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Projects > Story-of-the-Day > happiness

February 26th, 2017

During the week, I'm in work mode. I go out in the world, focus on the tasks in front of me, and get them done. There's no time for over-thinking, depression and anxiety. The weekends are where I let these in instead.

It's a Saturday afternoon, just after one o'clock, when I hear my doorbell ring. I get out of bed, still in pajamas, and make my way to the front door. I peek out the peephole but nobody is there. "Hello?" There's no response. I open the door a crack and squint at the bright sunlight. Nobody is here. I spot a box on the ground just as I'm about to close the door. I plan my method of attack, and a few seconds later the box is in my hands and my door is latched behind me.

I carefully open the taped seams of the box with a pair of opened scissors. Inside there is a note and a small metal box with a single button on it. I read the note:

This device has been created for you.
Push the button just once and you will get eternal happiness.
There is a cost however.
Five people will die immediately.
You can mark as many people as you want as safe by touching them before you press the button.

Huh. I pick up the device to look it over, being really careful not to push the button. It looks fairly crudely made with just four screws holding it together, like a first assignment in a high school metal working shop. Whoever send this knew my name, but who would do this? I put it down. This seems like a job for future me. Present me is going back to bed.

I find my thoughts drifting back to the note and the device over the week. It's not like me to get distracted like this as work. When the weekend rolls by, I find myself waking up early to stare at the device and think about the message. By the next week, I'm having trouble not being distracted over the idea. Whoever sent this thing really knew how to get

I don't think it actually would work, but it seems like a fun idea at least. Maybe I could just touch everybody I know and then push the button. That way I could get over the whole -should I push the button or not- issue with nothing negative possibly happening to me. Okay, that's the plan! I'll do it!

I don't want to tell anybody about this crazy thing, so I'll just try to touch them in a social context. The note is pretty vague about what a touch is though. Like if I touch a person's coat will that count? What about a scarf? What if they just took it off and it's still warm? I settled on skin-to-skin contact. That seems like an unambiguous -touch-.

I finish getting everybody three weeks later, on a Friday. I have the twelve people at the office: Sally was the holdout because she has touch issues like I do. I also made sure to get everybody that I normally deal with. From Rollie the doorman to Joe our janitor. This was the first time I've ever been excited to get home on a Friday.

I grabbed some crab rangoons from Omei's on the way home, and way just wiping hte grease off my hands. My finger was poised just about the button when I remembered I also have family. And I have family scattered all over the U.S. So how far would you make this crazy experiment go? Would you just push the button or would you spend thousands of dollars going to visit all of your family? I went for crazy.

I didn't even know the process for requesting vacation time at work. I've just always showed up like a machine. So over the next two months I went everywhere from California to Massachusetts. It turns out I have an uncle that moved to Vancouver, so the whole endeavor became international. At first it was very awkward. Imagine showing up at your cousin's house. Well, imagine me should up at my cousin's house. But I got the hang of it. By the end of it, I had stories to tell whatever family member I was visiting. And I always made sure to touch them, their spouse and any kids.

I got back to my apartment on a Sunday. I put down my backpack and walked straight for the device. I hadn't really looked at it in months and the shoddy construction of it made me laugh. That button does nothing. I went over to my junk drawer and got out a screwdriver. I carefully removed the four screws from the device and opened it up. It was completely empty. The bottom of the button didn't even touch anything. I closed it back up and laughed. I should probably be mad about spending all the effort and money to touch people for no reason. But I quickly realized that just the idea of the button made me go out and interact with people. I was generally feeling much happier.

I looked at the device. Well, I did all the work... I pushed the button down. obviously since nothing was under it, it just sank in and didn't come back up. I laughed until a small piece of paper came out of a slot in the metal box:
Jay Shah, age 72
Alexandra Promp, age 9
Rui Xue You, age 3
Arav Chawla, age 22
Snetkov Mstislav, age 57