Who has the worst job at the fair? I DO! you say, citing the finite capacity of the human stomach, and the arduous task of filling it with an entire Australian sliced potato, a lard slushie and 47 bacon-flecked tater tots. That doesn't count. You're a volunteer. Let's talk about actual professions.

Food booth workers. On hot days, it's miserable. I did it one summer for a day at a slushie stand that attracted every yellowjacket in the state; we constantly waved our arms in wide vague gestures to dispel them without being stung, and consequently looked like some sort of interpretive dance troupe. Got stung anyway.

At least most customers are civil, for good reason: These are the people in charge of bacon slabs the size of dining-room table leaves. Be nice to them. But now and then you get someone who wants to break a hundred -- oh, sure! I'm sitting in an understaffed stand miles from any bank, but the Small-Bills Fairy will be around at noon. I was next in line, and said, "Now I don't feel bad for giving you a twenty." Worker: "That's the third hundred in a row." People. The fair is not a place to say, "All I have is a hundred," because the proper answer is, "Then put ketchup on it."

The person selling something no one wants. You see them under the grandstand, sitting alone and forlorn. They've come up with a great idea: velcro underwear! Eliminates the need for belts!

Winner for worst job? The barn cleaners. It's an offal job. The only people who have to shovel greater amounts of that stuff are political reporters. But you'd be surprised: The poop-removers are a cheerful crew, led by an energetic entrepreneur named Mike Kuehn-Hajder. His company: DOODY CALLS. His 50-person crew runs around the fairgrounds looking for "golden prize" -- Mike's term -- and gets it up before you wander into it.

He brings a surprising dash of artistry to the job -- he uses the blade to heap the nuggets, then scoops them up with one sweeping motion that would possibly end catastrophically in less capable hands. They also "turn over the barns," a Herculean labor as odorous as it sounds, and patrol the ground for far-flung deposits plopped by trotting police horses. So shoot the Doody Calls crew a thumbs-up when you see them.

On second thought, they might think there's something in the trees. A wave and a thanks will do.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 More daily at www.startribune.com/popcrush.