How did it get there?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Two clever observations that would make good material for a stand up comedy routine

Whenever you call tech support, it resembles a computer game. It's so oppositional! There's very little actual supporting, and a great deal of finding your way through menus, weathering hold music, proving that you're a real customer and that you have a real problem, etc.

If they admit that you actually need and deserve help, and transfer you to their supervisor, you feel like you've fought your way to the end boss.

And if don't remember to save your game (write down your ticket number), you'll have to start all over when you die (get disconnected).


When someone lends you something, say a sharpie, you thank them. When you hand it back, they thank you. But what if when you first took it, you forgot to thank them, and when handing it back you thank them in retrospect?

Well, there's no particular problem, unless you both say thanks. Then it's just weird. But why should this be so?

When you take the sharpie marker in the first place and say thanks, that thanks is like an IOU for the marker. When you give the pen back and get thanked, you're even again.

So, when you both say thank you, it's as though you're exchanging fungible substances. It's as though you're giving the hotel manager your keys after you're done with the room, and he hands them right back to you. In fact it's even worse than that, it's like he's handing them to you at the same time. Something has gone wrong, and you have more politeness than you started with. It's not simply an awkward error, it's an error that, in the real world, can't actually occur. And because of this, your politeness-economy modelling system gets confused.

Of course, all of this happens in a fraction of a second, and unless analyzed in this manner it just seems odd in an unusual way that you can't explain, but thankfully don't need to.


When I went to write the second observation, I realized I had forgotten it. I had no idea what it was, except for a vague sense that it was a gray, inert sort of idea, and double-sided, like a yo-yo. At the time I had no idea what this entailed, it's not as though I consciously code my thoughts this way.

When I forget something like this, that only exists in my mind, I generally just think about it until I remember it, a seemingly hopeless process that as far as I recall has a 100% success rate. In this case I did indeed remember after a few minutes, and it surprised me that my vague visual impression of the idea was not entirely arbitrary.