Five-ring Circus

Best Jobs at the Olympics: Curling Measuring Device Guy

The curling measuring device guy uses his measuring device to check which stone is closest as two curlers look on.
Photo illustration by Slate. Screengrab from NBCOlympics.com.

Nominee: Curling umpire

Where to find him: Gangneung Curling Centre

Job description: Arbitrate scoring disputes, wield absurdly long measuring device, move very slowly.

Why this might be the best job at the Olympics: You have a very important role. As the curling measuring device guy, you wield an awesome power, localized entirely within your awesome measuring device. You are tasked with stepping in when the athletes themselves cannot determine the score. In curling, a team scores points for each stone that is closer to the tee—a little hole that sits smack in the middle of the concentric circles that are known as the “house”—than its opponent’s closest stone. Sometimes it is hard to tell which stone is closest to the tee. That’s where you, the curling measuring device guy, come in. You are the decider!

You use a special device to perform your duties. As the curling measuring device guy, you adjudicate scoring disputes with a very long stick. The device is your very own, and you can do with it as you please. It has a dial, and a caliper-type thing, and could probably also be used as a weapon, if a scoring dispute got out of hand. But it won’t get out of hand, because who would ever want to fight with you, the curling measuring device guy? No one, that’s who.

As the curling measuring device guy, you can milk your initial approach. You can step onto the ice and then change your mind and walk backward off the ice, like a diva on some very slippery red carpet. You can set down your device, spin around in a half circle, and pick it up again. You can pretend your measuring device is a balance pole and that you are a tightrope walker hovering high above the crowd. There are all sorts of little impromptu dance moves and charades you can deploy as you begin to undertake your awesome task.

When you’re on the ice, you are indisputably the center of attention. All eyes are focused on you, the curling measuring device guy, as you spin around in circles and adjust your measuring device. Your friends and relatives watching at home will swell with pride as you perform your task in efficient silence. If the curling center at which you work features a Jumbotron, you and your measuring device will be on it. (The curling center at which you work probably does not feature a Jumbotron.) All this attention might go to a lesser guy’s head, but it does not affect you, the curling measuring device guy, because you know it’s not about you. It’s about using a very long stick to help settle scoring disputes in a nonviolent manner.

No one will rush you when you are the curling measuring device guy. Have you heard the expression “measure twice, cut once?” Pshh! More like “measure as often as you like, and don’t cut any corners.” Everyone wants to ensure that you come to the correct decision. The curlers will not get angry if you measure, double measure, and then triple measure. Quite the opposite: They will giggle in delight and exclaim that the stones are indeed “very close!” They know how hard your job is. They would not want to be in your shoes.

Your official title is umpire, but unlike your counterparts in professional baseball, you run little risk of being hit in the mask with a foul tip. Angry competitors will not kick dirt on you, because curling centers are largely dirt-free zones. You will never have to deal with an agitated Earl Weaver in your job as the curling measuring device guy. Earl Weaver is not a curling manager. Also, Earl Weaver is dead. Advantage: curling measuring device guy!

Why this might not be the best job at the Olympics: You will spend a lot of time waiting around as the curling measuring device guy. You are not really central to the action of a curling match. If you are easily distractible, you might get caught daydreaming during a match and not even notice when the curlers call for your services. “Hey! Curling measuring device guy! Get over here!” they might cry. As the curling measuring device guy, you will live in perpetual fear of missing your cue.

Although it is your trademark accessory, you can’t really tote the measuring device around with you during off hours. It is too long and clumsy to bring into a bar or to the supermarket, and if you bring it anyway, you will just end up poking and enraging people. You will probably have to use your measuring device as a weapon if you insist on bringing it out into public. Your measuring device will not fit in the overhead bin when you travel. You will have to check it to your final destination, and you will spend the whole flight worried the airline will lose or mangle your measuring device.

While it may seem like your measuring device is your very own, it is probably the property of the rink or curling association that sponsors the event, and if you get fired, they will probably not let you keep it as a memento of your time as the curling measuring device guy. Thus, you should try very hard not to get fired, because if you did, you would no longer be the curling measuring device guy. You would just be a curling guy, or possibly just a guy, depending on the circumstances of your firing.

You will not actually spend all that much time on the Jumbotron, if there is a Jumbotron. The shot will mostly be focused on the stones and the device. Your face is sort of peripheral to the action.

You are not the sort of umpire who can make some extra money on the side during the off season by teaching at the Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. Your skill set is useless to the Wendelstedts. You are, of course, free to attend the Wendelstedt School, assuming you have $2,450 to spare. You most likely do not have $2,450 to spare. Curling measuring device guy is not a well-paid job.

When you reach your final decision, you exit the ice, and that’s the end of it. Balloons do not fall from the ceiling. The competitors do not shake your hand and thank you for your service. You are not played off the ice with a modified version of the Miss America theme song. No one sings “There he goes, the curling measuring device guy” as you depart. You just leave, and are forgotten as soon as you depart. As the curling measuring device guy, you know as well as anyone that fame is a fickle beast.

How this could be a better job at the Olympics: The measuring device could also be a pogo stick the curling measuring device guy rides onto the ice.

Verdict: As a reminder, we evaluate the Best Jobs at the Olympics based on the amount of exposure they get, how enjoyable the job seems, and how enviable the job is. I’ll give the curling measuring device guy 1.5 out of 3 points for exposure, because while he’s not on the ice for very long, when he is on the ice, he’s the star of the show. 1.5 points for enjoyment, because I feel like there is a lot of pressure in this job, and also the curling measuring device guy probably spends an inordinate amount of time worrying he’ll drop and damage his device. 2 points for enviability, because watching the curling measuring device guy certainly made me want to own a giant measuring stick. And 1 out of 1 in the category of “Is this person the living embodiment of a Theodore Roosevelt aphorism?” 6 out of 10 points for the curling measuring device guy. This is currently the best job at the Olympics.

Previously in Best Jobs at the Olympics (Rio edition): Guy With Red Flag at Trap-Shooting Competition, Earring-Retrieving Scuba Diver, Table-Tennis Autograph Wrangler, Trampoline Coach, Track-Cycling Electric-Bike Guy, Horse (this was the best job at the Rio Olympics)

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