Things Could Be Worse

Jim was at the office late one night when an angel appeared before him. Everyone else had already gone home for the day, naturally.

Jim had laid his head down, partly out of fatigue and partly out of despair — there was no way he was going to be able to finish tomorrow’s presentation. “This is the worst job,” he muttered to himself.

It was just at this moment that the angel appeared in a flash. Jim was momentarily surprised at the apparition, then disappointed. The angel was a dude.

“This is most certainly not your worst job,” the angel said. “There exist many parallel universes in which you have a far worse job. You scrape out deep-fat fryers in some of them, believe it or not.”

“Oh,” Jim said. “But I must have a better job in some of them, right?”

“Actually, no. This is the best job any of your selves has, both in terms of salary and general fit to your abilities.”

“What?” Jim was incredulous. “This is my best possible job?”

“Yes.”

“But there are infinite parallel universes, right? Surely in at least one of them, I’m, like, pitcher for –” Jim paused, then decided to lowball a little. “The Royals.”

“‘Fraid not,” the angel said.

“Not even in an infinite number of universes??”

“Technically, it’s finite; though it’s so large, that for your purposes, it might as well be infinite.”

“OK, and even in a number that big, there isn’t a universe where I’m a pro athlete?”

“The set of odd numbers is infinite, but that doesn’t mean it has the number two in it.”

This got a blank look from Jim. The angel sighed, then said, “For you to be a professional athlete, or any number of other things, would require your personality, body, and background to be radically different from the essence of what makes you you. In other words, it wouldn’t be you who was the athlete, it would be someone else. The person who is you wouldn’t exist at all in that universe.”

Jim closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “It’s too late at night for me to understand any of that.”

The angel put a cheerful note into his voice as he said, “If it makes you feel better, you have an advantage over all the other Jims in all the other universes.”

“And what’s that?” Jim drawled.

“You’re the only one who gets visited by an angel and told about all the other universes.” The angel raised his eyebrows expectantly.

“Some consolation.”

“Well, I’m afraid it has to be,” the angel said, “because in this universe, you’ve also slept through the night at your desk and you get fired for not finishing that presentation.”

“WHAT!!!” Jim bolted upright at his desk. The sun was pouring through the blinds, and the clock said 8:39 AM.

“Hey, think of it this way,” said a fading voice at the edge of hearing. “This was only a dream, which means you’re not insane and seeing angels in your office.”

[Music available for any universe here.]

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