Ask a Gaxian: Employment—Bedding—Wedding.

Dear Gax,

In my effort to find employment, I’ve sent resumes to several retailers offering minimum-wage jobs. So far, the only jobs I have been hired for are fixing my dad’s computer when it breaks and walking my neighbor’s dog. The problem is, both of these jobs pay significantly better than what the retailers were offering. How can I get motivated to get a real job, when real jobs don’t pay nearly as well?

— Confused Worker

Dear Confused,

I am also confused. You say you are seeking a “real job,” but the work that you are attempting to escape is lucrative. Perhaps you are self-aware enough to admit that at this stage of your development, you require structure and the illusory stability that a “real job” may provide. Or perhaps you feel yourself growing complacent and need to have your spirit hobbled by working in a retail environment. Or you are a homebody, or young, or old but immature, and would like to take steps toward independence. This is a noble sentiment, but your framing mindset is misguided.

You do not say if you have a longer-term goal for your life. Perhaps you wish to fight an animal to the death in a sporting event, as was my first ambition as a pupa. Whether you already hold this goal crystallized in your imagination or you are still choosing which animal it should be, approach job opportunities as if someone had asked you, “Will you accept this sum of money to learn _____?” Fill in the blank with the parameters of the work. Will you accept this sum of money to learn how to deal with irate customers? This is a decent skill to have, as humans are miserable and unfortunately, you will be interacting with them for quite some time. Will you accept this sum of money to learn how to run some specialized device? To become familiar with a particular class of retail product? To meet and tolerate other humans, most of whom will be insufferable but a few of whom might be good to know as you collectively attempt to stay a half-step faster than the swiftly-advancing shadow of death?

If you are able to look at job opportunities as opportunities to be paid to learn some skill that you can later build upon or translate into more lucrative work down the line, you will begin to emit a “success pheromone” that will attract better things to your life. It does exist. You humans cannot detect it consciously, and be grateful — it smells like pig butt. But it is good for your careers.

Gax, proddingly

Dear Gax,

I have trouble sleeping at night. Try as I might, my mattress seems entirely incapable of rendering any sort of comfort. Yet, I am stuck with the blasted thing: I cannot afford another mattress. What do you suggest I do to help myself sleep at night?

— Involuntary Insomniac

If the mattress is the problem, then change it. Flip it around, turn it backwards, or place shirts or towels underneath your sheet to make it even more lumpy. Build it up into a nest rather than allowing it to be some flat thing that nobody likes. There is no prize for keeping your mattress unmolested until you die. Put things on it that are in the negative shape of your body, so you are cradled by these things. I cannot believe how many humans do not understand the importance of sleeping in a cradle position. Did your kinsmen never bend you over stones until you wept with comfort?

But this assumes the mattress is indeed the problem. Perhaps you are retiring with tension, your body unable to disengage from the worries of your day. You do not say whether you have stairs in your warren, but if you do, you should run up and down them twenty times before retiring. If you do not have stairs, you may run in place, but be sure your knees crest your navel. At each step say a nonsense syllable such as “dorp.” Change the syllable each circuit. This will flush out your brain, soften your muscles, and make you deliciously limp so that you will be unable to prevent yourself from being devoured sleep will beg you to enter it.

As a last resort, hold an egg in your mouth as you go to bed. This will keep your thoughts occupied.

Gax, practically

Dear Gax,

A close companion of mine is a Gaxian, and has given out invitations to, from what I could gather, is his wedding. What is the appropriate behaviour for a Gaxian wedding? Should I bring a gift? Wear any particular clothes? I’d hate to cause offense…

— Nuptials? No Clue

Consider yourself honored to have been invited to your first gaxitan! The gaxitan life-bonding ritual is an elaborate affair, steeped in tradition and often involving the participation of close family and friends. While the full gaxitan is unfortunately difficult to perform here on Earth, as ammonium nitrate can react explosively with your atmosphere, an abbreviated and modified form of the ceremony is often performed by expatriate Gaxians. Of course, depending on the faith and preferences of the six to eleven others being bonded to the prime gaxitanta, human traditions may be incorporated as well. A common one is stomping on a glass! Usually this comes after the gaxitanta has regurgitated the officiant.

It is not required to bring a gift, although again this may be perfectly fine in a blended ceremony. You should be careful to wear waterproof garb and shoes you do not mind burning. (You’ll probably not want to take them home after the bonding, anyhow.) It’s perfectly okay to wear some old grubbies, just enough so you can make it over the obsidian shards and find your seat. After the bonding, which will take place at the midpoint (around the ninth hour), you can leave your shoes off if the sticky ink fluid makes them uncomfortable. (Once the gaxitanta molts her carapace, you’ll be able to make it back out over the shards just fine.) Just take some Dramamine beforehand, bring a scouring pad or old toothbrush, and most of all, have fun!

Gax, joyfully

[Gax is an alien from the planet Gax. Have a question for Gax? Leave a comment on this post.]

Ask a Gaxian: Laziness—discipline—education.

Dear Gax,

I have a two-year-old son who is basically trouble incarnate. This child positively delights in doing things he knows he shouldn’t, and thinks up new ways to aggravate me on a daily basis. His elder brother was a much easier child, so I’m at a loss for how to deal with the little weasel. He isn’t old enough for time-outs yet. Any suggestions?

— Exhausted Parent

Dear Exhausted,

How have you been disciplining the child up till now? You say he is not old enough for time-outs, because he may not be developed enough to understand that ten minutes in a corner is supposed to be a punishment, rather than simply a considerate rest period before the next mischief. Yet even without a capacity for higher reasoning, the child, like any animal, will respond to more primitive stimulus.

Perhaps a more severe variant — a Super Time-Out, if you will — should be considered, where instead of being confronted with an abstract absence of stimulation (difficult to make the cognitive leap into behavior deterrence), the child is instead thrust into a stressful survival situation. For instance, if he teases the cat, submerge him immediately in a box of spiders. He will quickly learn not to tease the cat.

Gax, savagely

Dear Gax,

I want to lose weight, but never go to the gym. I want to become a writer, but lack the discipline to write on a daily basis. My car is in disrepair, my house is a mess. I seem to be suffering from chronic laziness. How can I whip myself into a more industrious lifestyle?

— Lazy Bones

Dear Lazy,

For what reason do you seek a life of furious industry? Being from a race that gathers into a hive formation each autumn, take it from me — there is no great benefit to working hard. Being even halfway competent at anything means you just end up crowded against a thousand other hand-picked Champions, trying to lift a billion-ton mountain and throw it into the sea, as has been prophesied by the Elders. But no matter how hard you strain and try to lift that mountain, it remains rooted in the soil as firmly as ever. I don’t even know whose dumb idea it is to keep trying every year. It doesn’t even have handholds, you guys. That would be a good place to start, and if the Council would still take my calls I would tell them so myself. I do not know if they read this column — due to their advanced age, their eyes may have tuned out of the visible-light phase by now.

What do you claim your problems are? According to your letter, you are fat and creatively dissatisfied, with a diseased car and a horrible house. Rivers have carved this deep canyon in you over time, and it is not as simple as saying “Go back uphill, river.” This is your river on purpose, and the best you can do is dig a canal or make this downward-flowing river turn a turbine for your benefit. Recast your failings as strengths and attempt to view life with these “undesirable characteristics” as an immutable constant. What new opportunities present themselves that you may have overlooked? Can you be a fetish model for hoarders, or hire yourself out as a “before” specimen for infomercials? These are just a few examples. If you forget your petty ambitions and instead accept yourself as your life has thus far molded you, then technically this counts as a win for me and I get a bonus for this column, without you even having to do anything.

Gax, tolerantly

Dear Gax,

In my country, our governors have adopted a ferocious funding-cut policy instead of dealing with the much worse problems of corruption and tax evasion. Thus, as college students, my colleagues (even the most eager-studying ones) and I are being put in the position of not being able to take all the examinations in our academic curriculum by the end of the standard term, thus being forced to pay tuition for an extra year in order to graduate.

Isn’t this unfair? Should I get politically involved to try and fix this situation? What would you do?

— Aggravated Student

Dear Aggravated,

Political organizing will only put you further behind on your schoolwork. You are committing the typical human mistake of assuming that problems have solutions, and focusing your energy on the perceived injustice rather than on progress toward your goal. Sometimes, problems are simply problems. Let me give you an example.

Earlier I mentioned the mountain on Gax that is prophesied to one day be thrown into the sea. Our Elders have decreed it will happen, so once a year everyone entwines their necks and gets onto a synchronistic hive frequency, and then we pick the strongest thousand adults and duly go try to pick up the mountain. (I was on the varsity squad three years in a row, until I threw out my stomodaeum. Threw it at one of the Elders, actually. Long story and epic poem.) And it’s kind of a stupid ritual because nobody ever lifts the mountain.

But — and it took me quite a long time to realize this — that’s the point. Nobody will ever lift the mountain, no matter how hard we try. So, at the end of the Festival, when we all go back to our warrens and caves and volcanoes and split-level townhomes made of chitin, we know that if nothing else, the mountain is still there. We tried to move it, and we couldn’t. So now we have to just plan our lives around it. You humans have feasts and you toast to old victories over defeated enemies, but that puts it in your head that all situations have enemies that can somehow be defeated. On Gax, the Festival is a reminder that sometimes, when we’re trying to go somewhere, there’s just a mountain in the way, and that’s okay. We can deal with it without going all to pieces shouting and railing at the mountain.

I mean if you want to get all agitated, you could write some angry letters and satisfy your urge for action. Then you can take correspondence courses, or have a bake sale to raise tuition money, or pay a hobo to take one test while you’re taking another so you can use your time more efficiently. After all, what would be cheaper: hiring a hobo to learn the material and then take the test, or paying the extra tuition for yourself? In other words, there are things you can do to manage, but you have to make plans assuming that the world will not change for your sake.

