Right Here, Today: 20,000 Jobs

photo: steps to grande arche
A favorite picnic spot at La Défense, with
a big view of lots of concrete.

Bring a Suit, Tie, CV and Engineering Degree

Paris:- Wednesday, 26. September 1998:- To wake up I have the clock-radio set to France-Info because it is loud and irritating.In other words, it works; it wakes me up.

On Wednesdays, I am excused from the wheel-job of getting the kids to school. I think it is because kids don't go to school on Wednesdays; or if they do, it is only to make butterflies. Whatever it is, I don't drive them to it.

So the clock-radio is set for later. It is just as irritating; but I can actually catch what it is saying. After my shower, while trying to decide whether to put on a shirt with buttons, or just be buttonless, I hear the radio say, "20,000 Jobs."

I forget the missing buttons and listen. Radio France-Info has useful job information announcements. These are especially useful if you already happen to be wearing a shirt with a complete set of buttons and can put on a suit with a beautiful CV already in a pocket, a flattering ID-photo, have a straight-arrow tie and a recent haircut - short back, sides and top - and be ready to get out of the house in 10 minutes flat.

Without these items, you at least need a pencil handy to write down France-Info's 'Minitel' code, so you can look up the address of the place that has 20,000 jobs going today.

Since I am unable to get my 'Minitel' to function, I hit Radio- France's Web site instead and click on 'France-Info' for the details. Instead of getting 'France-Info,' I get a Java-script error. It is the usual thing about the function of the ristans being uneven. Clicking on 'OK' sends me back to the main 'Radio-France' frame.

Why it can't say the Web site has been programmed to force people to use the 'Minitel' I don't know. I must find a FAQ about this.

I do remember though, that the radio said the 20,000 jobs are at the CNIT today, at a thing called 'Prosearch.' So, withoutphoto: 40 years cnit buttons, tie, CV or recent haircut, I stumble uphill through the cemetery to the SNCF station and grab the first train heading for La Défense.

This is the CNIT. It is 40 years old. I don't know what 'CNIT' means.

I can do this while still nearly asleep because the train either heads for La Défense or it heads for the end of the line, one station away. Sometimes while sleeping I go to the end of the line; but this is another story.

When I hit the concrete surface at La Défense I notice it is a truly fine day. I also notice that the concrete hut known as the CNIT says it is 40 years old. For Paris this is a mere piffle in time but for La Défense it is its whole history.

A lot of people are catching the sun on the steps leading up to the Grande Arche. The rest of the barren - no football stadiums, no basketball courts today - plain imaginatively named the 'Parvis' is sparsely peopled with stick-figures, just like in some architect's rendering. You can not say the place oozes soul.

This 'Prosearch' salon is in the basement of the CNIT, three floors down. What the radio really said, is the people here want to hire 20,000 people today. On the way down I pass another salon, called 'Internet World,' so I get a press badge for it too.

At the press cubbyhole at 'Prosearch' I get three kilos of paper to lug around. What I do not get is a press release - so I guess this is a 'surprise' salon; only for France-Info listeners this morning. It just sprang up like popsy.

Surprizingly, the aisles between the booths are full of suits. The people in them must have their buttons together.

These suits are mostly grey but there are some dark bluephoto: prosearch mascot ones too. Most of the suits have ties; some have brown shoes - which is unremarkable these days - and I bet they all have freshly printed CVs and freshly minted ID-photos too.

This is a mascot, meant to suck some engineers into this stand. Well, why not?

All the booths seem to have lots of application forms. They have signs as well, as if they are well-versed with recruitment salons; and they have white-boards where urgent needs are handwritten. Everybody wants telecom, software or Internet engineers.

The latest number floating around France puts the number of online users at something like 1.5 million. All these firms, hiring at this salon, must think there are going to be a few more users than the current ones - but big and small business firms also have the '2000-Bug' hanging over their heads - plus the incoming 'Euro' currency shambles to worry about.

Maybe the goal of getting 20,000 engineers today is a modest one. I read that the United States wants to double its annual Green Card quota for this type of engineer, from about one hundred thousand to two.

What I can't figure out is where all these suits have come from. They can't all have been listening to Franco-Info this morning. Some of them must have jobs, and they've slipped down here to get better ones. I mean, there are so many of them, who's back in the shop running the store?

I talk to people in a couple of booths that might be interesting. This salon may be called 'Prosearch' but nobody is looking for anybody who does 'content' to run over their lines, through their nets; produce the actual communications that all the hardware and software is intended to distribute. No, the recruiters for this other stuff must be at some other salon.

Nobody says goodbye when I take my suitless self out of there and go up a flight to the 'Internet World.' At this shindig the keyword is 'e-Business' and here again the emphasis is on transactions rather than the human to human interaction necessary to give any of it any meaning.

It is like they are decorating the hall for the party and don't give a damn about sending out invitations to the guests. There are these big enclosures with speakers' podiums, behind which are big projection screens; all for the purpose of discussing 'security' issues.

I should look at it this way: as math is the highest pinnacle of French intellectual attainment, and engineers arephoto: coke & orangina terrace a subset of math - all these people are really working to make it technically possible for you to receive Metropole. Without these suits there would be no Web.

This is the 'homey' side of La Défense. All it lacks is a cuddly mascot.

Under the high, domed ceiling of the CNIT - engineers again! - there is a simple display of photos in two semi-circles, of the 40-year history of the CNIT building or La Défense, or both.

Outside, on the 'Parvis,' the sun is lower but the Grande Arche is just as high as it was earlier in the day. In the big space, people in the distance - and there's a lot of it - are still stick-figures.

After being two or three levels underground with all the suits for hours, the sky looks really big. Just like last week at Concorde, there is a lot of headroom here. There isn't much history though.

It saves me from having to look it up. At La Défense, what you see is what you get. You do not get much soul. If the whole thing was knocked down tomorrow, nobody would shed a tear. Nobody could call this place, 'home.'

When I get off the train before its last stop, I do not walk down the hill through the cemetery. I take the narrow lane and then the path that cuts along up at the back of the church, and then turns down beside it.

The lower I go the less sky I see because the trees are covering it up. The 'headroom' is coming down to village-size. I think I should switch my radio-alarm to some other station.

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