Saturday, January 05, 2008

Just Nod.

The other day around 10:00 in the morning the doorbell rang. I've been expecting a delivery so I ran happily to the door because a) even if you know it's coming, mail in a box is fun and b) signing for packages makes me feel important. I always take the plastic stick like I can't be bothered and then scribble my mark as fast as I can so that "Jessica Martin" looks like a combo of a Richter reading and a gummy worm.
Writing my name illegibly also makes me feel important.

I opened the door and saw two men in suits. UPS goes formal? FedEx does the buddy system? The older gentleman introduced himself and his friend while I stared at their hands looking for my delivery and a place to sign. Seconds after realizing I wasn't about to get my fun boxed mail, the older man asked me, "Do you believe peace is possible?"

OK, I should mention that sweeping philosophical questions kill me.

I have a hard time making on-the-spot points (making points in general isn't my forte) and when a question is so large and so open, I close up as a way to counterbalance it. I jump into my head and try to remember things about loaded questions and informal fallacies while simultaneously trying to think about how I want to answer.

So, standing at the door, working through a mental Rainman-esque rundown of how peace is defined, how power is distributed, the history of war and the innate human desire for stuff, I was about to point out to this guy the problem with his question when the younger man pulled out a Bible and started talking about that.


I'm always reading so much into questions and overanalyzing the best way to answer when 10 times out of 10 I forget to consider who's asking me. Clearly, people don't go door to door before noon looking for debates. I'm an idiot.

I was sharing this story with a friend and it reminded me of something similar that happened this summer. I was at the post office in Astoria and a man with a very thick accent came over to me.

"S'cuze me ma frund. What mean forever?"

I looked at him and considered the best way to explain this vast concept of time in limited English. Should I skip Kant's ideas of space and time? Probably. But maybe hit upon the whole frame of reference thing? Gah.
I just ended up extending my arms a lot.

"Very loooong. It lasts a long long time. Forever means always. On and on and on. It has no end."

The man looked at me with absolutely no expression. Holding up a Forever Stamp he said, "Dis stamp. Ees good?"


No comments: