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My Outsourced Life

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As on every morning at 8:30, I get a call from Honey. “Good morning, Jacobs.” Her accent is noticeable but not too thick, Americanized by years of voice training. She’s the single most upbeat person I’ve ever encountered. Whatever soul-deadening chore I give her, she says, “That would indeed be interesting” or “Thank you for bestowing this important task.” I have a feeling that if I asked her to count the number of semicolons in the Senate energy bill, she would be grateful for such a fascinating project.

But lately, Honey has started sending me unsolicited ideas — and some of them are pretty good. Granted, there are a few clunkers in there, and the English sometimes needs to be decoded, like a rebus. But there are also some winners: Honey suggests Esquire conduct a survey on what women want men to wear. Could work.

The point is, she’s got talent. If Honey is a guide, the Indian workforce can be just as innovative and aggressive as the American, so the “benefits” might not be so beneficial. Us high-end types will be as vulnerable as assembly-line workers. (Friedman’s other pro-outsourcing argument seems more persuasive — that free trade will open up the huge Chinese and Indian markets to American exports.)

Regardless, if I end up on a street corner with a WILL EDIT FOR FOOD sign, then at least I’ll know that I’ve lost my job to decent, salsa-loving people like Honey and Asha.

First, I try to delegate my therapy. My plan is to give Asha a list of my neuroses and a childhood anecdote or two, have her talk to my shrink for fifty minutes, then relay the advice. Smart, right? My shrink refused. Ethics or something. Fine. Instead, I have Asha send me a meticulously researched memo on stress relief. It had a nice Indian flavor to it, with a couple of yogic postures and some visualization.

This was okay, but it didn’t seem quite enough. I decided I needed to outsource my worry. For the last few weeks I’ve been tearing my hair out because a business deal is taking far too long to close. I asked Honey if she would be interested in tearing her hair out in my stead. Just for a few minutes a day. She thought it was a wonderful idea. “I will worry about this every day,” she wrote. “Do not worry.”

The outsourcing of my neuroses was one of the most successful experiments of the month. Every time I started to ruminate, I’d remind myself that Honey was already on the case, and I’d relax. No joke — this alone was worth the $1,000.

I’VE OUTSOURCED my marriage and filial duties, but somehow my son has gotten overlooked. It’s time to delegate some parenting to the Jacobs support staff. Julie is out watching her childhood friend do a stand-up-comedy gig, and I’m stuck alone with Jasper. It’s 7:00 P.M., Jasper’s bedtime, but I’ve got to write some semi-urgent emails. No time for hungry caterpillars or jumping monkeys.

“Mr. Naveen? If I put you on speakerphone, would you be willing to read to my son? Oh, anything. The newspaper’s fine. Yeah, just say his name once in a while. It’s Jasper. Okay, I’m going to put you on now. Okay, go ahead.”

A pause. Then I hear Mr. Naveen’s low but soothing voice: “Taiwan and Korea also are subscribing to new Indian funds in their markets.” Jasper isn’t crying. I’m tapping away on my PowerBook. “European Union . . . several potential investors . . . parliament.” I glance at Jasper again; he seems perplexed but curious. “Aeronautical engineers and technicians.” Jasper seems to like aeronautical engineers. “Prospects of a strong domestic demand.” After three minutes, I start to feel guilt-ridden. I’ve officially begun to abuse my power. Why didn’t I just turn on the Wiggles? Then again, Mr. Naveen’s lilting voice is so comforting; if there were bright-colored cartoons of strong domestic demand, this would be ideal.

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