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Steve Eaton: What if we could all look forward to the next transfer?

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2012 12:54 p.m. MDT

What if you knew that you were only six weeks away from your dream of becoming an astronaut?

Or, what if you had the hope that soon you might land a leading role in a Broadway production or the fear you were about to become Britney Spears’ personal assistant? Would it frighten you and excite you if you knew your next job would include swinging upside down in a Cirque du Soleil production?

My son Jackson lives his life in six-week increments. He’s serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And even though he has a relentlessly positive attitude and a strong belief he is serving right where he is supposed to be, he knows his world could change within days because transfers come around every six weeks.

When a transfer day happens, your companion could change and/or you could be called upon to move to a completely different part of the mission where you and your meager belongings would have to start over from scratch.

The upside of this approach is that if you have a companion who is difficult to get along with, you know there is hope six weeks away that everything will change. And for those of you who have not experienced life with a missionary companion, well, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Think of your best friend. Now imagine you discover that suddenly one day your best friend realizes that he or she likes you so much that they never, ever want you out of their sight. They’ll let you go to the bathroom and shower by yourself, but they’ll be with you during every meal, stand right next to you in the grocery store line, and listen in on every conversation you have no matter where you have it. Now imagine all of the above, only let the scenario play out with someone that you’d rather lock in the bathroom.

This got me to thinking, however, that in the grown-up, non-missionary world, we sometimes get into rough situations with a furnace that breaks, a job that stinks or no job at all. What if we knew that no matter how bad our situation was, we would only need to hang in there for six weeks, and then we might be transferred to an entirely new area and new job?

One week you are working at Sears, and the next week you are guiding people to the top of Mount Everest. You get to keep your family with you and a couple of suitcases, but you have to adjust to the home, apartment or wet cardboard box to which you are assigned.

I tested the idea out on my wife, who does not always transition as effortlessly into my world as I would like, and she immediately pointed out that just because someone says I am a Sherpa doesn’t mean I can suddenly walk uphill for 10 minutes without having a heart attack. And she thinks that if I were to be transferred to Cirque du Soleil, there would be some serious costuming issues they would suddenly have to deal with.

And who will be orchestrating these “transfers,” she wants to know. Who is going to tell Donald Trump that it’s his turn to clean the toilets, or tell Mitt Romney that he’s going to be an unemployed single parent on food stamps? How would President Obama adjust if he were ordered to take a job as a call screener for Rush Limbaugh?

Details, details.

The idea of “hope chunks,” as I call them, already works on a collegiate level. You have a job with several bosses or professors who ask you to do incredibly difficult things and sometimes you fall behind. Doesn’t matter. On a certain day every four months or so you get a grade and get to start completely over. Wouldn’t it be cool if your work to-do list just went away every four months and you got a chance to start fresh with a brand-new boss?

Well, none of that is going to happen, but if a candidate ever proposed a “hope chunk” approach to the economy, we’d get some interesting debates. Do you think the 1 percent would pony up for some serious attack ads if they thought they were six weeks away from start-over status? They’d make the ads we see on TV now look like Hallmark commercials.

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