Wow, what a sad post.
There are hundreds of thousands of applied science jobs that do allow you to get out of a cube and get your hands dirty. Two personal examples:
My father just retired after being a chemical engineer for 15 years (his second career). During this he spent most of his time in a laboratory or in the field working with manufacturers of physical goods to design processes that would yield good results with the chemicals they were using, or suggesting better alternatives. This often involved mixing up small batches of sealants, adhesives, etc. applying them to materials with different methods (brushing, spraying, etc.), and seeing how they held up. Not everyone's cup of tea, but certainly not spending a lot of time in a cube.
My hands-on experience is with an airplane manufacturer (Boeing), where I worked for 4 years in a lab that produces simulations for all of their commercial airplanes. Actual test data for physical systems like engines and control surfaces was combined with modules like autopilots and flight management into a 7 million line-of-code simulation that could be used to drive the complete flight deck.
True much of my week was in the cube, but very often, sometimes for days on end, we would be in flight deck replicas of the commercial airplanes (complete with hardware, hydraulic controls, etc. and simulated out-of-the-window view). We used the simulator to test behavior of new equipment in simulation, prototyping new displays for pilots, etc. Engineers in our sister group, Flight Test, actually got to test the equipment in flight.
In both examples above there were dozens of engineers at the same companies doing largely the same things we were, with different programs or areas of emphasis. In other words, there were many such opportunities, but everyone was "the expert" on some particular niche.
There is always an adjustment from academia to industry, and some disillusionment (I've found it happens with new engineers around the 1 year period once the novelty of joining the work force has worn off). As a hiring manager, I look for new engineers that can do the grunt-work but are still inspired to try new things and I've found that "new blood" can actually energize the entire team. I would say a goal for academia is to inspire students with a passion for science and discovery while preparing them for the discipline and sustained hard work required to succeed in industry.
I think it is actually destructive to suggest that creativity and inspiration are not important in science jobs, because the types of jobs that do not require these (in other words, that require a certain level of knowledge but are describable and repetitive), tend to be outsourced to contractors.
Work is the crab grass in the lawn of life. -- Schulz