There isn’t a plot to this one. The narrator is reacting to a November 1980 article he (?) read, presumably in 2019, about occupations that became obsolete in the twentieth century: switchboard operator, elevator operator, iceman, cigarette girl, and pinsetter. The narrator and generations of his family have followed one now-obsolete occupation—yeah, thanks very much, modern technology!— which was once invaluable to humanity and for which they are uniquely qualified.
As for obsolete jobs, I worked as a switchboard operator for some years after the putative article was written. I had to spend a couple seconds thinking about what a pinsetter is. Was.
In the narrator’s case, it’s not merely a matter of learning new skills and getting a new job. The family has a unique talent for obtaining material necessary for human life, yet it’s no longer needed.
Times change. Memories fade.
This tale is short, all leading up to a single punchline. I liked it.
According to his blurb, author Don Nigroni received a BS in economics from Saint Joseph’s University and a MA in philosophy from Notre Dame and worked as an economist for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. He has been published in Ambit, Asymmetry Fiction, Mystery Tribune, 365 tomorrows, and 50-Word Stories. In addition, his poetry has appeared in Candelabrum and Mystery Time.
The story can be read here.
Title: “Oblivious Obsolescence”
Author: Don Nigroni
First published: October 9, 2020 Theme of Absence