Someone’s gotta do it

Unsavory jobs have rewards beyond meeting needs

Everyday people get dressed, eat their toasted cereals and drive to work. The people who clean porta-potties, bleed chickens and play with mosquitoes are no exception.

Eric Peterson is one of about a dozen Ben Toilet Rental employees. He’s the man in the blue shirt and cowboy boots who drives the big red truck with the poop-filled tank. He cleans portable toilets around Butte County and never loses the smile on his tanned face.

“I don’t know why I do it,” Peterson said. “Someone has to.”

There are the days when the vacuum gets clogged and explodes on the worker. That happens more often than people realize. You just go home and shower, Peterson said, and it’s funny later when you tell people about it.

“Everyone has to poop,” Peterson said. “It’s job security.”

Job security is something everyone desires, but most children don’t fantasize about becoming the portable toilet cleaner. To maintain such a profession also takes a realistic, enthusiastic attitude. Peterson smiles on the drive to work and the smile remains on his face when he drives home.

“It’s not a bad job,” he said. “I work with a bunch of great guys, and the office ladies are really nice. They really take care of you.”

Matt Ball’s job is another that takes dedication. He’s an entomologist for the Mosquito and Vector Control District. His week varies from bleeding chickens, picking up dead birds and testing the mosquitoes he catches.

Catching mosquitoes with bait that smells like vomit isn’t a perk of his job but it’s essential.

“The worst part is the smell,” Ball said. “In order to be efficient, things have to smell bad.”

An air-conditioned truck, Bidwell Park and the mountains are all Ball’s office. Tolerating pungent smells a few times a week is a small trade for a rotating canvas as a work environment.

Being the man who helps control West Nile Virus and mosquitoes is another perk.

“I’m the eyes and ears of the county when it comes to the virus,” Ball said. “If we didn’t exist, there’d be all kinds of viruses here.”

A Mercedes-Benz and a BlackBerry may be perks to some but a job with guaranteed stability or an occupation that helps people on a national level is worth more to others. Whether cleaning up the portable toilet in the park after a child uses it or making sure the mosquito bite on that child’s leg won’t lead to West Nile Virus, Peterson and Ball know they’re helping—and someone has to do it.