I watched the city worker dump my garbage into that “trash compactor on wheels” and I found myself wondering: Does he get to work four days a week now?
When he found out that this new automated system was coming our way, did he go home and tell his wife excitedly, “Hey, Hon, I can finally work four days a week!”
This scenario is not so fantastical as you would think. You see, back in the day, we were promised four-day workweeks and we received this news gladly. Nay, we received this news as our right … as our reward for trudging through our lives without benefit of drive-thru windows and oxygen bars.
Heck, the multi-tool and Post-It Note hadn’t even been invented yet.
So, the older generation went to work and we youngsters went to computer class and punched holes in cards (ask your parents. They’ll explain it to you).
None of us thought to ask, “With a four-day workweek, would our bosses just send us home on Thursday because all of the work is done?”
No one said, “Do we get paid for five days, but only work four?”
Remember, this was back in the days when stores did not open on Sundays. It was quite normal for us to consider that society would just shut down for one more day in the week.
But a funny thing happened on our way to Utopia: the more time that was saved, the more we were expected to do.
Here I am, today, typing this missive and just now contemplating how many of my colleagues would have been unemployed on the Kapuskasing Northern Times if I had a computer instead of my typewriter (ask your parents about that, too).
Gone would have been Linda, the typesetter, and Mrs. Thomas, the proofreader (names have been changed because it was, like, 30 years ago and I can’t remember).
I just received a photo by e-mail and so I re-named it and filed it. Right there, a computer in 1980 would have made redundant, well, me. In Kapuskasing, it was my job to go into the basement darkroom and develop the film, print a contact sheet, choose one, put the negative into the enlarger and zap the image onto a sheet of photo paper, swish it through the chemicals and then hang it to dry.
Instead of sleeping in a lot more, I guess the other reporter, André, would have been laid off because I now had all of this spare time (well, André would have been laid off if it weren’t for the fact that he was bilingual, a better writer and had more seniority … but I digress).
So, right there, I am doing the work of four people. No wonder I have to work five days a week.
It was a horrible miscalculation by an entire generation that saw a complete revolution in who was boss in the workplace.
The computer does not make my job easier; rather, it allows me to do more.
Young people have their own irony to deal with: Twitter does not allow them to communicate easier; rather, it makes them communicate more.
And hand-held computer games do not allow them to have fun without exerting themselves physically and interacting with other people … well, actually, they do. But that isn’t the point of playing games, is it?
I’m just saying, 30 years ago we should have been careful of what we wished for. Each of us has more stress because we have a lot more responsibility and our work can disappear with the flash of one blue screen.
My colleague, Anthony Trombetta, has lamented the broken promise of flying cars. To him I say, “Be careful of what you wish for.”
It is dangerous enough avoiding cars on one physical plane. Could you imagine the accidents that one drunk could cause weaving through three dimensions?
A four-day workweek? It is the only way Monday could be even more onerous.