Five-ring Circus

Best Jobs at the Olympics: Figure Skating Stuffed Animal Wrangler

Winnie the Pooh toys are thrown to Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
Winnie the Pooh toys are thrown to Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan during the Men’s Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images.

Nominee: Figure skating stuffed animal wrangler

Where to find them: Gangneung Ice Arena

Job description: Retrieve stuffed animals and flowers thrown by fans onto the ice, repeat ad nauseum in a courteous and efficient manner, know how to skate without falling down.

Why this might be the best job at the Olympics: You have a very important role. As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you will skate onto the ice to retrieve the gifts thrown by fans after skaters conclude their routines. In Pyeongchang, you will be required to collect innumerable Winnie the Pooh dolls hurled by fans of gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Those Poohs have no place on the ice! This problem is easily solved by you, the figure skating stuffed animal wranger. You skate into the rink, wrangle those Poohs with speed and grace, and then deposit them into a huge, landfill-esque pile. This large-scale Pooh deposit will also be made with speed and grace.

You are the linchpin of the complex logistical machine that allows the Olympic figure skating program to run smoothly and on schedule. Without you, the the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, stuffed animals would pile up on the ice and render it adorable but impassable. It would feel less like a world-class sports venue than a skill crane at a pizza parlor, and the skill crane is (not yet) an Olympic event. Other figure skating officials might try to perform your duties, but they lack your specialized training and would probably dump plush toys onto the ice rather than removing them. You are the only thing preventing the Gangneung Ice Arena from devolving into cuddly chaos.

As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you will become very fit. What with all the skating and bending to retrieve, your legs and abs will grow toned and muscular. You won’t see much change in your arms and torso, because the stuffed animals aren’t very heavy, but you know the lower body is where it’s at. You will be able to let your gym membership lapse for the two-and-a-half weeks you are employed as the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler. You will save upwards of $40.

As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you will make frequent appearances on television. If you are especially graceful—if, for example, you are able to wrangle multiple stuffed animals at once while also doing the Dougie—you may develop a cult following. NBC may send Mary Carillo to do a feature on you. She did one on Guido the Zamboni guy, after all. As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you’ve got to think you’ve got pretty good odds of meeting Mary Carillo.

You are performing a public service by wrangling these stray stuffed animals. The Winnie the Pooh bears you retrieve will be donated to charity, and distributed to poor and sick children. As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you are doing good works just by going to work. “Be the change you want to see in the world?” Friend, you are the change that you want to see in the world.

You get to wear a costume as part of your job. The costume is a purple figure-skating outfit. While hustling around the arena, you may well be hounded by fans who demand your autograph. “You’ve got it all wrong! I’m just the humble figure skating stuffed animal wrangler,” you will say. “We know,” they will say. “We are your fan club.” As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you will become a cult hero to many.

You work as part of a team. There are many figure skating stuffed animal wranglers, all of whom take the ice at the same time, and you will all probably become great friends. You will hang out together off the ice at pizza parties and sleepovers. You will inevitably be in each other’s weddings. You should start writing your maid of honor speeches now, because you, the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, will have to give a lot of them.

Why this might not be the best job at the Olympics: You are not actually on television for very long, and during your limited airtime it can be difficult for viewers to distinguish you from the many other figure skating stuffed animal wranglers. You could try to stand out from the crowd by wearing something distinctive, like one of those elaborate foam cowboy hats they sell at Party City, but there do not appear to be any Party Cities in South Korea, so I suppose you are doomed to relative anonymity.

You will probably face censure if you attempt to keep any of the stuffed animals you have wrangled. Though you may think no one will notice the bear you have crammed into your figure skating outfit, trust me, everyone will notice. “Those stuffed animals are for charity!” the fans will cry, and they will have no time for your stammering excuse about how it was just one bear. You will become a pariah, and be cited by multiple New York Times opinion columnists as an example of our declining morality.

Unlike the skaters who are the recipients of these unbidden gifts, you do not get to skate to music. The rink’s audiovisual technicians will not play Loggins and Messina’s “House at Pooh Corner” as you perform your task, not even if you ask them nicely. You could try to listen to the song on your mobile device while performing your duties, but it will be hard to hide your mobile device without a foam cowboy hat, and you have been unable to obtain one due to the lack of Party Cities in South Korea. It is no fun to skate without music, but that is your lot in life as the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler.

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16:  Skaters pick up gifts thrown to the ice for Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan during the Men's Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Skaters pick up gifts thrown to the ice for Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan during the Men’s Single Skating Short Program at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

You may risk becoming a target. Just as golfers at the driving range sometimes try to hit the guy in the ball-retrieval cart, some mean-spirited skating fans may try to peg you with a stuffed bear. Being hit by a bear will probably not hurt you physically, but it will surely hurt your feelings. As the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler, you will stay up nights wondering what you did to deserve such scorn.

If you attempt to play or hide in the huge, landfill-esque pile of stuffed bears you’ve helped create, then you will surely get yelled at. If you try to jump out of the pile with a shriek to startle the nearby skaters, you will certainly be fired. “Doesn’t anyone here have a sense of humor?” you will ask. The answer is no. Being the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler is not a light-hearted gig.

If you loathe Winnie the Pooh and all he stands for, this job is not the job for you.

How this could be a better job at the Olympics: The fans could also hurl paper money and cashier’s checks on the ice as tips for a job well done. (No coins please.)

Verdict: I’ll give the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler 1 out of 3 points for exposure, since being the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler is sort of like being a member of a beehive: people remember the swarm, not the individual bees. 3 out of 3 points for enjoyment, because who doesn’t enjoy wearing a figure skating outfit? 1.5 points for enviability, because while lifelong camaraderie is great, it can get really expensive when you have to attend a lot of weddings. And 0 out of 1 points in the category of “Can you wear a comical hat while performing the job?” 5.5 out of 10 points for the figure skating stuffed animal wrangler. This is not the best job at the Olympics.

Previously in Best Jobs at the Olympics:

Curling Measuring Device Guy (6 out of 10 points; this is currently the best job at the Olympics)

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Part-Time Skier Ester Ledecka’s Shocking Super-G Win Was the Best Moment of the Winter Games

How an Artist Made That Awesome Olympics Skeleton Helmet With a Roaring Grizzly Bear

Nathan Chen Is the Future of Figure Skating, But the Sport Shouldn’t Abandon Its Past