He got his start laying pipe for the Atlas Water and Sewer company. Eventually, he climbed the ranks, becoming responsible for a staff of 800 and annual revenue exceeding $120 million. His name is Victor Kipling. This is his weekly column.
The red light bulb blinked-blinked-blinked its silent warning; and the office boy hustled over and pulled the large black lever, opening the pneumatic slot. A series of glass and metal tubes eagerly began to cascade out; each encasing a yellow telegram message. As he opened each one, he worked rhythmically to time stamp, then sort and finally place each in a separate envelope for routing. Messages for honchos from all the corners of the world; some even hand stamped with a red ‘urgent’ or even ‘eyes only’. There was, he had to admit, a certain satisfaction in answering the call of the unyielding red light.
But no sooner was he absorbed in this mindless work then he was awoken from his reverie by shouts of "you there, boy!" It seemed that everyone on the floor gave him orders, instructions; do this, then do that…an endless stream of minutiae that was issued with the greatest gravity. Like Lucy on the black and white TV, he just wasn’t able, try as he may, to keep up with the pies on the conveyer belt.
Now it was again time to collect all the mail and documents spilling over from executive outboxes; then to change the now coke-colored toner from the massive copy machines; and then to gather and sharpen all the brown, company embossed pencils that appeared like trees on everyone’s desks. And all this before he could take the allotted half hour lunch break in the company cafeteria.
Well, for one thing, no one is (gratefully) called ‘boy’ -or girl- anymore. And, of course the practice of communicating by telegram, with their narrow strips of adhesive tape-like paper has also been relegated to the past. Five-gallon jugs of copy machine toner have been replaced by two ounce cartridges; and the outboxes (if they still exist) collect dust as messages now cross an electronic divide. And finally, the eternal and infernal pencil has been purged from the office, it’s scratching replaced by the silent tapping of keyboards.
So, and while the office boy of yesteryear is now an administrative assistant, the salary stays at entry level and the duties are as mundane as ever. The only real thing that the jobs got going for it is, well, a maximum of future. After all, this is virtual reality America; and though it’s not likely, it is nonetheless possible that that today’s AA can become tomorrow’s CEO.