We all know that comparing ourselves with others doesn’t work—inevitably you feel bad for doing it, or you just feel bad about yourself.
However, one surefire way to feel great is to compare yourself with Americans who lived at least 150 years ago—specifically, whale hunters in 1850s East Hampton. At least in the modern-day workplace, there’s no risk that a giant whale will drag you around the Atlantic Ocean until you die.
Can you imagine hunting a giant whale, four times the size of this boat, in this boat? That’s what blubber hunters did.
I learned about this old-timey career path because we discovered the East Hampton Town Marine Museum this weekend.
There, a lovely and no-nonsense lady asked if we wanted the tour she gives to third graders.
(Obviously, there is only one answer to that question: yes, please.)
She explained how they hunted blubber.
First they had to get into the middle of the ocean, find a whale, and throw a spear at it. If they managed to hit the animal, that was a good start. However, that didn’t kill it. (Though the whale obviously wasn’t too happy about having a metal rod jammed in its body.) Then the men threw ropes around the whale, hoping it would get really upset, try to shake off the ropes and exhaust itself to death. The blubber hunters then had to hold on tight and hope for the best while the whale dragged them around the ocean for two hours.
Sometimes the whale died and they got to spend the next three days getting it back to land. Sometimes the whale won and broke free and it was all a big, unpaid waste of time. Other times, a man fell out of the boat and died.
… All for whale fat, which they could use to light candles! Which is essentially the modern-day equivalent of risking your life to flick a light switch, as Eric pointed out.
My point? 2011 is amazing.
Doesn’t “sitting in meetings” and “responding to email” sound like the most wonderful life compared to blubber hunting?
My favorite part of the tour was when the Nice Lady told us about how the men needed horses to drag the whale from the beach. Apparently, horses can’t walk on sand, so they made sandals for the horses.
That makes all the kindergarten girls laugh.
Me, too. See for yourself. They’re the clunky wooden things in the middle of this picture.