For nearly eight months, I have been working a contingent job. Contingent is new corporate speak for temp. I arrive daily to sit in a faceless cubicle and spend eight or nine hours peering at an endless array of slide decks, brochures, sales aids, and medication labels on the screen, picking out the errant “hydroxyl” when it should be “hydroxy,” flagging dangling modifiers, and spotting mismatched references.
Yesterday a woman who is considerably younger than me—which means she is not at all young, but not quite as elderly as I now am—came to my cubicle to drop off a vendor proof. She glanced at my desk and asked in a tentative voice, “You still use your Franklin?”
My organizer was open on my desk. For this job, I document job numbers and the amount of time I spend on each, which is how I get paid. It’s easier and quicker than logging on to the electronic timekeeping system for every job—I do that data entry all at once in a flash, using my written list. But in that moment I suddenly realized how fusty and outdated the Franklin must make me seem.
For an old bird, I’m fairly tech-savvy. I like to crack that I was on the internet before Al Gore invented it. I was part of a primitive online community called The Well that got started in 1985, long before even AOL was on the scene. In the interview for this contingent job last summer, I told my prospective boss that yes, I was familiar with the cloud-based editing system they use—I wasn’t. But I went home and I taught myself how to use it in less than an hour by watching a YouTube video.
I still like to write things down—snippets of phone conversations, my prosaic to-do list with exciting entries like “pick up dry cleaning,” and I am very dependent on my list of birthdays and anniversaries that I keep in my organizer. In another ancient practice, I still like to send greeting cards via snail mail.
I was suddenly embarrassed yesterday, though, when the woman remarked on my organizer. I felt defensive, and heard myself explaining that I don’t use it for everything, but that I still find it efficient to keep certain written records.
What about you? Do you continue with any habit or practice long since taken over by technology?
I am about to leave for today’s stint in my cubicle. I think I’ll burst in and demand to know where the typewriters, mimeo machines and dial phones are.