Illinois man works 50 jobs in 50 states

Looking to spice up your work routine? Want to travel the country but don’t have the cash to go without a job for an extended period of time? Take a page from Daniel Seddiqui’s playbook. Quit your job and contract yourself out to 50 different employers in 50 states over the course of 50 weeks. You’ll get variety, the chance to travel for a year, and a somewhat steady income. It’s genius.

Bored with his job at an office in Skokie, Illinois, Daniel decided to try something new. Actually, he decided to try something new every week. He resolved to work his way across the US, doing odd jobs in each state. Along the way, he held some jobs he loved (working as a dietitian in Mississippi) and some he loathed (taking abuse from film company execs in LA). He also worked as a border patrol officer in Arizona, helped out a cellar master in Napa Valley, made cheese in Wisconsin, and toiled in an oil refinery in Oklahoma.

Some jobs paid well, like the medical device manufacturer that gave him $2000 for getting the company coverage on CNN, while others, like the gig making furniture with the Amish in Pennsylvania, well…not so much. For that, Daniel earned just $100 for the week.

Daniel says some jobs were more difficult than others, but it seems like one of the hardest aspects of undertaking this project was probably setting it up. Daniel says he estimates that 100 companies rejected his offer per state. But he continued making cold calls and networking and eventually landed all 50 gigs.

So what’s the next job for Daniel? Writing a book about the adventure, of course.

The mail jumpers of Lake Geneva

For the residents who live on waterfront property in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the daily mail delivery comes by boat. The U.S. Mailboat Walworth makes the delivery every morning at 10am from June 15 to September 15, stopping at over 60 lakefront homes. At each dock, the mail girl – or the occasional mail boy – jumps from the boat, races to the mailbox while dodging rafts and dock furniture, grabs the outgoing mail (hoping that the owners haven’t played a prank and tied the mailbox shut!), drops off the incoming envelopes, and then runs back to the boat, which – and here’s where it gets interesting – never stops moving (check out a video here). It’s a process that takes as little as ten seconds, and leaves no room for error.

The mailboat delivery began in the late 1800’s out of necessity. The roads around the Lake were not well developed, so delivering the mail by boat was quicker and more efficient. The tradition continues today, but now tourists can tag along for the delivery on daily mailboat tours run by the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. While watching the girls work, passengers listen to information and anecdotes about the area and the historic mansions on the lakefront.

The mail girls, or “mail jumpers”, are not postal employees – they work for Lake Geneva Cruise Line – but they work closely with the U.S. Post Office. The mail jumper work day begins at 7am with the sorting of the mail and ends around 1pm, after the 2.5 hour delivery tour. Of the hundreds of houses on Lake Geneva, only 60 or so receive their mail by boat because many are summer houses that are only inhabited part-time.

For young adults in Lake Geneva and the surrounding towns, being a mail jumper is a coveted job, and one that requires an unusual application process. Elle Vogt, a two-year veteran mail jumper and a sophomore at UW-Madison, said that when she first saw a video of the mail jumpers, she knew right away she wanted to try out. The tryouts are hands-on: the applicants will make several jumps, first at the pier and then out on the lake, and then give parts of the scripted tour. To get the job, applicants need to show that not only can they quickly make the jump from boat to dock, but that they can also deliver an engaging presentation to the passengers.

Elle says that she really enjoys being a mail girl, but the job isn’t without its challenges. The biggest one of course, is falling in the Lake. Captain Neal has been driving the mail boat for almost 50 years and has seen at least one mail jumper get soaked every season. It’s nearly guaranteed for each mail girl to fall in at least once in her career. Elle had her turn this summer. One wet and rainy day, she was running a little slower than usually down a particularly long and slippery pier. As she made the jump, the boat passed by and she just missed it, landing in the water with a splash. When a jumper misses the boat, they have no choice but to finish out their shift soaking wet. It’s no surprise then that jumpers also need to be strong swimmers to get the job.

The job does come with perks though. This summer, Elle met Andrew Zimmern when he visited Lake Geneva and filmed a segment of his Travel Channel show aboard the Walworth. Andrew jumped mail and received a special package from a fan, a bag of “bizarre food” left for him in a mailbox.

In addition to the mailboat tours, Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers several other lake tours, including an ice-cream social tour, champagne brunch cruise, and a full lake tour that cruises past the stately lakefront homes. Mailboat tours cost $27 for adults and are conducted every day in the summer, including Sundays when the newspaper is delivered.

Disclosure: My ride on the U.S. Mailboat Walworth was covered as part of my stay at The Abbey Resort and Spa, but my opinions of the Resort and the lake cruise are my own. Even without a gratis tour of the Lake, I’d be pretty impressed with the antics of these mail jumpers.

Odd Travel Job: Sleep Director

Sheraton Hotel BedQuestion: What is the correct job title for a traveling man or woman that gets to romp around in bed all day and test hotel mattresses?

If your answer was a “Prostitute” then your mind needs cleansing and we will go no further with such raunchy talk in the workplace, even if they fit the bill. However, if you said “Sleep Director” then you probably heard the alarms sound because that is the correct answer, my friends. Sleep Directors have the fabulous and odd job of testing out all those cozy hotel beds before you do. According to Ted’s List, which includes three odd jobs this month, most hotel chains employ “Sleep Directors” or people who can tell if a mattress is too firm or too soft, and whether the design of the hotel room will keep you from dozing into dream worlds.

Now this bit of trivia was something I read over a week ago and it bothered me a little on the inside. I mean, it bothered me to the point of trying to find out more about this unusual gig. Do I personally wish to become a Sleep Director? Yawn, not quite. I’m just curious to know the qualifications. In my searches I was only able to find this job ad for a Mattress Tester. The employer seeking Mattress Tester 44 notes that their benefits package is quite competitive and that salary is determined by sleep experience. Additionally they are an Equal Opportunity Employer, but Federal law prohibits employment of extraterrestrials.

The madness!!! Is this for real? If there are any real Mattress Testers or Sleep Directors out there I beg you to leave a comment. Heck, if there are any extraterrestrials out there in the blogosphere make your presence known as well.

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