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To cook rats in Bombay 0

Dear Bradshaw,

One of my students last week was Marco, the marketing manager of a pharmaceutical company. When I asked, “If you could snap your fingers and, just like that, invent a product that could do anything, what would it be?” Marco leaned back in his seat and said, “Well, first of all, it’s important that, as a product, it relieve and not cure the problem.”

I tilted my head and asked, “Why’s that?”

“Because if it cures the problem then there won’t be any need for the product. My job is to alleviate the symptoms. That way we have a customer for life.”

My heart skipped a beat. “So invent a product that doesn’t involve symptoms.”

Marco thought for about five seconds, and then his eyes lit up. “I’d create a sunbathing product, you know, like suntan lotion. It would be a skincare product that worked as a prism, allowing you to become any color of the rainbow. In fact, you could market six products in one, depending on which color you wanted to be: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, whatever. Also, each of the six products could be further subdivided into three more products. For example, yellow could be light, medium, or dark. Then, of course, you could mix filters to create any color you wanted. And you know what else would be nice? You could color one arm blue and the other red, and we could create stencils so that people could make patterns on their skin.”

“What would you call it?”

Marco clamped his mouth shut and breathed in through his nose. He stared at the wall behind my back, and then said, “Chameleon.” Without missing a beat, he continued, “And we could promote it with an anti-racism campaign.”

I was impressed but not surprised. I’ve had many lessons with Marco and he’s a genius at his job. With five more minutes in the lesson, I asked, “If you were selected to be a member of a committee that had to decide what to put in a time capsule that would be launched into outer space for extra-terrestrials to find, the idea being that the objects in the capsule would give them an impression of humanity and life on Earth in general, what would you include?”

Marco clasped his hands and then leaned forward resting his chin on his knuckles and his elbows on the desk. His head bobbed up and down as he spoke, “Copies of the Odyssey and the Bible, a wheel, an instrument like a guitar or a piano, a seed, and a soccer ball.”

Again, he had been quick, most students took a minute or two to think of what they’d include and, having four and a half minutes remaining, I asked what he thought the worst job in the world was.

“You’d think the worst job is to cook rats in Bombay,” he said, “but it’s not. To me, it’s any job that prevents you from being yourself or that goes against society.”

“For example?”

“To work for the mafia, to sell products that are unhealthy like cigarettes.” He paused, looked up at the ceiling. “Or to be the Pope.”

“The Pope? Really? Why?”

“Because you have no chance to be yourself. You’re a puppet.”

So that’s it, Shaw. Marco would rather cook rats in Bombay than be Pope. All I know is that I wouldn’t want any of those jobs, and that I’d definitely include a few more things in the time capsule, like a computer, a cell phone, an audio recording of a heart beating, children laughing, wind rustling the leaves of a tree, and a wave forming, crashing, and then washing up a beach. I’d add Michelangelo’s PietĂ , a CD of Bach’s concerto for two violins, maybe a wedding ring, a slice of pizza, a painting by Picasso (probably La Guernica), definitely a bottle of wine and, well, maybe two bottles of wine, one white and the other red.

Actually, scratch the red. I’m drinking it now.

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