Earlier this year I wrote a piece about angels being made redundant as part of a major restructuring of the celestial realm.
Driven by a directive from on high to reduce costs, many of the backroom jobs usually done by qualified angels were to be contracted out to private providers. The free harp lessons were dropped from the training programme, forcing many angels to buy second-hand halos to make ends meet.
It has just been announced by a joint panel of representatives from both above and below that Heaven and Hell are to merge many of their services in an attempt to reach budget targets set by their respective bosses.
According to a press release, admin and some policy roles currently supporting both Saints and Sinners are to be cut back with many positions merged into one service.
The aim is to continue delivering the complete heaven/hell experience to those who arrive but reduce the amount of paperwork required for the process.
The statement noted that most people arrive at either heaven or hell with a fair idea of where they are going, making much of the selection process redundant.
Until recently, sorting people by written assessment and personal interview had been the standard but new technology now means this can all be done online or by using the call centre in Palmerston North.
"By simply answering a few questions, the whole process can be completed in a matter of minutes. Examples: Have you ever lied to your granny? When did you last stop the traffic to let a chicken cross the road? Do you know what guilt is and if so how often have you experienced this feeling in the last 24hrs? When people say the end is nigh - do you ask how far away that is in kilometres?
"Once the questionnaire is completed, a computer programme will analyse the answers and assign you to the most appropriate destination.
"Those that confuse the programme by giving ambiguous answers will be put on hold and given a number in the priority queue for an individual assessment by one of our highly trained staff."
The statement said the proposed amalgamation of the policy divisions of heaven and hell would bring a more robust approach to the development of guiding documents. It cited the Ten Commandments as a classic example of great policy writing.
"There are only 10 bullet points in the entire document. They are succinct, devoid of waffle and easy to understand. The mission statement developed by those managing hell is also sharp and to the point. Terms like fire, brimstone and damnation are very evocative and clearly represent the nature of the experience awaiting those heading that way.
"Merging these two different messages into one brief directive: "Good or Evil - You Choose" then syndicating the concept to a reality TV programme will reduce staffing costs and boost profits."
Apparently staff previously assigned to managing the selection process in rural areas will be replaced with a guess you own weight machine that will sift the liars from their more honest, sending them towards the appropriate gate.
A spokesperson conceded that reducing the admin workforce in heaven and hell would mean the loss of thousands of years of experience but the merger was seen as a sign that the sacred and profane could actually work together with the consequent cost savings being used to fund exciting future developments such as a self-assessment device that can be operated by the TV remote. Will wonders never cease?
Terry Sarten lives in Whanganui. He describes himself as a social worker, musician and due paying member of the satirist. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org