The Tomato

Illustration: Christine Wang.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Chimney sweeps, blacksmiths, lamplighters on adjusting to retirement

Yellowpages announced recently that it would no longer be printing a hardcopy phone directory. This announcement marks the end of 50 years of the phone book serving as the cheapest and most readily available doorstop, after that random brick by every apartment entrance. The book also did notable service as a measurement of personal strength, as people try to rip the book in half. In recognition of the end of such a venerable cultural institution, the Tomato decided to gather some advice for Yellowpages from other businesses that have succumbed to advancements in technology.

We first sat down with Elmer Johnson, a former lamplighter in Victorian England. “I told everyone I could that electricity would be the end of us. Thanks a lot, Edison! I occasionally sleepwalk with my lamp lighting equipment and end up just lighting local houses on fire.”

While our streets and homes are brighter now, we are a more heartless society that puts the needs of a more efficient means of energy before the jobs of hundreds of lamp lighters. Lamplighters are by no means the only industry that has been abandoned, and we discussed the impacts of technology with a musically inclined chimney sweep.

“New heaters just don’t need to be cleaned like chimneys—in fact, the chances of getting stuck in a new heater are almost non-existent,” said Oliver Twist, a former chimney sweeper. “I miss the old days when it was just a poor kid shoved into a tiny chimney with a broken broom, but I guess those times are gone now.”

The future has also taken us farther from animals, for better or worse. “Do you know how many times I’ve tried to put horse shoes on a pickup truck? How can they say horse power if it doesn’t have any actual horses in it?” says blacksmith Elie Waller.

Our final interview was with the editor-in-chief of the Fulcrum, David Ericson. “A print organization has gone out of business because it’s easier to survive online. Good thing we won’t have to worry about, since the print newspaper business is going great.”

Is any of this advice helpful to Yellowpages? Who knows? We gathered up advice from people who were alternatively angry, bitter, or in denial about how technology was affecting their income.

Truly, as technology continues to improve, who knows what other jobs are at stake? If lamplighters and chimney sweeps are out of work then it’s only a matter of time before they’re joined by blacksmiths, cobblers and cattle rustlers.