Thursday, April 19, 2007

PM 6: The Third Question

Bud abruptly turned his back to me and headed back to the kitchen.

"That's it?" I asked incredulously, tailing after him.

"There are more questions friend, but we're done with question 2." his head was back in my refrigerator.

"No, I mean, the point of all those questions was to see when I would get sick of answering questions? This is really a stupid test. What kind of company is this?"

He reappeared with a jar of pickles. The lid was off. His beard was wet with vinegar and his face had a pained look about it.

"Did you just drink that?"

"No," he said, but by the way his mouth was stretched out and his eyes tearing up I could tell he had. He fished out a couple gerkins and ate those.

"It doesn't look like they feed you well."

He apparently found this an amusing remark and his strained expression metamorphed into a tight grin.

"They feed me quite well," he said. "But, honestly, it is rather bland. I miss strong flavors. Moving on to question 3. This is an ethical question. You may have heard something like it before. It is imperative that you are completely honest."

He left the kitchen and sat down on my sofa with the jar of pickels. He put his feet up on the little coffee table. I noticed again his strange shoes. It was almost possible to make out the outline of the individual toes almost as if they were sprayed onto his feet. A he put up his legs I could see that, in fact his pants had no hem, merely a single fold. The shoe became a sock and the sock folded over, became loose and formed the bottom of his pants.

"Surreal" I thought to myself as my gaze left Bud and followed a vartical path up the wall behind him. Hanging above my couch was a poster of Salvador Dali's The Temptation of St. Anthony. When I was in college I had purchased it in the campus bookstore as something to put on the wall. It was something cool, kind of "psychedelic," kind of intellectual. It hung it over my futon where I slept. When I would come home from drinking bouts I would flatten out the futon, put my feet against the poster and stare at it. The long spider like legs of the elephants caught my attention. They were made longer and spindlier by the near sharp angle of my observation. The nude woman in the chalice, the torso through the window.

I grew sick of it, but I brought it with me to New York and had it framed and hung it over the sofa. As I drifted towards isolation and boredom, it had faded into the background. Long ago I had given up looking at it. But that day I looked at it again for the first time. It was the only remnant of my college days left. This time it was the horse that caught my attention - I can't imagine why this had not occured to me before, but the horse's shoes were on backward. What possible reason could there be for this?

"Imagine a mad college professor who happens to be a doctor of social-ethics. Unlike the theoreticians who litter his field, this doctor has decided to perform an experiment on a real subject. So, he snuck into one of the physics labs and acquired a sizeable amount of Polonium."

"This is rather a distasteful question."

"He also kidnapped you, not to poison you with polonium, but because you are the subject of his experiment. His experiment is simple - you have a choice. Either he will poison a member of your family or a complete stranger. "

"This is sick. I won't answer this question."

"No, its not a sick question. There is no Polonium, this is all just hypothetical."

"Hypothetical or not, I do not think I want to work for any company that asks questions like this."

Bud looked at me with a rather sour expression on his face. "That may be true... or it may not be true." Then he smiled with his mouth, his eyes stayed hard. "Look, this is just hypothetical. It tells us something about you. Not who exactly you are, because, after all, if you were in such a situation there is no knowing how you would actually act. This is a question about how you think you should act. Please relax. Answer the question."

"It's meaningless for me anyway. I don't have any family."

He noted something down on his Blackberry. "Well then, a friend or someone you care about."

"I've lost touch with most of them."

Again, he made a note. "Well, then how about this. Your options are, a great philanthropist someone who does a great deal of work with the poor or some complete stranger."

"How do I know the stranger isn't a philanthropist too?"

"The stranger is someone completely insignificant. You have a choice between the life of a great worker of miracles and some ordinary schmuck. Who do you choose."

"I don't think I would choose. I would refuse to choose."

He was ready for this. "If you refuse to choose he would kill them both."

I thought for a moment. "Still I would refuse."

"And kill both of them?"

"It wouldn't be me who was killing them."

"But by your choice, you'd let them both die."

"I think there is a difference. I'm not actively willing someone to die, I am just not participating in this pscyhotic professors experiment. What I would do instead is try and kill the ethics professor."

He seemed stunned at this idea and made another note, then abruptly snapped closed his Blackberry and stood up. "I don't think there is any more need of questions. If you could give me a second to tally the score."

No comments: