How To Improve The Efficiency? (Flash Fiction)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Flash Fiction #166

“Computer modeling can calculate the success rate of a pharmaceutical experiment before the lab work is done. My work has just improved the efficiency of identifying transporter protein by 10 fold.” Arlong says to his friends. It is Arlong’s 40th birthday and his wife Jasmine throws a dinner party for him to cheer him up.

Arlong is a computational chemist, who works for a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. His friends don’t really understand the nature of his work, but they let out a series of polite sound of admiration, and give collective nod and approval. Arlong takes this as an encouragement for him to go on. As a birthday boy, he is entitled to some degree of self indulgence. He goes on and on. And finally, his friend Mu, who runs a small business, discovers a chance to insert a comment.

“You know, without efficiency, a small business like mine will not survive. Efficiency is the key.” Mu says.

“That’s what I want to say. You and your wife are experts on efficient running of your business.” Arlong continues.

“As a data analyst, I concur. My work is trying to help improve efficiency too. At home, Pammy and I make the most efficient decision on how to pay back our mortgage in the optimum way, how to drive to different stores along the shortest routes with gas price so high, and …” Pammy’s husband Pan says.

“Are you sure you are living the most efficient life?” Lulan, the unemployed anthropologist, says.

“Of course we are, Lulan. You don’t understand efficiency since it’s not in your area of expertise.” Pan says to Lulan, with a little friendly condescension, which inevitably provokes Lulan to retort.

“Well, in my opinion you are living the most inefficient life, Pan. And Arlong the second, and Mu the third most inefficient…” Lulan says.

“How so?”

“Well, let me see. Pan, you aspired to be a physicist when you were young, but you ended up coming to America and working in Wall Street as a data analyst, which is the most inefficient way…” Lulan says but her statement is interrupted by Pan who says,

“The most inefficient? I beg to differ. But how did you come to that conclusion?” Pan says.

“Well… You could have become a physics professor or educator, who can inspire hundreds of student in science. However you didn’t pursue that. Instead you came here to serve a greedy financial institution who make poor people even poorer and poor countries even poorer…”

“That’s an outrageous claim, Lulan. You don’t have prove for that. Financial institutions provide badly needed capitals and make the world go around. And my work as a data analyst is important. It is an efficient way of using my talent in science.” Pan says.

“Oh, give me a break, Pan. As an old friend, I have to say you don’t really believe what you are saying.” Lulan says.

“How do you know what’s in my mind?” Pan asks rhetorically.

“I know. I just know.” Lulan says arbitrarily. “And I haven’t finished yet. Tell you what, the immigration process is the most inefficient way of doing things. Just look at all these small business owners in New Jersey, who used to be medical doctors, diplomats, lawyers, painters, musicians in their hometown across the Pacific. And guess what they are doing here? They open coin laundries, drive taxi, run an Asian restaurant, fix old houses, become real estate agent. Blah-blah-blah. It is such a waste of resources, don’t you think? Their hometowns educated them, only to send them to America to do all these low skilled labor that don’t need an education at all. I am not exaggerating that a high percentage Asian immigrants are wasting their talent and skills. Or they got hired for their skills for a while and then got fired because they are always the first to let go. Only a small percentage is like Arlong who does the research he likes.”

“Then I think you are the biggest waste of talent of all, is that right? You were educated as an anthropologist and you had jobs waiting for you at Indonesia or Australia. I forgot exactly where. But your husband doesn’t want to go with you since he likes to stay in New Jersey enjoying his menial job…” Pan says, but Pammy kicks him underneath the table so hard that he grins in pain.

Lulan turns totally red in her face and neck. She raises her voice to a higher pitch, “That’s not my fault. I was 30 at the time and if I lost my husband, I would not be able to find another one as good as him. While at the same time, if my husband became single, he could find another woman very easily. The world is very unfair, especially to women, especially to Asian women who are getting older. And after a life time of trying to be a good girl, I suddenly found that the world didn’t give me a chance to be a good girl anymore–if I pursued my career, I was going to be the single woman to be disfavored by the community; if I didn’t pursue anthropology, I would live in perpetual sad regret of giving up my research…” Lulan says, starting to cry.

Pammy says, “Oh, Lulan, you made the right choice.”

Jasmine screams her support too, “I would choose Arlong of course, and be happy to waste all my talent to keep a watchful eye on him so that he will never be able to dump me.”

19 thoughts on “How To Improve The Efficiency? (Flash Fiction)

  1. The “work” women do as housewives is often dismissed while the work men do is always praised. I read something the other day that stuck with me: men don’t go out and work so that they can provide for the family, women sacrifice their careers and stay home so that men can go out and further their careers. So many women choose to sacrifice successful careers and yet they never get praised for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true. Women’s writing, women’s humor, women’s chatting are often discounted as non-mainstream. I have heard people say to me very often that women don’t have humor, which is really not true. Women’s humor or style of humor are different from men for sure. If a man is not exposed to women’s writing or women’s humor when he is a teenager, he is not likely to find women funny or women’s book worth reading. I really find this among my male friends. I think most mothers don’t really talk with their sons in a communicative way that explains women’s life to their sons, and most schools don’t expose teenage boys to women’s writings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, that’s absolutely it. Men never have to be exposed to stuff by women but women are constantly learning things written by men. In many ways, society seems to see women as only being there to serve men and make their lives easier.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So true. Haha, I think nature has made it deliberately so that men and women would think differently and act differently. And social structure has made the two genders even more different. I think the two genders can almost be treated as two entirely different species, which is really wrong, since we have a lot in common. Just looking at my own family, I think women are more aggressive than men as far as narcissism is concerned.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. True, I think men and women can be quite different but it’s still very possible for both to be treated equally. But of course the patriarchy can’t have that since it would destroy the advantages many men have when women aren’t treated equally. I think women tend to be more narcissistic because they can’t express their hate and anger openly like men. Since society expects them to be silent, they choose more manipulative tactics to get what they want.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. That’s what I would say too. Psychologists would say there are not as many women who are narcissistic, but I would disagree. I think there are equal amount or even more female narcissists nowadays. Judging from my own relatives, I think my female relatives are more aggressively narcissistic than my male relatives.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, that’s good. I don’t think life is supposed to be efficient at all. Growing up, I heard that we should learn from Japanese who are the model of efficiency. However if one is not born a Japanese, it is very hard to learn their mode of efficiency. I actually know that even Japanese themselves, when living in other countries as teenagers, will find it hard to mold back into their Japanese life when they go back to Japan to live as adults.


      1. The company I worked for used to send people to Japan to study their efficiencies. I was never selected to go but I still have a company shirt that says, “Kaizen is Everyday.” I don’t remember what it means.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I just googled it and kaizen means improve. Well, I have tried to follow Marie Kondo’s Japanese way of organizing my closet after watching her netflix series, and I think it is getting more organized, but still it has long way to go. LOL.


  2. In this story, you’ve beautifully emphasized the complexity & diversity of individual perspectives and values, and the importance of understanding and respecting these differences.
    The story highlights different perspectives & values that people have regarding efficiency and career choices. It shows that while some may prioritize efficiency and maximizing their talents, others may prioritize personal relationships, societal expectations, and personal passions.
    Lulan’s comments about the waste of talent among Asian immigrants raise important issues about the challenges that immigrants face in pursuing their career goals. The limitations imposed by societal norms and expectations can force individuals to compromise their dreams and settle for jobs that do not fully utilize their skills and education.
    Beautifully put!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your encouragement. Yes, the immigrant community is filled up with people who wasted their education. They are countless. It was a big brain drain for the home country and a big waste of skills and talent in their new home. It is the most inefficient thing in this world but it is not going to be stopped any time soon.

      Liked by 1 person

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