The tech nerd part of me that should think, ”Oh, cool! Hobby Airport has industrial-grade floor cleaning robots!” is outweighed by the human being in me who thinks, “Well, there's one more job that some person with low skills got kicked out of.”
Not everyone in the world has the mental or physical capability to do a mid-level or high-level job. But they still need a job, and deserve the dignity that comes with employment. In the 80ʼs the justification for turning jobs over to robots was that the newly unemployed could be re-trained to fix or run the robots. But in my experience, that's only rarely true.
The more I interact with people of all social strata, the more I realize that mopping floors in an airport is a really good job for some people. One they can be good at, and proud of. That will allow them to provide for themselves, and maybe even another person or two. Iʼm not currently convinced that we should automate the humanity out of society.
I had a job interview at the Apple Store today. It didnʼt go well.
It started out ordinarily enough. I went into the Bellevue Square store with a printout of the managerʼs e-mail inviting me in for an interview. In a few minutes, he came out from the back, we introduced ourselves, and we went into the hallway for the interview.
It wasnʼt the chairs that made the interview uncomfortable. At least, not for me. It was the fact that we were having a job interview in the middle of a mall walkway, with members of the public walking by or even lingering at store windows. Iʼve always believed that H.R. functions were supposed to be private. I assumed the interview would be in a back office or something.
The interview ended rather quickly after we started discussing the iPod. He asked me if I had any experience with Appleʼs flagship bit of consumer electronics. I said something along the lines of, “Yeah, lots. Iʼve had an iPod all the way back to the first one with the Firewire port.”
I donʼt know what it was about “Firewire” that set him off, but he decided right then that I didnʼt know thing one about computers in general or Apple, in particular.
He was adamant that the iPod never had a Firewire port. I countered that while itʼs true that current iPods have USB ports, but the original ones did. I explained that Apple switched from Firewire to USB in order to make it available to Windows computers, which — except for Sony machines — almost never have Firewire. I should know, because I owned one of the first iPods, and plugged it into my wifeʼs iBook via Firewire.
No. No. No. No. No. But not even “No” in the sense of a polite “You must be mistaken.” He was indignant, almost to the point of raising his voice.
He ended the interview, and for the first time in my life I was told to my face that I didnʼt get the job. No “Donʼt call us, weʼll call you” vagueness. Just, “Youʼre not getting this job.”
I really didnʼt think I was losing my mind, so I went up the street to the Starbucks inside Barnes and Noble, pulled out my MacBook Air, and hit the Wayback Machine.
Pulling up the apple.com web pages about the iPod published in November of 2001 shows that my memory is not faulty:
The Apple web site also included a helpful image of an iBook plugged into an iPod with a Firewire cable, and the iPod displaying the Firewire symbol on its screen:
In the end, it doesnʼt matter what the truth is, or whether I was right or not. Heʼs the manager of his Apple Store, so it is his version of history that the employees must conform to.
Maybe I should dig my old Firewire iPod out of the box in the hall closet and bring it in to his store for a repair.