Monday, June 20, 2016

The End of an Occupational Specialty.

I've been considering the various sorts of occupational categories that have been made obsolete by the relentless march of technology, and it occurs to me that in some cases this might be justifiable, even praiseworthy.

I'm talking, of course, about token sucking.

Let me explain. From the beginning of recorded time, using the subway in New York consisted of buying a token at a kiosk in the station. These kiosks were inhabited by a peculiar form of basilisk found nowhere else.

So you'd take your token, walk over to the turnstile, deposit it in the slot, push the turnstile and attempt to admit yourself to the inner platform and board your train. What you did not see was a person who'd jammed the token slot with a chunk of a matchbook cover, and when you walked away in anger because you couldn't go through the turnstile the token sucker would run over, put a liplock on the slot and with a powerful inhale, retrieve your $1.50 token.

It was the most revolting crime ever devised, and some artful token suckers might garner forty or fifty bucks a day plying their trade.

Well. In 2003 that all changed with the introduction of electronic methods that did not rely on the token, and the token suckers have moved on to other income streams.

All of this points to the resilience and deviousness of the human mind when the reward is money or dope. Pavlov coulda parked the dogs and learned all he needed about human nature and conditioning by spending a few days on the subway.


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