12/27/2006 12:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Service Workers: Abducted by Aliens?

The holiday season brings to mind once again a question that's been bothering the curmudgeon in me for some time now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in the American economy the service sector now claims more workers than the manufacturing sector. What I want to know is, where are they hiding?

When you want to locate something in a department store you could spend a morning trying to find a person skilled enough to tell you where it is. Sometimes you even have comb the store for someone to take your money.

You want to buy something on the phone, you wind up with a menu. You want information, you get Mombai. On line it's automated. So where are they?

In days gone by, when more workers were in the manufacturing sector, there were nevertheless people in your neighborhood who repaired things like shoes and appliances when they broke or got worn. Did aliens abduct them? Now we throw those things out and buy new ones. Has anyone, anywhere, ever actually mailed an appliance to the manufacturer to have it repaired?

I realize that the "service sector' includes such things as insurance companies, drug salesmen, and telemarketers, but still, if I take the BLS figures seriously, I have to ask myself: are there secret department stores hidden away in some forgotten corner of every city, windowless and unmarked, that feature three salespeople to the customer, catering only to those who possess a special password? Are there secret telephone numbers, passed from person to person by those who know the handshake, that connect you to real people who are also American citizens? Are there secret repair shops disguised as gambling dens?

Or are there secret clubs somewhere, packed with people who spend their working hours waiting on each other? Do they take turns?

You may think me naïve, but deep down inside I have faith that somewhere, over the rainbow, perhaps, there are people just waiting to take my call, answer my questions, ring up my purchases, and fix my appliances. I'm waiting, Glinda, for you to take me there.