However, you do not mention if your academic curriculum involves cultivating a supervirus. If that is the case, your options widen considerably.

Gax, infectiously

[Gax is an alien from the planet Gax. Have a question for Gax? Leave a comment on this post.]

Ask a Gaxian

Dear Gax,

I work in an office with five other people. One of my co-workers is a compulsive coffee drinker. The rest of us drink a moderate amount.

The office rule is that whoever drinks the last cup must make more. Yet often the coffee-hound drinks most of the pot, leaving half a cup or so for the next person, who must inevitably make a new pot despite not drinking much of the previous one. Shouldn’t the person who drinks the most coffee shoulder most of the burden making more? How can we enforce this in the office?

— Forcibly Decaffeinated

Dear Forcibly,

Your office cannot function at peak efficiency if you are constantly being bothered by this petty coffee squabbling. Have you tried asking the coffee-fiend nicely to make more pots more often, in the selfless interest of interoffice tranquility? Some individuals must always sacrifice for the good of the hive. My guess from the tone of your letter, however, is that you have not even bothered to address your concern with this person directly. You write me passive-aggressively, perhaps hoping that the coffee-drinker will see his letter here and wordlessly correct his behavior, sparing both of you the awkwardness of a confrontation. This is unlikely to work, but if the aim is not to rectify the problem but rather to satisfy your urge to have “done something about” the problem, congratulations. You are quite the hero.

If this coffee thing is bothering you so much, simply follow the person to his car, wait until he closes the door (with the windows rolled up), place a 4-mil solar bomb against the driver’s window and flash-heat the interior of the car to five million degrees. It will appear as if he died from sunstroke and you will be in the clear. Do not write me when you then have to deal with this man’s extra workload, however. Every decisive action changes the game board.

Gax, challengingly

My husband is a kind and supportive soul, with one exception. Whenever I try to fix something around the house, he gets in my way, insisting that I’m doing it wrong and that he be the one to make any repairs. But he never has the time, and it’s not like he’s Bob Vila, either: I’m just as handy as he is. And if he finds that I’ve done something while he’s gone, he’ll nitpick it to death and often keep tinkering with it himself until it’s “perfect.” How can I get out of this marriage?

— Needs Repair

Dear Needs,

When home life becomes so tranquil that minor quarrels are elevated into insurmountable hurdles, truly you live a charmed life. When I was growing up, I had to battle five thousand swarming siblings to suck tiny drops of spilled blood from scalding rocks. It was my only source of nourishment throughout my entire elementary-school career. If someone stopped attempting to claw my eyes out long enough to offer to fix my sink, even if he never did it I would still consider this person heart-bonded to me for life. It is an expression of compassion that you are reading as contempt, and for that you should be made to run the Graxfian Path. If you reach Spine Rock before dying of metabolic disease you will be able to choose a new mate from the egg-broods there.

If you choose not to do this, you should instead learn how to fix the sink such that when your husband attempts to continue tinkering, he is scalded with boiling wastewater. If you can manage to assert dominance in this way then you will have my hearty congratulations. I am nothing if not egalitarian and venomous.

Gax, forcibly

I have two children, girls, aged 9 and 7. The 7-year-old shows all signs of becoming a great Gawxor warrior: she files her teeth on stones; she runs barefoot across the top of our wrought-iron fence; she’s even taken to chitin-crusting her hair without being told (she keeps an ant farm in her room). The 9-year-old, however, never showed any interest at all — right now she’s keen on becoming a veterinarian, although as you know, kids go through phases. Should I hold out hope? It is possible she may yet take up with the Ganzzax scribe tribe? Or should we accelerate the Gawxor indoctrination to make up for lost time?

— Wants Two Gawxori

Dear Wants,

You white people trying to be Gaxian make me sick. You can’t just read Wikipedia and watch a few movies and think you know what it’s like to be Gaxian. Did you watch the burning moon of Gax’an collide with Gax-Prime? Did you dance with glee from webbed foot to webbed foot, anticipating the triennial Measuring of the Neck? Did you savor the taste of your first egg, knowing that each bite was eliminating heirs from your house? If you haven’t, I recommend the very good book Ganaxorr: A Handbook of Gaxian Ritual by Professor Reed Barnes at NYU. The Lonely Planet Guide to Gax has some good stuff too. I am extensively quoted in both books, occasionally contradictingly.

Let your older daughter become a veterinarian. When your youngest goes through the Change it may be handy to have a relative with access to equine-strength drugs (depending on the status of the laws by then). This is what we call gaxnat, “living in concert.” If any members of your family — or anyone reading — requires personal individualized consultation for any Ganaxorr, I am available on an hourly basis and will also consider working in exchange for waste varnish from any deck-refinishing projects you may be undertaking. That stuff is very tightly controlled where I come from.

Gax, anticipatingly

[Gax is an alien from the planet Gax. Have a question for Gax? Leave a comment on this post.]