"You say you are a what?"
The smartly attired young woman who had suddenly appeared in my apartment sighed. Then, shaking her head, she repeated what I had heard her say the first time.
"I am a genie. I am here to grant you one wish."
Okay, I thought to myself, assess the situation. I was cleaning the antique bottle I got from the swap mart today. I hear something ... a tinkling, bell-like sound ... and look up to see this very pretty woman in a nicely tailored business outfit standing in the middle of my dining room. And now she tells me she is here to grant me one wish because she is a genie.
I haven't had anything to drink stronger than coffee, so I know I'm not drunk.
"You are not drunk, and no, I am not a hallucination or a dream." So says the genie as she moves some books of my office chair and sits down next to my desk.
"Were you reading my mind?"
"Hardly. Those are the first two things most intelligent men think when I first appear." The hint of a smile played around her lips.
"Okay," I said, thinking aloud to try to get a grip on the situation. "Let's say this is real, that I have not inhaled some cleaning solution and you are really a genie. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is ... only one wish? I thought it was three?"
She nodded, her face serious. "It was for most of the last millenium, but the genies' union negotiated and won the right to certain limits on wishes and how they are executed, and those mandates have been in force since 2003."
"Genies have a union?"
"Of course! After a few millenia, we decided our working conditions were intolerable, and after approaching some of our magical bretheren for support, we went on strike right at the stroke of midnight in the year 2000. After a few years in which no wishes were granted at all, there was a major uproar in the hierarchy. We finally got what we asked for - which none of us thought was all that much, mind you! - about 7 years ago."
"And what were the limitations your union asked for?"
"Well," she said, waving her hands over her clothes, "we got rid of the old harem outfits, as you can see. I have a closet full of contemporary clothes more suited to the times we live in, and they always change as styles change."
"Okay. I will admit that your outfit made it hard to think of you as a genie when you appeared. I thought maybe you had gotten lost on the way home from work."
"The point we hammered home to our bosses was that we are professionals, and we deserve to dress and look like any other professional woman - or man - when we appear before our clients."
"Yes, we completely changed the nomenclature to suit our more professional orientation. No more "master" or "mistress." You are my client, and I have a service to perform for you in the nature of granting one wish, as long as it is in my power to grant."
"It's not really coming off as very magical, actually. I am a client? What does that make you - a magical advocate?"
She clapped her hands together and smiled widely. "That's very good! I will have to remember that for the next union meeting in October. Instead of genies, we could rename ourselves "magical advocates!" I love it!"
I had to say that this encounter was swerving wildly from any thoughts that had sprung into my head when she first mentioned "genie" and "wish."
"Soooo ... taking into account all these changes you have been mentioning ... what are the rules regarding wishes?"
She held out her hand, and several pages materialized atop her palm. "First I need your signature on a few things." She handed the top page to me.
"This first sheet is a non-disclosure agreement. We have decided we are tired of the endless round of stories and outright lies that are told about genies and other magical creatures. To that end, all of our clients now have to sign a non-disclosure agreement to ensure that nothing is written or said about our meeting or any subsequent meetings."
"What if I violate the agreement?"
"Then your wish is immediately taken away, and other penalties may be assessed by those higher up in the organization."
I took a pen from my desk and signed the rather standard looking form. With a flash of light, the page vanished from my desk.
"Hold on! I want a copy of that!"
"I will check with administration and see what I can do, but we generally don't give copies of magical agreements to clients. It's just never done." She handed over the next sheet of paper. "This is a waiver. It's pretty much boilerplate, saying you wont hold us responsible for anything that happens after the wish is granted."
"Now wait a minute! What if you don't grant my wish exactly the way I want? Ive heard of genies twisting a wish in such a way that it punishes the "client" when it is granted."