Posts Tagged ‘economy’

My garbage, the refuse created by my household, must now be separated into three categories: compostables, recyclables, and, well, garbage. It’s a chore I now have to do, a decision, an evaluation I must now perform each and every time I want to dispose of something. Is this OK to go into the yard waste? Does this plastic have the little recycling triangle, and is it one of the accepted recyclable plastics? Is it clean enough? Yes, I now have to wash my trash before disposing of some of it.

Many stores now have “self-checkout” queues, where I can scan and bag my own groceries. This is sold as a time-saver, but usually it isn’t. Usually, I have to get approval to buy a beer, and usually, I put something into the bag too fast or too slowly for the machine to register it, requiring an override from a person, which means that usually, it’s not a time-saver, it’s a pain in the tuchas and, almost always, it’s slower than letting a pro do it, especially if the pro has been teamed with a bagger.

We pay many of our bills online, but it can be a hassle. The way it used to work, we got a bill, we wrote a check, we mailed it off. It took, literally, like thirty seconds. Now, there are login IDs, passwords, account numbers, and procedures, and if there’s an issue, it can take days to resolve. It is definitely not faster, but when they change the due dates so you only have six or seven days to pay the damned thing, well, sometimes online bill-pay is the only option if I want my payment to arrive in time.

Yesterday, reading an article online, there was a button at the bottom. “Report a Typo,” it read. Excuse me? You want me to proofread your articles? I mean, I expect that from some of the more dodgy publications, but the Boston Globe? CBC? ABC? The National Post? I’ve become so inured to poor editing in online news—typos, bad grammar, extraneous words—that it’s obvious they’re all cutting corners by cutting editorial staff. But asking the public to report typos? Have you seen the posts regular folks put up these days? That’s like asking a sixth-grader to tune-up your car.

My point here is this: Increasingly, we are all being used as unpaid employees and, along with increased automation, we are all tacitly complicit in the ongoing loss of jobs. Every time we check out our own groceries, separate our trash, or edit someone else’s article, we’re taking a job away from someone who can do it better, faster, more efficiently.

Better, faster, more efficient, but also more costly for the corporation. Employees cost money. We, on the other hand, are free of charge. We cost them nothing.

But we, by our compliance, cost someone a job.

My options are limited, of course. I must separate my garbage or deal with it all myself. I can pay my bill with a check but risk it being late. However, I can go the the checkout line with a human (or two) behind the conveyor. I can click that “Report a Typo” button, but not tell them exactly what it is or where.

It’s a small thing, I know, but if it keeps one person from being laid off, it’ll be a big thing to them.



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Dragons AheadI used to love programming but it’s changed so much in the past 25 years, I can’t stand it anymore. When I only stay at a job for the salary and the time off, when I hate everything about what I do, when I wake up at 4AM with my heart pounding because my brain is preparing me for the day’s fight with a surge of adrenaline, it’s definitely time to go.

But, as I posed it in the previous post in this series, what career to I pick instead?


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Dragons AheadYour reactions to Part I landed in one of two camps: Most readers remembered fondly their own youthful creativity when funds were thin, while a few wondered why the hell I’d even contemplate this at all.

I enjoyed the anecdotes you shared, and it reinforced my belief that being short of cash when young is a good thing; it helps us appreciate things more and teaches us skills we need later. As for why I’m considering this at all, well, that’s the subject of this installment.

Why be poor, if I don’t have to?


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Dragons AheadI know from poor. Not poverty–I’ve never known poverty–but I know what it is to be poor.

As a music major at SF State, I earned money playing orchestra and quartet gigs, worked minimum wage jobs, but still didn’t have much by way of money. To supplement my meager budget, I used to go around the back of United Market in San Rafael and pick fruit and veg out of the dumpsters. The produce manager was kind enough to turn a blind eye to my forays, occasionally even handing me old orange crates to pack up my booty. Beans and rice were the mainstays of my diet (I was a vegetarian, then), and any extra money I was able to cadge went to new strings for my viola and gas money for friends taking me to symphony gigs in Stockton or Santa Rosa. (more…)

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