Underslept and overworked, Dana Filek-Gibson decides to mentally tackle Vietnam’s problems in her downtime.
Because I have an overactive imagination and an addiction to caffeine, I have begun solving the world’s problems in my downtime. This usually takes place after all the shops have closed, my internet connection has slowed and I’m trying to fall asleep. Mostly, I come up with duds, but over the past month I’ve managed to brainstorm some solid conclusions that make perfect sense in the dark after 2am. At least in theory, the earth should be a better place in a few weeks.
It all started with a semi-spiritual awakening in a cave at Marble Mountain, the religious haven and mass producer of stone statuettes. A man in a tie explained Buddhism to me like it was a video game in which all the secrets of the universe could be unlocked if you achieved enlightenment, which requires hours of dedication and sitting by yourself. Throw in a headset, and the similarities to Xbox are staggering. Level one: human being. Level two: zen-like state. Level three: nirvana and the opportunity to lie down and take a nap. Combined with my competitive streak and some obscure talk about seeds in our brains and cultivating mental gardens, this was all the convincing I needed.
Thus, underslept and overworked, I began tapping into the universal energy of all living things in an effort to a) focus and b) improve my karma score through meditation. While none of that has happened, through several bouts of tangential thinking I have come up with enough fixes to small, everyday problems to start my own Vietnamese home shopping network.
The bad news is that I have, by all accounts, failed at meditation. I still don’t know how you tell when you’re thinking about nothing, but I presume it’s similar to a blackout, in which case sleep, alcohol and fugue states can all achieve the same effect. What’s more, it turns out that, much like the tangible world, I’m a hoarder. I have thousands of inane thoughts that get tossed in a drawer somewhere and come up later when I’m trying to concentrate on something completely unrelated. The good news is that, in place of connecting with spiritual energy, I am going to make a fortune.
Because who doesn’t need a disposable shower cap to wear inside of the xe om driver’s helmet? How many of us have broken a plastic stool in our day and later wished there had been something to reinforce this miniature furniture before we placed our giant western bodies upon it? I know at least a few vertically gifted people who would sink some serious money into creating a hat that alerted its wearer to low ceilings. These are solvable problems, and the infomercials would be out of this world. And once I’ve got the means to air a 40-minute segment on no-stick couch leather or sock extensions for people with large feet, there are other business ventures in which I believe immense untapped profit awaits. A cafe, for example, called the Library, in which there is no food or drink allowed and everyone sits in silence, free from the tyranny of Taylor Swift and Enya.
So next time you’re at the supermarket and you see my face next to a display of as-seen-on-TV products, you’ll know that this brilliance arose from a special blend of sleep deprivation, unsuccessful spirituality and possibly mental illness. I may be a failed Buddhist but I am, at the very least, an optimist. And in the silver lining of my failure to meditate are a treasure trove of inventions that could make me Vietnam’s equivalent of the ShamWow! guy.
Dana Filek-Gibson is a Canadian expat living in Ho Chi Minh City.