Think you’ve got it bad in your little cubicle? Think again. These neighbors describe the filth, funk and sometimes outright horror of their own average day
Turtle poop that has taken on a life of its own. Dark, suffocating spaces that make a coffin seem roomy. And stenches thick enough to bring on dry heaves.
No, this isn’t the latest episode of an extreme-dare TV show. For many neighborhood residents, it’s all in a day’s work.
They are the men and women who do the dirty jobs that somebody has to do. As we work from the safety and comfort of our air-conditioned desks, they work in extreme conditions, facing things most of us could not.
These are the stories of our neighbors who make civilized life possible for the rest of us. So read on — if you think your stomach can handle it, that is.
Name: Marty Conricote
Job: Aquarist at Dallas Zoo and The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park
Motto: “I’m a kid at heart, so the squirmy, slimy stuff — that’s the fun part of the job.”
Yuck factor: Raw fish food — hand-delivered. Feeding time at the aquarium consists of everything from squid to shrimp to sand eels. The worst, Conricote says, is probably trout. “It’s real slimy and hard to work with, plus you get slime all over you,” he says.
Puny, but potent: Cleaning fish poop out of the tank filters is part of Conricote’s job. But the cloudy messes fish spew into the water isn’t as bad as the “chunk-type waste” put out by freshwater turtles, he says: “It all settles down on the bottom of the tank, and we have to go in and hose it all out.”
Honey, I’m home: When Conricote started working at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, his wife insisted that he shed his clothes in the garage before entering the house. “The smell didn’t bother me, but she didn’t like it,” he says. This rule no longer applies because the City of Dallas issues uniforms that employees leave at the aquarium, which is lucky for Conricote because he no longer has a garage. “If I took my clothes off now before I came in the front door, I would get arrested,” he laughs.
Dirtiest day on the job: A university shipped a dead sea turtle to the Texas State Aquarium, and the box somehow ended up underneath the building, which is elevated off the ground in case of hurricanes. The ice keeping the carcass frozen had melted, creating a putrid stench. “You could smell it up into the aquarium itself, and another guy and I had to go down and take care of it,” Conricote says. Some of the melted water ended up on his shoes, and he had to throw them away. “It was the rankest smell ever,” he recalls.
Name: Ryan Aylward
Job: Dallas Fire and Rescue paramedic
Motto: “The first time you see a lot of this graphic stuff, it’s a jaw drop and a real shock to your system, but after a little while you learn to deal with it.”
Yuck factor: Vomit, urine, feces and the accompanying smells. “We do see a lot of blood, but blood really doesn’t stink until the next day. It’s worse for the ambulance crew the next morning.”
Dirtiest day on the job: The worst smell, Aylward says, is a decomposed body: “As soon as you hit the doorway, you know the person’s deceased.” He’ll never forget one summer when the temperature had risen above 100 degrees, and his crew encountered a person who had been dead four or five days. Aylward stayed in the room 30 or 40 seconds, breathing through his mouth the entire time, before he fled the building and, he assumed, the smell. “The only problem is the smell had already soaked into my clothes,” he says. “I started walking really fast, but I couldn’t get away from it, so I had to find a place to relieve myself.”
Jarring image: Aylward has seen several people who were shot in the head with small caliber guns and had brain matter coming out of their mouths. “That’s pretty disgusting,” he says.
Always wear a mask: When people aren’t breathing on their own, paramedics have to intubate, or extend a tube down the throat to open an airway. It’s usually a critical maneuver, so the paramedics often don’t have time to throw on protective gear. “We’re supposed to wear masks and goggles, especially when you do that, because if there’s blood down there or any type of vomit, it can come back and get you in the mouth,” Aylward says, “and that’s happened to me.”
Name: Jake McDaniel
Job: McDaniel Pest Control
Motto: “Most things don’t bother me as long as I can spray them.”
Yuck factor: Crawl spaces, and all the creepy crawly creatures inside them (including dead animals that have to be retrieved). “It’s tight spaces, it’s dark, it’s hard to get around, and it’s a dirty part of the job,” McDaniel says.
Dirtiest day on the job: McDaniel has walked up to a home where the roach infestation was so severe that the smell hit him at the door. “It’s a strong musky odor from the fecal matter they leave behind,” he says. As soon as he entered, roaches began falling from the cracks and crevices and crawling on his head. All he had to do was lift a picture hanging on the wall or pull the refrigerator out, and the walls were black with German roaches, he says. “Those are the ones you’re thinking — what am I doing here, and it’s time to leave now,” McDaniel says. “I just walked away from the job because it was too bad. I couldn’t do anything with it.”
Buzz off: Roaches, ants, crickets — bring ’em on, McDaniel says. The only insects he can’t handle are bees. “They chase you down and sting you, and they’ve gotten more aggressive over the years,” he says. “It used to be they were such tiny little things that I wasn’t afraid of them, but last two or three years, I’ve been nervous.”
Name: David McCormick
Job: Poopie Patrol, a pet waste removal company
Motto: “Some people say it stinks, but to me it smells like money.”
Yuck factor: Poop. (Need we say more?) And in the summertime, it’s especially disgusting with flies and parasites nesting in the feces.
A crappy business: A faithful poop scooper on Swiss Avenue prompted McCormick to launch Poopie Patrol. He and his wife, Deannah, have run a pet sitting business for six years, and this particular client asked them to clean his yard daily while he was out of town. “Naturally, my wife made sure that was always my stop, not hers,” McCormick says. While shoveling the stuff, he realized that other people probably needed such a service. “We like to tell our customers that we can take care of their pets now from one end to the other,” he laughs.
Dirtiest day on the job: McCormick’s first visit to someone’s yard usually amounts to at least one trash bag full of poop, but he’ll never forget the first time he visited a customer with a pit bull mix and a massive Saint Bernard. “All of a sudden, I got to this one spot that was probably six feet long, two feet wide and two and half feet tall,” he recalls. “I was literally stunned when I saw it. It was like picking up after a 300-pound man.” This job, needless to say, required several trash bags.
Any excrement will do: Dog poop isn’t the only target of McCormick’s shovel. One customer with multiple cats has five litter boxes that he power washes once a month, and another has a pot-belly pig that’s 80 pounds and “growing all the time,” McCormick says. (As you might have guessed, so is the poop.)
Job security: McCormick readily admits that scooping poop isn’t a pleasant task. But he also figures he’ll never be unemployed. “I know the dogs are going to keep generating more work for me every single week,” he says.
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