Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Like a buggy driver

Like a buggy driver.

For Eight years I have worked as a toll collector. That job is ending this week. Technological advances in the form of high-speed cameras and computers, are making my job obsolete. The new toll roads do not need humans to record transactions.  People either pre-pay with a little device mounted on their cars, or they are sent a bill in the mail. This bill comes from information gleaned from the car’s license plate.

The upside for the consumer is that they do not stop and pay toll. Everything is automated, so the toll road becomes like an interstate highway, with high speeds and no stopping. People, in theory, should arrive at their destination sooner.

This is similar to what occurred nearly 100 years ago. In the early twentieth century the horse and buggy which had been the dominant mode of local transportation for more than 100 years, began to lose its status. The automobile was taking over. It was faster and more efficient. People involved in the horse and buggy business saw their opportunities dwindle. Customers wanted to travel in the new transports, electric streetcars, and automobiles—“horseless carriages”. They were fancy and cool. Horse and buggies on the other hand were old and boring.

Such it is in life. New technologies replace older ones. History books and popular culture embrace these changes as a signs of progress and advancement. Left out however, is the disruption that these new advancements create in the lives of those who were invested in the older technologies. Buggy drivers in 1915 would have seen “the writing on the wall” and, if able, would have tried to get out of that profession. Some would remain for a few more years, especially if they lived in certain areas. But all would know that eventually they would need to learn a new skill for the days of listening to the clomp, clomp, clomp of shoed-horses were quickly ending.

So, here I am 100 years later. My job is obsolete. Luckily tolls were not my passion. I can move to something else. Yet some of my co-workers are not as willing or able. They are driving over forty miles to work at one of the still-open toll plazas, hoping to continue making a living in this job.

 I understand that. I would have liked to have kept my job, for the liked the interaction with the people. But, that is not to be, so like the buggy driver of 1915, I must move on. Progress awaits.