Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Secret of Balance

It was a busy day at the office. The in tray was full. The out tray was full. A mysterious person, who could be identified only by the spiky black hair visible above the stack of paper, came every half hour to empty the out tray. Who knew where to. The recycling bin in the back alley, probably.

From in tray to out tray, out tray to alley. (Or at least it seemed that's where my life was going)

I reached for another sheet from the in tray. Paused. The in tray was no longer there.

I looked around. I realised it was I who was no longer there. I mean, at my desk at work. I was now sitting behind a table about the same size, but instead of a partition board with cute animal photos all over it, on the other side sat a jolly little man wearing a hat that looked like it was made out of a paper bag.

Welcome!
"Welcome to Felicitous Fortunes! Good fortune or your money back. What can I predict for you today?"

I stared in shock, wondering what would happen back at work when the spiky-haired person came and found the out tray, for once, empty.

"Cat got your tongue? OK then, how's this? Have you heard the one about the guru who owned a hot dog stand?"

Silence from me.

"Come on, come on, it's a good one! Guess what the customer says to the guru! Guess right and I'll throw in a free 'good luck in the workplace' figurine." He gestured towards a shelf on the other end of the room, stacks of boxes with words like "Love Life Booster", "Prosperous Business Money Plenty" and "Every RM1 coin Received in Change From Coffee Shops Sure Authentic, 100% Guarantee Accepted by Banks" on them.

Silence. Then, at the sight of his fat, complacent, happy little face, something in me snapped.

I don't want your figurines. I don't want your fortunes. I just want to go back to work, to a job I actually enjoy, yes, that's right, enjoy, so I can do my work and after that go home and work on my other projects, and when I'm done with that I can spend about 5 minutes with my family before I go back to work overtime. And don't you, little fat man in paper bag hat, dare ask me why I must do so much.

"Why do you feel you have to do so much?"

That was it. It must have been the stress, because of course I'm not usually a hitting kind of person. The little fat jolly man was too heavy to make it across the room, but his paper bag hat made it.

And then...
Seconds later, I found myself back at my desk. No need to even say 'There's no place like office, there's no place like office...'

In retrospect, I really wish I hadn't hit him. Because the fat man did have a point: I do feel compelled to do more than I need to, and it's making me so edgy that I can't even take a joke from a jolly commercial clairvoyant. From that day on, I resolved to keep my work and outside commitments, relationships with humans and God in the proper balance (in increasing order of importance).

The moral of the story?
If you want to have some balance in your life, it's best to strike a happy medium.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is strictly coincidental.

No mediums were harmed in the writing of this story.

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