Marolt: I want to be an equestrian pilot
I fondly remember my days as a gopher. It was the way I paid my dues. Indirectly it eventually led to my reincarnation as a bean counter.
You remember gophers. They were everyone’s friend. I happened to ply that trade on a construction site. You need a hammer? I’ll go for it. Another piece of plywood? No problem, I’ll go for it. You forgot your coffee thermos in your truck? I’ll go for that, too.
I was proud of my title. I remember telling my dad.
“You’re a what?” I suspected he was teasing me, for surely he knew what it was. He’d been around more than a few job sites as a carpenter.
“I’m a gopher, Dad.”
“Hmmm,” he mused. “Sounds a little squirrely to me.”
Yep, he definitely knew what it was.
I was reminded of this the other morning when the clock radio (yes, we still have one of those) went off at 5:53 (I don’t like easily divisible wake-up times) to a commercial for drinks (yes, seriously, I think that’s what the predawn Monday ad was for) at the Viceroy. They listed off a few of their favorites but promised that their “mixologist” could concoct many other tasty ways to deliver alcohol into your bloodstream, too.
A mixologist? What ever happened to bartenders named Ray? You know, someone you could actually talk to while you escaped reality or mourned the death of a perfect ski day.
Nowadays, could you really walk into a place of mixology and say something like, “Hey, mixologist, give me a shot and a beer, and don’t let my mug run dry?” No you could not, because any drink crafted by a mixologist has to go for somewhere in the neighborhood of about $14 an ounce, so you’d never make it to closing time without a personally guaranteed line of credit, which a V.P. of lending at the local bank could arrange for you.
There’s something sinister about modern job titles, and it has everything to do with money, as most sinister things do. I’m sure it started with my old boss making out the bill for the house he’d just built and figured out there was a definite limit for how much he could charge his customer — I mean client — for the tasks performed by a gopher. At that point, on that invoice, completely unbeknownst to me, I became a junior apprentice carpentry specialist, and the client got a bigger bill he was more than happy to pay for such professional quality supplied.
Had I gone back the next summer, I’m sure my old boss would have proudly planted that new title on me formally instead of giving me a raise, and I probably would have been proud enough of the rise in stature to let him get away with it.
Fortunately, I landed a position, as opposed to a job, as the assistant to the assistant golf pro at the local muni course and spent that summer picking up range balls for far less money, but that title and a collared double-knit shirt made up for it.
One college break, I was an actual ski instructor in what turned out to be the last year ski instructors existed. They were very quickly replaced by ski pros. I think I had something to do with that. While wearing the uniform and having students (who would soon become “clients” for the “ski pros”) self-obliged to follow me around, I didn’t instruct a single one of them how to ski. I skied the places I liked, and they came along. It’s not like they didn’t have fun. I got big tips on top of my paycheck. The “ski pro” was born, although I think Aspen Skiing Co. eventually made future ski pros actually instruct their students, which made the new title inappropriate, if you ask me.
It’s a funny world full of baristas, servers and flight attendants we now live in. How long will it be until we no longer have an unemployment rate but a management-consultant-generation rate instead? I think I was actually more comfortable in the time before customer-care representatives existed and when only geopolitical stability depended on the work of ambassadors.
It’s kind of a relief that I still have this gig as a plain old writer. Some have tried in vain to call us things like scribes or wordsmiths, but nothing has stuck. Rest assured, though, if anyone can ever figure out a way to charge more for what we do and pay us even less, I will have a new title right quick.
Roger Marolt crafts theses of opinion in this printed dispensary of analysis every Wednesday. Email email@example.com.
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