Before we get to today's column, I have an important announcement regarding outsourcing.
"Outsourcing" is a business expression that means, in layperson's terms, "sourcing out." It's a trend that started years ago in manufacturing, which is a business term that means "making things." You youngsters won't believe this, but there was a time when Americans actually made physical things called "products" right here in America. Workers would go to large grimy buildings called "factories" where they would take a raw material such as iron ore and perform industrial acts on it, such as "forging" and "smelting." By the end of the day, as you can imagine, they smelt terrible (rim shot), but they had turned the ore into something useful, such as a locomotive, or a toaster, or (this was not a big seller) a toaster-locomotive.
The making of things was outsourced decades ago to foreign nations such as Asia. Today, we Americans are dimly aware that our TVs, computers, cell phones, underwear, dentures, cartoons, etc., must come from SOMEWHERE, but we have no real clue who is making them, or how. We have enough trouble figuring out how to remove the packaging.
After we stopped making things, America became a "service economy," which is a business term meaning "an economy where it is virtually impossible to get service." But now even our service industries are being outsourced. Take, for example, "technical support," which is the department you call when you are having a technical problem and need to be placed on hold. Today, when you finally get through to a human, he or she is often in a different country. This is good news and bad news:
THE GOOD NEWS IS: The foreign tech support people are smart, educated and eager to help, and they speak English.
THE BAD NEWS IS: They speak it in such a way that you understand only every fifth word.
I recently had a problem with a computer, so I called technical support, which in the case of this company is located, I believe, on Mars, and although the person on the other end sincerely tried to help, the only word I consistently understood him saying was "David." I felt like the dog in the Far Side cartoon who's getting a stern lecture from his master, but the only thing the dog understands is his own name:
TECH SUPPORT GUY: David, wokm todelc strsprot, David. Cnygv meth serilnbr?
ME: The serial number? You want the serial number?
TECH SUPPORT GUY: Thtsrdy ndimsng, David. Logndr btmmrstit, David?
TECH SUPPORT GUY: Sit, David! Lie down!
But we might as well accept it: Outsourcing is here to stay. And it's happening EVERYWHERE, including industries that would surprise you:
When you order a hamburger at a McDonald's drive-through, the person who's taking your order is actually located in the Philippines. Your hamburger is physically cooked by workers in China, then transmitted almost instantaneously to the U.S. via a high-speed Digitized Beef Patty Line (DBPL).
When you take a commercial airline flight, the plane is actually being controlled from India by a 10-year-old girl holding a remote-control joystick in one hand and a lollipop in the other. The "pilot" in the front of your plane is a retired security guard whose sole responsibility is to notice when the plane starts shaking, and make an announcement that you are experiencing turbulence.
Congress recently tried to pass a law against outsourcing, only to discover that all federal legislation since 1997 has actually been produced in Taiwan.
So outsourcing is here to stay. Which leads me to my announcement: Starting today, I will no longer personally write my column. It will be produced by foreign humor