Dasha Fayvinova
Updated Apr 02, 2017 @ 11:19 am
Subway Passengers
Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Next time you want to complain about your office job, think again. Back in the 1920s, it was one man’s job to investigate the smells on the New York subway. That man was named James “Smelly” Kelly. Really puts that whole “windowless cubicle” gripe you might have into perspective, doesn’t it?

In order to fully appreciate your own life, you need to hear all about James Kelly. While working for the New York City subway, he walked more than 100,000 miles down all sorts of tracks. His goal? To locate and eliminate the terrible subway smells that plagued the cities residents.

Wait. That was an actual job?!

Because modern technology that tracks dangerous scents like gas leaks wasn’t around back then, people like James were hired to sniff out the problem. And James “Smelly” Kelly was a hard worker with a great record.

According to Atlas Obscura, which tracked down all the history associated with the subway smeller, James became the foreman in the Structures Division of the Board of Transportation in 1926. In addition to looking for leaks, he was also known for identifying clogged or broken pipes. Additionally, James would have to pull fish out of pipes when he noticed clogs.

James worked hard to investigate the smells…

In spite of limited technology, James carried around an Aquaphone. The device allowed him to listen in on fire hydrant hissing noises. Those would signify how close a leak was. In short, James was a hero.

One of the best stories about James has to do with the circus. A mysterious smell was plaguing the city, and it was his job to track it down. James traced the tang to underneath the New York Hippodrome. Furthermore, James figured out that it was actually buried elephant dung, left behind by the circus. Obviously, James “Smelly” Kelly earned his title.