In a word . . . menial

Why the need to dress up lowly jobs?

Yes. Order has been restored. Ryan Tubridy is presenting The Ryan Tubridy Show on radio and The Late Late on TV. Sean O'Rourke is presenting The Sean O'Rourke Show. Joe is back taking calls himself on Liveline, while Ivan Yates is having politicians for tea on Newstalk and supper on TV3. Yes and teachers are already looking forward to the Halloween break.

It is September and order has been restored.

Summer jobs are at an end too. What jobs! Strolling along between the raindrops one recent summer’s evening, I saw an ice-cream van and thought, “A cone? There’s an idea.”

A queue of hormonally charged teens and stressed young parents trying to restrain a bawling infant did not distract the Ice Cream Engineer dishing out the 99s. “ Ice cream whaa . . ?” I hear you ask. Indeed.


The young man – probably a student doing a summer job – serving the cones had a label on his uniform which read “Ice Cream Engineer”.

I almost fell out of the queue.

Admittedly, swirling a cone to get the right amount of ice cream inside takes skill. As does plonking a flake into it to make a 99 and/or swirling it in marshmallow bits, or chocolate sprinklings, not to mention pouring on those syrups.

But “Engineer . . . ?”

My mind wandered to other days. One of my earliest summer jobs in London was as a "chasseur". I was 18. Many years later I discovered it was French for "hunter" and given to certain regiments in France's army. I was no hunter. I was a bell-hop at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane.

My duties involved bringing up guests’ luggage. Or down. And doing messages. It was while there I touched the late rock and roller Chuck Berry’s cases. I didn’t make it to the hem of his garment.

The following year, in London also, I was a “general operative” on a building site. Translated, that meant “labourer”. The money was good, but the work and conditions were awful. Being called a general operative didn’t make much difference to those realities.

I don’t know why people feel the need to dress up such menial jobs. It fools no one, not least the poor devils who have to do them.

Menial, generally domestic work requiring little skill, from Anglo-French meignial, Latin mansionem for "dwelling".