On October 11, RTD was granted permission to “soon dismiss” its crossing guards on the B-line — the flaggers who were hired to make redundant (and assure the effectiveness of) the mechanical gates that normally keep traffic away from the rails. But they’ll still be stationed along the A-line, and that got us thinking: Man, that must be an isolating gig, which led us to wonder what other lonely jobs exist in the Mile High City.
Please note that “lonely” is meant in no way as a pejorative. Chances are pretty good that you’ll read some of these job descriptions as you sit in your cube farm and think, “Actually, that sounds sort of nice.” To each his own, right? So here are the loneliest jobs in Denver — and if you think yours is more lonesome? Come down from your fences, desperado, and tell us about it in the comments.
10. Denver Flaggers
So, let’s start with the job that inspired this list: the lonely flagger. You’ve probably seen these folks, wearing their vests in their cozy little houses along the crossings, sitting in a folding chair and waiting to…well, stand up and wave that stop sign. And RTD has someone doing this 24 hours a day. You’d think that person would get a dog or something, maybe take up whittling. Someone should bring them lemonade and give them a rocker, at least, though you know what that leads to: dozing.
9. Dog Walker
With the gentrification of the city come a lot of issues — including DINKs (double-income-no-kids) who’ve satisfied the maternal/paternal instincts with a dog or two. You'll know a DINK because they buy their pooches sweaters and booties to wear in the snowier months. Not that they’re generally home to walk them — they have careers and social lives, and the dogs come second (or third), which is why they hire dog walkers to get the dogs up and off the couch and out into the world for the sake of exercise and excrement. Dog walkers probably have to get used to talking to creatures that don’t understand much of what they’re saying. You know, just like being a real parent.
8. Any Home-Based Business
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You work from home, you don’t have a water cooler, and even if you do, there’s no one else to gather around it (even metaphorically) and shoot the bull about the latest governmental snafu, major disaster or season-specific ball game. This is why mail carriers hate it when you work from home; they don’t want to be your only social outlet.
7. Mail Carrier
Speaking of the postal service, there’s a charm to being a mail carrier, and a lot of that charm comes from walking a route alone and delivering the mail and watching out for dogs and degenerates and delays of all sorts. But it does get isolating, which is why all carriers eventually find a local bar where they can finally converse with their fellow humans, pontificating on all sort of topics they’ve gleaned from the copious magazines they read for free in their trucks. Because sometimes you gotta go where everybody knows your name.
6. Denver Zoo Carousel Ticket-Taker
How could someone feel lonely while spending their day surrounded by the joyous shrieks of children on a merry-go-round? Think of it this way: How annoying does that one song get for zoo-carousel visitors as they just stand there in the middle of the Denver Zoo for ten minutes? Now multiply that by 48, and you can perhaps imagine the depths of interiority to which the mind must retreat during an eight-hour shift.
5. Red Rocks Park Ranger
Park Rangers have lonely jobs in general, which they might not mind. They do a lot of patrolling, which amounts to hiking around, and for the right person, that can fill the soul a bit. That's true even at a smaller park area like the one surrounding Red Rocks. What’s less satisfying on a personal and spiritual level is having to say, “Hey, you guys, I’m going to have to ask you to stop doing that and move along” over and over again over the course of any given day, mainly with regard to drugs, sex and pooping. When that’s your only real human interaction, it’s not only lonesome, but it would also start to seriously screw with your opinion of people in general.
4. 16th Streel Mall Piano Tuner
Can you imagine trying hear the slight variation in tone necessary to tune a piano while dealing with the buskers, the beggars and the buses on the 16th Street Mall? This is a job where you'd actually need isolation, so you create it for yourself — put up some cones to mark off where you’ll be working, try to ignore the hustle-bustle around you, and create some much-needed silence in the middle of one of the most crowded areas in town. Of course, how often these pianos get tuned is a question. They seem to get re-painted more than anything.
3. Projectionist at the Sie FilmCenter
Running a projector is a quiet job to begin with — you’re in a little room perched high above a crowd, alone in the dark and paying attention not to the movie or the narrative or the cinematography, because you’ve probably seen the film (at least parts of it) dozens of times by then. But at the Sie, things are just more solitary in general. Even when you’re not stuck in the booth, concession sales are minor (the bar at the Sie is usually busier than the snack stand, and the place as a whole must sell more wine than it does soda), and the crowds are light. On the bright side, it’s a great place to sit and just…contemplate the role of film in culture.
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2. Quebec Street Panhandler
I had a student once who at one time had gotten by for a while (sometimes pretty lucratively) by holding a sign up on the street corner, asking for spare change. Some will say this isn't a job, really, and that it's not safe or even a good idea — but if “standing with a flag” is a job, then surely “standing with a cardboard sign” is just as much a job in terms of effort expended. It’s a lonely gig, as he explained it — lots of people who actively avoid eye contact, let alone brief conversation. Panhandling on Quebec south of I-70 was the worst, he said, because over there he tended to get either abuse (more people flipped him the bird there than anywhere else in town), or they’d give him food (Clif Bars were popular) from people who wanted to do something but didn’t want to part with that dolla-dolla bill, y’all. What’s worse than lonely? Lonely and paid in Clif Bars.
Never seeing your constituents makes this one lonesome job. Just ask Cory Gardner.