These days there’s job security in security jobs

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 2, 2009

What do guys who used to weigh trucks do?

I remember way back when, I think, there was a state truck scale on Washington Street somewhere in the Ameristar area. Cross-country 18-wheelers near what served as the junction of U.S. 80 and U.S. 61 would pull up, slowly, and their air brakes would bring them to a loud stop. If you were riding past with your windows down, you could hear the weigher from his little booth say “Ahhh-ite” through a crackly speaker. The truck would then rumble on.

Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail.

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These days, truckers are monitored by telemetry, just like hospital patients in the cardiac ward. Was the “Ahhh-ite” guy put out to pasture?

And the price-stamper-oners at grocery stores. They had self-inking (always purple) gizmos with rubber belts that could be adjusted to stamp a price on each can of peas before it went on the shelf. Later, the stamping gizmos were replaced with “guns” that extruded paper labels with prices printed on them and inset with carefully placed slits. The slits kept customers from taking a 19-cent label off a can of corn and moving it to a 29-cent can of tuna. My mother never did that, but she was among the legions of shoppers who complained mightily when this thing called inflation came along. She could tell and would protest if a purple stamp had been smudged off and replaced with a new, higher price. She was tough on those stickers, too. Under one sticker would be one or two previous price stickers. When Jimmy Carter was president, stickers were piling up a half-inch or so.

I guess it’s a good thing Universal Price Code labels came along. No one even looks at prices in grocery stores anymore, but I still wonder what the old price-stamper-oners are doing. Maybe they’re sitting at a table in the warehouse, ready to go to work if there’s a computer breakdown. Of course, lots of the price-sticker-oners probably got jobs as number-sticker-oners in the produce department. Checkers used to just weigh apples and get the price from a chart. Now each apple has its own sticker.

There are lots of jobs that have gone away.

Banks had people, it figures, who once a month gathered up every check every customer wrote and put them in numerical order in envelopes to mail with their monthly statements. No doubt this process became progressively more automated through the years, but it still must have been pretty labor-intensive.

Pianos needed tuners. Keyboards don’t.

Where are the people who pumped gas? I was in South Africa and in Mexico last year and at every fuel stop a half-dozen or more people scurried out to take care of every detail of the fueling process. I didn’t recognize any of them, but maybe they had relocated after the Rose Oil closed on Clay Street. I hear New Jersey doesn’t allow self-service pumps. Everywhere else motorists are on their own. Nobody says, “Check your oil?” anymore. Indeed, I wonder how the clerk at Kangaroo would respond if I asked her to come outside and check my oil. Not sure, but I think the police might get involved.

Of course, there are jobs that exist today that didn’t a few years ago, at least not under their present names. One of them is “marketing.” On “Wheel of Fortune,” one winner last week was a young lady who said she had a college degree in “sports marketing” and worked for the Baltimore Ravens. I guess Pat Sajak looked puzzled (no pun intended) because she followed up by saying, “I work in the ticket office.” In the old days she would have said she was in “ticket sales,” not “sports marketing.”

Anyway, I think I know where some of the people are whose former jobs have gone away.

They’re in “security.” That’s a real growth industry, you know.

Come to think of it, the last time I went through the line at the airport, where they check everything but your oil, the last man at the last station waved me forward and said, “Ahhh-ite.”

It sounded pretty familiar.