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Courage for Hire

A Spy in the House of Work

There was a time when the most heart-stopping thing that you could do was ask for a raise. Or strut into the Grand Fromage’s office and demand a promotion to match your increase in duties. Remember when what kept you up at night channel surfing infomercials was the investment that you’d just made in your brother-in-law’s dotcom? That was scary stuff!

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Now being nervous about the old stuff feels like a luxury. Who even has a brother-in-law with his own dotcom anymore? Now most of us are scared by the new stuff, and we’re scared to admit that we’re scared of the new stuff. It’s preposterous to be nervous about opening our mail, working in a skyscraper, hopping aboard a commuter flight, or taking the elevator.

We miss our old selves! The ones who ripped open every Publishers Clearing House announcement with abandon and who happily took a job on the 97th floor of the tallest office building in the city. (“Wow! I can see all the way into the next state! And hey, what’s that couple doing in the next office tower?”)

The market quickly responds to shortages, and the only bull market these days is the one for courage. Which inspired the folks at e-conjob.com to create … the Courrogate! That’s right, your very own courage surrogate, someone to act courageously on your behalf until the day comes when you can reclaim some courage of your own.

Our newly minted offering comes in a variety of customized configurations. There’s the Business Courrogate — the take-no-prisoners salaryman (or woman) for this new age, where fear is the new way to express power. Need someone to hop on that red-eye from New York to L.A.? Hire the Business Courrogate! He’ll fly without breaking a sweat — and he won’t bat an eye when security hauls him out of line to impound his shaving kit. Too anxious from sitting eight hours a day in your cube on the 66th floor to get any work done? The Business Courrogate will dress in your own business casual, and even open your mail — with wild abandon! Unlimited elevator rides included.

When it’s just too difficult to get up in the morning and face the day, your Personal Courrogate will keep going on your behalf. Say you’ve told yourself that you’re still taking that dive trip to Papua New Guinea, the one you’ve been planning for the past year. Now you’re not sure that you’re up for being an American abroad. Pas de problème. Your Personal Courrogate will swim with the fishes for you! (And, as an added bonus, your Personal Courrogate will get that deep tan you’ve been eschewing for years for fear of melanoma.)

Is there anyone who isn’t asking the hard questions these days? The problem is, asking the hard questions during hard times — which is, of course, the right time to ask them — is often terrifying. You need to try the Courrogate Existentialisme! He’ll save you brain cells and stomach lining by pondering the imponderables for you. The Courrogate Existentialisme will contemplate the standard enigmas: Is there any purpose to my existence? Is the work that I do meaningful — and if it’s not, then why do it, aside from the money thing? If this were my last moment on earth, would I spend it playing Freecell? Why is HBO waiting until September 2002 to begin broadcasting the fourth season of The Sopranos?

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That’s not all! For an additional fee, your Courrogate Existentialisme will personalize your inquiries. Why do I continue to steal Liquid Paper from the supply room even though I haven’t used it in a decade? Why did that tattoo seem like such a good idea at the time? And, finally, will I ever be able to summon the courage to take for granted everything that I used to? Because I still need that raise …

This is the latest episode in The Spy’s continuing saga, “Working Behind Enemy Lines.” You can find the entire Spy chronicles on the Web (www.askthespy.com).

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