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It's a Sign
There was an odd scene down at the local Costco this week. At the entrance to one of the aisles, a young woman (apparently a store employee) stood holding a sign that read “No Toilet Paper.” I can’t help but think that the sign — and the whole tableau — were also a sign of the times. A sign of what, exactly, I am still not sure.

The very fact that the woman was there to begin with is absurd. A stick with a sign stapled to it would have served adequately. I suppose that Costco customers might want to ask her questions, but I can’t imagine that her answers could have been very helpful. “Yes, we have toilet paper on order,” “No, I’m not sure when we will be getting more,” and especially “Yes, we have no toilet paper” wouldn’t really add much to the basic message on the sign.

Perhaps she could be persuaded to offer an opinion of her own as to why a human was needed to hold a No Toilet Paper sign when a stick and a staple would have worked just fine. She might suggest, for instance, that the specter of supply chain breakdown figured into it in some way. Or the pandemic, or labor shortages.

But if the problem is a shortage of workers, then why is this young woman’s valuable time being wasted on an unnecessary task? She is not needed here. She should be on a loading dock somewhere, wrestling 24-roll bundles of Charmin onto waiting big rigs. Or driving the big rig herself, rushing the 4-ply bathroom tissue to Costco’s desperately waiting members. But no. She stood mute as the tissue-less swirl all around her. Even if she wanted to help, there was nothing she can do but hold her sign and perhaps appear sympathetic.

I have begun to wonder if we will all be in her shoes someday soon. Not because of supply chain issues or plagues but because modern civilization itself will render us useless.

How? By assigning our jobs to automation. Much is made of the pandemic revealing the fact that workers are dissatisfied with the kind of work they do and how little they get paid for it. Well, they aren’t they only ones who’ve noticed. The Invisible Hand of the marketplace has also been watching. Why bother with a bunch of grumpy, demanding human workers, the Hand is no doubt thinking, when computers and robots can do it all? Even the most demanding professions — law, medicine, architecture, the arts — will be reduced to 1’s and 0’s soon enough. And then what?

Our lot, it seems, will be to hold up signs that are meant to be read by other useless humans. Or to answer their pointless questions. We would still be ridiculously expensive when compared to a stick and a staple, but we would be providing that all-important human touch. Even more importantly, we would be getting paid something for this service, and we would be spent that money keeping the Invisible Hand of the marketplace alive and well. Until it finds some other way to keep itself going, that is. Ina world with or without toilet paper.

In the meantime, friend, hold tight to that sign. Twirl it if you like, dance with it, wear goofy costumes, act like a fool. Or simply display it with a quiet dignity. The Hand respects your freedom.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon