“Listen Rob,” the Job Assigner broke the news to me, “these algorithms don’t lie. All right? So it says here that you’re qualified to go down on this two year deep sea study, I mean, what are you going to do?”
“Come on man,” I tried to beg. I never thought I’d have to beg. Robot Assistant, Human User Interface Relations, even Food Advertiser Specialist … seriously, even if I’d been assigned Food Advertiser Specialist, I wasn’t going to beg. Because I get, all right, not everybody gets assigned a cushy job. We can’t all be assigned Job Assigner. But this? Deep Sea Study Participant?
“You know how it goes. Everything’s optimized.”
“But I don’t even like the beach. I don’t want to live in the ocean.”
“Yeah, well, the computer says you’re a match, so you’re a match. You can’t argue with these things.”
“There’s nobody else that wants to go?” I mean, yeah, I’d heard about people being sent away on studies. But I never knew anybody that actually got shipped away. It was always like tall tales and stuff. I think one of my great uncles told a story about one of his old friends getting shipped out.
“It’s not a matter of want. Do you think I wanted to be Job Assigner?”
“You don’t want to be Job Assigner?”
“Well, I didn’t say that. But do you think that I really saw myself as Job Assigner? Everybody wants to be Job Assigner. But then once you get it … don’t get me wrong, I’m really grateful to be here. But I’d be lying if there weren’t that old feeling, like, what’s next? I know what’s next. More jobs. More assigning.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“No, I’m for real. Person comes in, computer spits out a job, I tell the person the job. Person comes in, person gets a job. Everybody’s getting jobs. Everybody except for me. Obviously I’m only dealing with my point of view here. But just think man, you’re going on an adventure. The deep sea!”
“But what are they going to be doing, testing me? Seeing how I’ll react to different states of pressure and environment and … and they’re probably going to give me one of those controlled diets, probably the same ones they give to the Deep Space Study Participants.”
“Yeah, I doubt it’ll be as bad as you think, but I’m sure it’s going to be a controlled diet.”
“Does it say? Does it mention anything about diet?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That … that screen, whatever it is you’re looking at, the one that told you my job placement. Does it have any sort of details?”
“This screen? Oh jeez, that’s good. No, I’m sorry, I’m not trying to laugh at you. It’s just … here, look at the screen, it’s Internet videos. I’m sorry, I just … the computer just says one thing, for you it said ‘Deep Sea Study Participant’ and that’s it. I just always have Internet videos on in the background. But hey! You’ll have Internet down there. So that’s something. You won’t be completely cut off. Not from the Internet, anyway.”
“And how many people are down there? Is it a big study?”
“Yeah, sorry man, but this is what I’m talking about here. Job Assigner, you’d think there’s more to it than just reading out loud. It’s not even a sentence. ‘Deep Sea Study Participant.’ Who am I kidding? This job’s a joke. I don’t know why everyone thinks it’s so cool. Yes, it’s easy. Yes, I only have to work like two hours a week. But it’s just so … I always thought I would have made a good Quality Control Historical Reenactor.”
“Listen, I would do anything to have your job. Anything. You don’t want to switch?”
“Switch? Ha. Come on man, you’re not dumb, you went through Basic Ed. I get it, I really do. I don’t assign too many Deep Sea Study Participant jobs, but it happens, and everyone’s upset. I get it. But everybody needs a job. You’ve got to have a job, you just have to. But it’s only a two-year gig. You’ll be back! Maybe they’ll give you Job Assigner two years from now!”
“I mean, I have no idea.”
“Well, what did you do before you were a Job Assigner?”
“Me? Nothing. I went through Basic Ed and some Job Assigner assigned me to be Job Assigner, and I was like, all right. And that’s it. I’m here for seventeen more years, and then I think they have me retiring on some moon somewhere.”
“A moon? That’s it?”
“I think it’s a nice moon.”
“Yeah, but still.”
“Yeah well, at least I’m not going to the deep sea.”
And yeah, that’s when it kind of sunk in. The door opened up and a Post-Assigner Assignment Placer came to shuttle me to whichever transport would take me to wherever I’d have to go to get ready for life underwater. I hope at least that it’s like an indoor study, that I’m not just floating around down there, testing out some new long-term oxygen deprivation drug or something. Right as they led me out, I heard the Job Assigner call out to me.
“Hey man, that wasn’t cool, I’m sorry. It won’t be too bad. You’ll be fine!”
I turned around and said, “Really? You think so?”
And he just kind of gave me a thumbs-up and shrugged.