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The Worst Job There Is

Words: © 1987 by Tom Smith
Music: "Crane Dance", © 1986 by Julia Ecklar
This was early in my career, when I was starting to feel my power. The original song is a lovely little piece about the movie The Karate Kid, and the key concept is "balance". I merely replaced that with "ballast", and proceeded to ballistic. When I premiered the song, in front of Julia, I watched as her eyes grew wider and wider, and her friends carefully leaned out of the way in anticipation of her launching herself at my throat. A few weeks later, I attended a songwriting panel that she was on, and, to my great delight, she said it was really well done, and an original idea, not just changing a few words and calling that a new song. I was on my way.

In all things there must be balance, said my physics prof to me,
And in the days of sailing ships, the ballast was the key,
Some sand and garbage in the bilge are all you need at sea,
But things work slightly differently when you turn in zero-gee.
The ballast must be accurate to ten places, maybe more,
Whether you are dodging asteroids or just going to the store.

When the spaceships first used ballast, they tried everything in sight,
And inert materials at first worked out all right,
But when spaceships first went past light-speed, the laws of physics changed,
Gravitation pulled unequally, several ships were... rearranged.
They finally discovered that the ballast must float free,
To go where it's most needed -- so the ballast now is me.

I tried to be a Space Marine, but they wouldn't let me go,
My vision was myopic, my reflexes way too... slow,
And all my dreams of Space Marines and interstellar fame
Were dashed to Hell by defects in my undernourished frame,
But still I made it into space, although my job is dull,
For now I serve as ballast sealed up inside the hull.

Now inert, unliving ballast will not do the job -- instead,
They've got me in a Kevlar jumpsuit, pockets lined with lead,
The hyperdrive computer says where we'll need extra mass,
We accelerate to F.T.L. and inertia kicks my ass,
I bounce around between the seams, grabbing anything at hand,
Like a plane whose one wing tears and falls, the ballast wants to land.

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