What do a newspaper reporter, a nurse at a well-baby clinic and a Nazi hunter have in common? All three are engaged in professions that will apparently cease to exist in the near future. When I embarked on my project of meeting people engaged in occupations that walk the fine line between present and past, the list was lengthy. I found that for some of these near-extinct occupations, there was a catch. For example, maybe the Internet is not making travel agents superfluous, but is simply encouraging them to specialize in more complex or different kinds of arrangements? Maybe we have not actually dispensed with proofreaders because they are simply called editors now? And what about mailmen? Is the demise of their profession really drawing near? Eventually, my list was drawn up and I set out: to meet a watchmaker, a matchmaker, a home economics teacher and a fisherman.
I expected to meet an older central-European watchmaker huddled in a tiny shop, waiting for customers who do not come. In the stereotype of my imagination, I saw myself tagging along with an Arab fisherman, who would espouse romantic and eternal axiomatic truths. And as for the matchmaker and the teacher, I also had preconceptions aplenty. But I was proven wrong at every juncture. Perhaps this was a coincidence, perhaps not.
In any event, I met four people who are sitting on a figurative iceberg − but from an iceberg, it turns out, you get a good vantage point of the changes that we as a society are undergoing. Of how we are now repelled by the notion of repair and renovation, and opt for the spanking new and undamaged. Of how we once knew things that we are beginning to forget.
“A watchmaker, a matchmaker, a home economics teacher and a fisherman.” Sounds like the opening line of a joke. And maybe it is, but at whose expense?
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