The Gravity Works, Inc. – Levitation Division – Employee Lunch Room
Arthur sat across from Michael during their lunch break. Both men were introverts who typically ate lunch in silence, preferring to read work-related documents while eating rather than engage in chit-chat or sports talk. Arthur looked up and stared at Michael for several seconds.
Michael sensed he was being stared at and looked up.
“What?” asked Michael.
“Do you ever worry you might be losing touch with your family?” Arthur said.
Michael set aside his document and rubbed his hairless chin for a moment as he contemplated how to best answer in the remaining time they had for lunch. As a scientist talking to a fellow scientist, he usually answered in one of two ways: he either replied with a simple affirmative or negative, or he elaborated and filled his answer with authoritative citations, copious examples, a few sidebar hypotheticals, and obscure footnotes, droning on until everyone had left the room. This time, he felt he needed a different way to answer, especially since Arthur’s question was clearly very sincere and from the heart. He didn’t have to be telepathic to know his friend was troubled.
“Let me ask a question, Arthur. You go home early and there’s no family there. Right?” said Michael.
“Precisely,” answered Arthur, then quickly corrected himself. “Eventually they’re there, of course, just not when I expect them to be. Or maybe they’re asleep when I expect them to be awake.”
“Are they avoiding you?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Aha. So, they’re busy doing other things and have filled up the hours of the day, essentially their lives, without you.”
“Sounds about right. How’d you know?” asked Arthur.
“Been there, experienced that. It seemed the more time I spent away from my family, the less familiar they became to me.”
“You mean like Spencer in Sales?”
“What happened to Spencer?” asked Michael.
“He was on the road all the time and spent so much time away from his family, his wife had him arrested for breaking and entering when he finally returned home. By that point, some other guy had moved in to his house and his kids were calling the stranger Dad.”
“Well, that’s certainly sad. But understandable, from what I know of Spencer,” said Michael. “My situation was not nearly as extreme. Of course, I needed a way to test my hypothesis.”
“Interesting. What were the parameters of your test?” ask Arthur.
“Spending more time with my family,” said Michael.
“That’s all? Sounds simple.”
“Yes. It was as simple as that.”
“Sometimes the simplest things can be the most complicated,” said Arthur.
“True,” agreed Michael. “Did you ever think maybe what you could use is a family bonding experience?”
“What do you mean?” asked Arthur.
“We already take a vacation every year.”
“Let me guess. You stay on planet. Go to the southern district. Visit the same sites, eat at the same restaurants–so on and so forth. Sound familiar?” asked Michael.
“There’s something to be said for consistency,” countered Arthur.
“Yes, and it’s called boring. Look, Arthur, how long have we worked together?”
“Seven years, three months, and twenty-two days.”
“Right. We’ve been sitting here eating our lunches together and you’re always eating the same thing. You eat the same lunch every day. Every. Single. Day. The same meal for seven years. That’s the very definition of boring,” said Michael.
“I happen to like my lunch. Why should I risk changing it for something I might not like?”
“If all you ever do are things you’ve done before, how will you ever experience anything new?”
“Hmm,” said Arthur, unable to form a more intelligent response. He hated to concede that Michael had a point.
“Have you ever heard of a travel company called Small Universe?
Michael pointed an index finger at his briefcase nearby on the table. The briefcase unlocked itself, and Michael wiggled his finger again, retrieving a travel brochure from “Small Universe.” The brochure slid over the table and landed in front of Arthur, who gave it a quick glance and read the cover aloud.
“’The family that vacations together stays together.’ Sounds too corny and too expensive.” Arthur pointed an index finger at the brochure, sending it back to Michael.
“It’s a lot cheaper than you think. They make it up at the other end, so they keep the customer cost down.” Michael wagged a finger and the brochure went back to Arthur.
“No thanks.” Arthur waved the brochure back to Michael, who waved it back to Arthur.
“How many times in your life will you get a chance to show your family another planet?”
“This one’s just fine.” Arthur pushed the brochure back still again.
“Arthur, you’re a scientist. Since when do you lack scientific curiosity?” Michael pushed the brochure back.
“I don’t lack curiosity. It’s the money I’m lacking.”
Arthur pushed the brochure back.
“They’re running a fifty-percent-off special. It’s a last-minute offer. Apparently, they’re under booked and need to fill seats. But you have to commit soon.”
“Very soon. Like today.”
Michael pushed the brochure back for the last time.
“Did you say fifty percent off?” asked Arthur, who grabbed the brochure and quickly scanned its contents.
“Yes. Plus, if I refer you and you sign up for a tour, we will both get an additional five percent off on our next tour with them as part of their referral program. Jamison of Accounting is going. He’s the one who turned me on to Small Universe, and he can’t get enough of their tours. He must own stock in the company.”
Their lunch over, Arthur and Michael donned their respective white coats, disposed of whatever remained of their lunch, and walked down a clean, white corridor to the Levitation Lab.
“I almost forgot to give you the brochure back,” said Arthur, as he pushed the door open.
“Keep it,” said Michael. “Jamison has a supply cabinet full of them.”
Arthur and Michael entered the QA lab, ducking in time to avoid a small chair flying in their direction.
“Sorry,” said a co-worker.