Sand Castle Builder
LUCINDA "SANDY FEET" WIERENGA, 45
THE JOB: Sand sculptor. Creates elaborately detailed large-scale sand castles and other structures seen in public spaces around the world. "Most people can't believe someone can do something so silly for a living," she says. "But others will say things like, 'I think I was supposed to have your life.' "
THE PAY: About $60,000 a year in commissions from clients such as Nokia and Coca-Cola.
THE HOURS: From four a day to 80 a week.
HOW SHE GOT THE JOB: In the early 1980s Wierenga—then a high school English teacher—was sunbathing on the Texas Gulf Coast when she met Walter McDonald, now 62, a self-styled beach bum, who turned her on to sand sculpting. Their sculptures began winning competitions. (They also later wed and amicably divorced.) And in '87 a San Antonio mall commissioned one of their castles for $20,000. A career was born.
PERKS: No boss. Plenty of fresh air.
PERILS: No benefits. Some stress: She works in blizzards, hail and heat waves. And: "You can spend all day building a castle and have it crumble in an instant."
State Park Manager
PATRICK WILLIAM WELLS, 53
THE JOB: As the keeper of several state parks in and around the Florida Keys, Wells gets to live alone, rent-free, on his very own subtropical island—or at least, the federal government's: the lush, uninhabited 280-acre Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park.
THE SALARY: $40,000 a year.
THE HOURS: 7:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. spent tending wildlife, patrolling and maintaining sites, running tours and education programs.
HOW HE GOT THE JOB: Worked his way up over 20 years with the Parks Service.
PERKS: Hemingway-esque lifestyle—sans sirens, screechy kids, Starbucks and idle
chatter. (Bennifer who?)
THE PERILS: "My biggest thorns in Paradise are the mosquitoes."
BUT DOESN'T HE GET LONELY? No—it's a quick boat ride to the mainland.
JEANNE YANG, 35
THE JOB: Shops for and dresses stars like George Clooney
, Mel Gibson and Matthew McConaughey
. "That means, 'Gee, I'm putting a pair of boxer shorts on Ashton Kutcher
,' " she says. Also outfits movie casts.
THE SALARY: Up to $3,000 per day.
THE HOURS: Varied. Can be seven days a week if she's dressing 1,000 movie extras.
HOW SHE GOT THE JOB: In the early '90s she sold her own clothing line on the Web. She built a portfolio and hit the stylist agencies.
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE? Shockingly, stars can be less than truthful. "Guys always lie about their shoe size." Women—duh—understate dress sizes. "I use my little stylist secret decoder ring for those situations."
COOLEST PERK: "I am privy to some of Hollywood's biggest secrets—or smallest."
Stressful, exhausting or downright disgusting—hey, they pay the bills
Washington, D.C, Police Officer on Terror Watch
STEPHEN BIAS, 35
THE JOB: When the nation's terror-alert level hits orange, the ex-vice cop sits in a dark room staring at as many as 100 TV monitor screens from surveillance cameras posted around D.C.
THE SALARY: $50,000 a year
THE HOURS: 50 to 72 a week, depending on the terror level
WHY YOU WOULDN'T WANT IT: High pressure—one oversight could allow another 9/11. Long hours working in a dark environment with bosses literally looking over your shoulder. Bias, who is single, says he has no life: "You leave work, you sleep, then you get back to work."
THAT SAID: It beats what he used to do: busting hookers.
Survivor Taste Tester
JOHN KIRHOFFER, 40 (RIGHT, WITH MATT BARTLEY)
THE JOB: Heads the crew that dreams up and tries out the show's mental and culinary challenges—including protein sources with more than four legs.
ICK FACTOR: Well, there were those hideous giant horned beetles they eat in Thailand.
WHAT HE HAS LEARNED: "There are two ways to cook a tarantula—baked or boiled. When you boil them, they go down much easier. All the little hairs on their legs soften up.'
MARTHA AGUIRRE, 34
THE JOB: Counts more than 2,000 dirty cloth diapers a day for ABC Diaper Service of Berkeley, Calif.
THE HOURS: 8 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m.
THE SALARY: $21,000 a year.
THE PERILS: Like, you have to ask?
COULD THERE BE AN UPSIDE? There's just something about infant excrement that brings coworkers together: Says Aguirre: "Everybody here has been my friend for a long time."