Jobs That Make Good Cocktail Party Conversation

Winter brings an avalanche of year-end celebrations. Party season is at an all-time high, and, whether you're schmoozing with co-workers or mingling at a friend's holiday celebration, you become a pro at small talk.

"Can you believe it's almost New Year's already?"

"Is it just me or has it been colder than usual?"

"What do you do for a living?"

And then you're stuck listening to some workplace story that will make you wish the eggnog were stronger.

You don't mind hearing someone's work stories; you just hear same boring ones year after year. Honestly, you're just as guilty. (That hilarious misunderstanding regarding a decimal point might have had the other folks in the office rolling on the floor, but don't expect the same reaction from everyone else.)

Until you can think of some plausible reason to skip the myriad of holiday gatherings, prepare yourself to make more idle chatter. But if you're lucky, you'll encounter a few guests who have unusual jobs and even more unusual stories.

Here's a list of eight occupations you should hope to come across at a social gathering. (Admittedly, some of the most fascinating stories they have to tell you might make you lose your appetite for the hors d'oeuvres, but they're worth it.)

1. Funeral home director

Why: Even if you never watched an episode of "Six Feet Under," you can imagine the kind of unusual situations funeral home directors encounter. You'll find out just how fascinating the funeral business can be.

Stories you'll hear:Unusual funeral service requests; memorable deaths.

2. Wedding planner

Why:Few events have such a variety of emotions: Joy, frustration, anger, confusion, fear. Nuptials bring out the best, worst and unexpected of even the most loving families.

Stories you'll hear: Thousands of flowers flown in from obscure locales; left-at-the-altar heartbreak; mishaps with swans and doves at the ceremony.

3. Pediatrician

Why:Children are unpredictable and parents are panicky. Think about some of the unexplainable things you did as a child and how new parents worry about every little thing. Pediatricians get the brunt of this chaos.

Stories you'll hear: Baby swallows a priceless coin; worried moms and dads calling the doctor's home several times a night; toddler puts a marble up his nose.

4. Paramedic

Why:Those same children who end up at the pediatrician's office eventually grow up and do similarly strange things as adults. Paramedics respond to emergencies that might be tragic, awe-inspiring or humorous. Regardless, they see things you'd never imagine.

Stories you'll hear:A kid gets his arm stuck in a vending machine; a victim who somehow survives a massive car wreck; an adult puts a marble up her nose.

5. Photographer

Why:A photographer's life might not seem ripe for exciting tales, but it is. Portrait studios, brides and grooms, print and online publications, and crime scene investigation units employ photographers. Each client gives a photographer a new set of entertaining tales.

Stories you'll hear:Petty drama during a family portrait; all-night partying with rock stars; scary experiences documenting a war.

6. Executive assistant

Why: All assistants have horror stories of putting up with ridiculous demands, but executive assistants belong to their own exclusive club. The responsibilities of assistants working for high-level executives will make your jaw drop and your blood pressure rise.

Stories you'll hear:A CEO whose itinerary depends on that morning's horoscope; having to answer a needy boss's calls in the middle of the night; embarrassing moments with high-ranking business leaders.

7. Hair stylist

Why:Hair stylists often form such close bonds with their clients that they become confidants. Customers can be so loyal to one stylist or barber that appointments become sessions to vent or gossip about family and work.

Haircuts gone wrong; tearful clients; personal confessions that should've been told to a therapist or a priest, not a stylist.

8. 911 dispatcher

Why: Most calls made to 911 concern critical situations that might not make for pleasant storytelling. Many people, however, mistake 911 for a catch-all hotline that will solve any problem, no matter how ridiculous it is. The calls that make dispatchers roll their eyes in frustration are the ones that make great conversation.

Stories you'll hear:Caller claims her fast-food hamburger is undercooked; caller just needs driving directions; caller needs help cooking her Thanksgiving turkey.

Next: Top 10 Companies Hiring This Week >>

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