looks like some kind of blue insect," I told a woman struggling to sell a crate of small Izzy dolls. "A maggot perhaps?"

The woman conceded she did not know exactly what Izzy was and that sales were indeed not going very well and that she hates her job because it forces her to pretend the ugly little beast was actually cute, which, even with her training as an actor, was difficult to do.

She begged her name be left out of the article because she feared retribution from ACOG if it learned she was dissing the official Olympic mascot. And since she had yet to find work as an actor, selling Izzies was her only source of income.

The Atlanta police, forced to stand in the street 12 hours a day directing traffic in their dark-blue polyester uniforms worn over bulletproof vests, didn't look like they were enjoying the Olympics either.

"Does this look fun?" said an officer who looked as if he were about to pass out from heatstroke. "Get out of the street. You are blocking traffic."

But perhaps the worst duty belongs to the man who sits outside the busy MARTA station near the Omni and repeats the same phrase 10,000 times a day over a bullhorn: "To the right."

I asked him if he ever gets bored saying the same thing again and again to thousands of people who probably weren't even paying attention.

"Yes," he said. "It drives me crazy."

Then rebel, I said. Buck the system. Challenge the status quo.

"Say something nutty like, "I'm wearing women's underwear," I said. "Just to see if people are really listening."

I could see the light bulb go on over his head.

"I'll give you five bucks," I added.

He thought about it for a moment, and I thought I had him. Then a police officer came over and spoiled our fun.

"Leave him alone," she said. "He's just doing his job."

So am I, ma'am. So am I.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement