Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Low Continuous Buzzing Sound

The future has arrived, and it is being delivered by a drone. Amazon is getting ready to drop packages in your front yard via parachute from hovering machines guided by satellite. Hooray. At last I can get my forty-one ounce bags of Skittles brought directly to me without all that fuss of a human being lumbering up my front steps and placing the box on the porch. Instead, the same technology that allows pimply-faced video game aficionados to launch missiles into bad guys' apartments from half way around the world while they sit placidly in their La-Z-Boy recliners in air conditioned trailers. Ah, progress!
And to think at one time I could have altered this flow of time. Twenty-some years ago, I was working as a warehouse manager for an employee-owned book wholesaler. We bought books from publishers and then turned around and sold them at a tiny profit to small local bookstores. At this point, I don't know how much farther I need to digress: Should I explain wholesaler? Warehouse? Books? In order to make any money at all, we needed to move our packages in and out of our warehouse as seamlessly as possible, and for a long time we relied on humans carefully stacking and stuffing books in boxes then surrounding them with crumpled bits of paper before we sealed them up and sent them off to their destinations. At one point during my tour of duty as warehouse co-manager, it was decided that we were going to invest in some machinery to refine that labor intensive process and switch to a machine that would shrink-wrap stacks of books to a cardboard flat, then a box would be formed around that flat, labeled and shipped. It was so very late twentieth century.
One day, a call came in from a group of folks from Seattle who were starting their own warehouse business. They were going to sell books over this newfangled invention of Al Gore's. We snickered at the idea, but happily offered to have them come and take a look at our operation. The job of showing these wacky kids around our warehouse fell to me. It was a slow day, so I had plenty of time to wander around showing these folks just how things worked.
Years later, when I was unwrapping a book or CD purchased from Amazon.com, I noted how well they had been paying attention, and I was pretty sure they were using the same brand of shrinkwrapper that we had used back in my warehouse days. Back when there were still neighborhood bookstores. Back when drones weren't delivering pizza and lighting up halftime shows at the Super Bowl.
It's only a matter of time before they figure out how to deliver math tests via drone. Goodbye, Mister Chips.

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