Enter the Digital Prune


Digital Native? I think not!

In a mythical future, a 50-something man seeks employment in the strange corporate world where robots and androids rule supreme and humans can only use youth or cunning to get ahead…

I read the jobs section of the analog newspaper with great relief. A job for someone with my unique skill-set was being advertised and I applied on-line. I had done all the right things. Polished my resume, dyed my 50-something hair to a deep brown, pushed orange tanning solution on my exposed skin and had applied tannic acid to my facial skin to tighten it, along with a potent mixture of alum to make my face into something approaching a wax museum death mask to attempt a shot at looking more youthful. The resulting Jack Nicholson smile I now bore was a convincing replica of youth and I inwardly sighed relief even as I stepped out the door and towards my car, causing young mothers to scream and grown men to draw in their breath sharply and shield their eyes as I trudged to my car. Cats ran away with reckless abandon and even a Doberman stopped in it’s tracks and respectfully watched as I passed, making whimpering noises and backing away slowly.

The day of the interview had come and as I drove my 2005 hay burner to the company headquarters to meet my interviewer, I was bursting with anticipation. Imagine that! They were looking for someone like me! They even had used a unique term to describe me!

I had been working with computers since 1976 and versions of Unix going back to System 3. Who needs floppy disks when I had recorded programs to cassette tapes in my old college classes? A strong drum-beat sounded. Perhaps it was my nervous heartbeat just sounding the tome of a new era in my life. I was going to meet with those like me. The drum beat hastened and I sweated profusely and smiled. It was to be my finest hour!

My early web experiences and vast pool of complex project experiences came to mind as I read the job description in my mind once again.

The job description had ended on the brightest of notes with “Looking for digital natives”, I KNEW I was the right person for the job. After all, how else could I be described? I had spent my youth in the Vaxen Tribe, learning the secret tongue of DCL (Digital Command Language) and suffered the horror of having to learn and then appreciate PRIMOS and its CPL language. I had been in the churches of Gates and Jobs and listened to their unique writings and wisdom, living as they did and applying their spells and chants while paying exorbitant software licensing prices in the hopes of getting the latest training classes so I at least APPEARED to be relevant. I was ready.

What a digital native I was! I had carried arm loads of 9-track tape to backup my Vax 11/780 every Friday night for years in a company that appreciated my unique skills and I was given a tribal name of “Tape Monkey” in my lowest of the low first position. I wore my title proudly and soon became a “Advanced Tape Monkey – Level 3”, approaching human form for the first time!

My career had many exciting twists and turns and as I acquired human form over the years, my unique skills expanded as I suffered through impossible odds. At the end of my last job I was given the incredible compliment of living alone in the wilds of Vancouver Island with nothing but a copy of Weblogic and an impossibly complex application to integrate with single sign-on for three domains and conflicting project goals to test my resolve as bears, wolves and project managers wandered in, screaming obscenities as I hid in my small encampment and the winter snows tested me as all the food and monetary sources dried up.

The madness took me as I filmed my tortures to survive for the audience. Younger people cracked and lost their minds, but I endured to the bitter end. I was at the end of my tether. A man gone wild. I was a changed man and soon the rescue boat came for me with film crews and television producers asking my how I had managed it all. I was given a Mars bar and hot soup as my teeth chattered and I cried out for my family as I was spirited away to home and hearth. I had not tapped out. I had beaten them all as I outlasted all of my brethren when the end came.

Yes… I was a digital native.

I wandered into the glassine lobby and marveled as the ice-humans reacted in horror at my costume. Muttering occurred where ever I passed. I believed it to be respect but detected smirks in the countenance of the moppets I passed on the way to the HR chambers. But I passed if off. What else to give me but respect for my digital native ways as I walked by with my grey roots rebelling against the cheap five dollar dye job I had recently applied to my scalp? Not many men could carry this charade off and I was the guy to do it!

I was led into the power hub of the HR department head and as I met with this android I appreciated his antiseptic furniture and noted the strange look he gave me as I settled in. The appropriate greetings ensued and I detected, for the first time, that a problem lay within the android’s demeanor.

The papers rustled as it flopped open the folder and I could imagine it hanging out with Agent Smith in a matrix-like world. I half-expected it to say “We’ve had our eye on you for some time”. But instead, it sat silently, staring blankly at the resume and college transcripts.

“My credentials are all in order?” I asked and the android looked up in shock as I spoke out of turn. It’s face contorted and it spoke. Questions pained it. It lived only to speak in pronouncements. “Ummm… You have 35 years of IT work under your belt?”

I smiled and nodded and the android continued it’s frowning expression. “I’m afraid you are not what we are looking for. The job description explicitly said we wanted a digital native. Not a digital prune”. The android smiled weakly as it rattled off this assault on my 50-something Jack Nicholson youthful appearance.

I smiled. “A digital prune?” I am guessing you mean me? I asked, shifting in my seat as my sea shell necklace clinked slightly and my coconut skin cologne wafted through the room.

The android winced in pain as it’s circuits began to overheat. I could sense virtual clouds being taxed as it’s processors struggled for the right response. My wrist Wifi activity monitor flared into a bright light as the android’s radiation levels approached Chernobyl-like brilliance. The company legal department modules and virtual wisdom systems were failing to find the right words for the poor creature to utter. It could sense a dangerous man like me who asked questions rather than accept pronouncements and was sufficiently terrified. I smiled inwardly knowing I had predicted this all too well. I pounced and finished off this Lor impostor.

“I am guessing you are a digital millennial, am I correct Sir?”

The HR android winced as more VM resources were consumed while it reacted in horror at this breach of it’s process and script. It was lost in virtual thought and I pulled out the final insult. “Here you go son…” I dropped the jar of baby food and a small pink baby spoon on the table. The jar of mashed prunes spun around on the ice-colored desk and the android’s eyes flared in anger, even as smoke poured out it’s Y2K + 1 ears.

I remembered James Kirk and Harry Mudd teaming up to handle a young upstart like this and stood with my 720K disks swinging from my ear lobes and my mood ring flashing a deep blue as I calmly asked the android “I assume this meets with your approval?” as I stood, clutching my PC repair kit and my original model Kindle.

The final question finished it off. It stood and pointed for the door, but the strain had been too much. It keeled over and burst into flames and the building fire suppression systems kicked in, flooding the room and making the most satisfying sizzling sounds as the android kicked in it’s final death throws.

My mission accomplished, I gathered up the baby spoon and food. After all, a digital prune like me had plenty more interviews to attend.  One has to be economical in their chosen duty. My work would never be done…

I was a man on a mission. And I shook off the water and watched as the young digital natives who had witnessed me vanquishing the digital boss made way for me… A mere digital prune… A force to be respected and in awe of. The whispers of respect said it all. Tomorrow my next interview was at ten o’clock. I couldn’t wait for it!