Upward Mobility

Needless to say, the elevator industry has its ups and downs. On the upside, earnings for those who install, repair, and maintain the systems are among the highest of all construction trades, and the benefits are usually good. On the downside, the work involves heavy equipment with moving parts, often cramped quarters, and sometimes very deep shafts.

Special Delivery

They’re not your average bikers. They don’t come roaring down the street in packs, polluting the air with loud noise and noxious exhaust gases. Instead of traffic rushing to make way for their passing, these bikers are constantly trying to negotiate their way around vehicles that refuse to share the road with them. They are bike messengers, and every day they perform a necessary service for little pay and no thanks in overpopulated cities that have become congested with stop-and-go traffic. But what attracts people to do this line of work?

A Higher Calling

As we move closer as a nation to having a cell phone for every citizen, or at least every household, our constantly connected way of life is changing the American landscape. The tallest of the communication towers making our wireless evolution possible stretch up to 2,000 feet, a distance limited by the Federal Aviation Administration,which has determined that anything taller is a hazard to navigation.

They Like It Hot

Firefighting is one of the world’s most dangerous and highly regarded jobs. As kids, many of us want to be firefighters when we grow up—but few of us actually do it. For Larry Wilson, his respect for the job was motivation enough not only to become a wildland firefighter while in college, but also to take it a step further and become a smokejumper.

Haunting and Gathering

Sure, there are the apparitions, noises, disembodied voices, and objects moving of their own accord, sometimes flying across the room.And, yes, temperatures can suddenly drop, and strange, often nauseating smells can fill a room for no apparent reason.

Going with the Flow

What would possess a person to go toward a volcano that may erupt? A death wish? Or could it instead be a wish to preserve life?

Trash Talk

It’s easy to make light of the solid waste industry, or, for those above such things, to take it entirely for granted. The reality, however, is that without it, civilization as we know it would not last long. And things would get putrid pretty quickly.

Bull’s Eyeeeaaaahhh!

A bull rider charges into the arena, his heals dug in, one arm outstretched, the other holding on for dear life as he does his best to stay atop his ride. He counts down the seconds until a horn signals time is up, then must take a leap of faith off his bull, entrusting his safety and health to the bullfighters watching his back.

Blade Runners

Injury-free days on the slopes are few and far between. To some extent, mishaps just go with the terrain when millions of skiers per season, people of all ages and skill levels, are turned loose on snow and ice at high altitudes with boards strapped to their feet. It doesn’t help that snow has a tendency to shift or that trail conditions can change hourly.

Rethinking Rig Embarkation

Work on an offshore oil or gas rig presents many hazards. Getting out there can be dangerous, too, because of sea and weather conditions. Helicopter transport has a good safety record, but even the United Kingdom Offshore Oil and Gas Industry Association Ltd, which claims to be the world leader in offshore helicopter safety, has experienced two fatal crashes, with 18 deaths, in the past decade.

Keeping Cool in the Hot Zone

Dr. Mike Holbrook, director of the Robert E. Shope, M.D., Laboratory, a Biosafety Level-4 lab at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, deals with some of the deadliest viruses known to man, including Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, Junin, and Nipah viruses. It goes without saying that special precautions are put into place to ensure total security and safety.

In the Eye of the Storm

St. Elmo’s Fire, with its eerie emanations of iridescent hues, possesses a mystical quality for many. For centuries, sailors either sought shelter or stood in awe of it. But for Greg Bast, the phenomenon is just another part of his job. “It’s aesthetically pleasing, in that it’s kind of neat to watch it, but it can also get a little weird when it discharges and starts running down the side of the airplane and bouncing off the prop tips and everything else.”