Recently, my husband and I were making dinner. We weren’t getting any younger and our pension checks weren’t getting any fatter, and since we live near Seattle, I mentioned I might seek employment at one of the city’s many tech giants.
With no discernible sarcasm (bless his heart) my husband suggested I start by checking which ones were willing to take on an enterprising sixty-something who still used a flip phone.
Our Alexa must have beamed a subsonic siren to every electronic gateway in town, because the very next day an Amazon drone dropped an envelope onto my doorstep. I tore it open to find a “Cease and Desist” order collectively signed by Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
“Dear Ms. Hoyt,” it began. “After reviewing your job history, security across all campuses has been put on alert to intercept any physical appearance you might attempt to make.”
How they knew I’d probably show up in person rather than submit an online application I’ll never know, but as soon as I read “job history” I knew the jig was up.
You see, I have bestowed the Kiss of Obsolescence on every career I’ve ever had.
I never set out to be a destroyer of industry. I was just an average everyday music-loving Boomer teen who needed a little cash to support her Led Zeppelin habit. How could I know that taking a weekend job at the “dime store” near my house had punctured the microscopic fissure through which Target, Fred Meyer and Walmart would erupt, torching the variety chains of Woolworth, S. H. Kress and TG&Y like lava through a palm grove?
Oblivious to the devastating effect I’d had on the retail world, I moved on to an after-school gig as a telephone solicitor, inadvertently jamming on the thinking cap for whoever was about to invent robocall technology.
In college I worked as a typist —and when’s the last time you laid eyes on a typewriter?— followed by clerking at a “record store.” This was an outlet for the sale of manufactured items called “LPs” and “8-Track Tapes” to music-loving Boomer teens. You’ve doubtless heard what happened to those.
My communications degree in Journalism & Broadcasting netted me an entry-level job at an advertising agency. At last! A real job! My duties included mailing radio and TV commercials recorded on two brand-new inventions, “Videotape” and “Audiocassette,” to broadcast stations around the country, which would receive them in three to five days.
This shipping process was not yet called “snail mail,” but the writing was on the wall (if you could wait three to five days to read it). Then I had to call the stations to confirm receipt (three to five days later, natch). It got boring pretty fast.
So I accepted a camera-operator assignment at a local TV station—personally lighting idea bulbs for both remote-control cameras and the drone that delivered the Tech Three’s cease and desist order.
Through it all, I never lost my love for rock n’ roll. Leaving network television to duke it out with freshly-minted cable franchises — those couldn’t have been my fault, right?—I pursued my dream job as a radio disc jockey.
Historians agree this was the signal for Congress to deregulate broadcasting, allowing corporate conglomerates to buy up thousands of stations around the country and replace hundreds of thousands of live DJs with automated programming.
Good morning, iHeartRadio!
By this point, even I had figured out that my education had failed me. Every communication medium I’d engaged with —including the U.S. Postal Service — had been slashed to ribbons with innovation’s razor. I decided to abandon those smoking ruins and become a travel agent.
It was very exciting! I distributed “brochures” for glamorous destinations, hand-wrote tickets for air and rail (ask your parents about “trains” — and, for that matter, “tickets”) and reserved cars or hotels via a landline. I was an early adopter of the fax machine because it cut the time required to secure international bookings by half. I had serious aspirations to become CEO of Pan Am.
But when personal computers came on the scene, travel agents were given one-way tickets to Unemployment City.
You know what happened to Pan Am, and my use of fax machines apparently cut their shelf life by half.
I tried freelance journalism, scoring a ringside seat for the firebombing of newspapers and magazines by bloggers and podcasters; now desperate for a source of rock-solid income, I found work at a brick-and-mortar bookstore (bricks are kind of like rocks, aren’t they?) — a few short months before internet retailers and e-readers virtually dynamited them like Indonesian fishing holes.
My last attempt was with a company tasked with putting on theme parties for conventions. Casino nights, luaus, Mardi Gras parades — fun stuff, right? And then…2020. COVID. No need to say more.
The Tech Three’s order concluded by saying, “Ms. Hoyt, it is vital that you seek employment outside the technology sector. No field you have entered thus far has survived, and if our infrastructure fails, it will crash the global economy, electrical grids, transportation systems, and nuclear launch facilities — not to mention the Netflix On Demand site that set Blockbuster memberships on the same road to oblivion as videodiscs.”
As I stood on the porch, wondering how to make retirement ends meet without an eleventh-hour 12th career, another drone buzzed into the yard. This one toted a beribboned gift basket filled with a potpourri of stock certificates.
A windfall profit indeed, big enough to ensure I’d never have to work again! Ah, it’s nice to have your power recognized.
But ever since that day, I’ve noticed Wall Street analysts stepping up their doomsday predictions for the fossil-fuel industry. Did an insider leak that summer internship at Citgo Petroleum I never bothered to include on my public resume…?
Cindy Hoyt is a professional writer—at least until AI software develops a sense of humor.