Information is Power, Right?

Imagine yourself in a café.

You look around a little sheepishly, but you do not see the bathrooms. Finally, off in a corner you see a little gold plaque on a door. That must be it. You proceed apace in that direction. When all of a sudden you are embroiled in an ontological debate:

“That’s the women’s bathroom,” calls the voice of the waitress.

Full stop. You look at her. She looks at you. You still need to find the bathroom – the men’s room in this case. The real might and power of information now rears its ugly head. The waitress might surmise that you were heading for the women’s bathroom by accident. That secretly you were looking for somewhere else. That your clear and present requirement has not been altered by the fact that you started off in the wrong direction. That maybe, just maybe, you needed to know something that waitress knows but has declined to share it.

A minute passes. You look. She looks.

“So where’s the men’s room then?”
“Over there,” she says without looking up.

In this informational transaction, what has happened? She offered you, free of obligation, a piece of gatekeeping information by ostensibly preventing you from going into the women’s room. But because she did not follow it up with anything else, you could draw the following boneheaded conclusions:

  1. That she did not care if you used the women’s room or not
  2. That there is NO men’s room
  3. That I do not qualify for the knowledge of the men’s room’s location
  4. That further information has a price
  5. That the existence of a men’s room is not implied by the presence of a women’s room.
  6. That ontology precedes epistemology.

There are other conclusions but the Absurd has already set in, so we will leave them for the moment.

***

Another situation. You are in a shoe shop, you are browsing the shoes. A voice from across the aisles calls out, “Izvolite!” or “Justify your business in this establishment.” You say that you are just looking and continue to just look.

Then you see the pair that you want! You take the sample from the shelf and approach (cautiously) the disembodied voice. It turns out to be a shopkeeper staring intently at a mobile phone. Eyes flash up and down. Your approach has been registered. You stand before the shopkeeper and express your justification for being there:

“Do you have these in a size 45?”

Silence. A moment wherein you have acknowledged the fact that you (a) do not have certain information about this shoe, that you (b) have assumed that the shopkeeper is the custodian of said information or possesses the tools to secure it, and that (c) having exposed your informational vulnerability, that the shopkeeper would inclined to grant your request and scurry into the stockroom to locate the shoe requested.

It is a long moment.

Finally, and presumably having completed the text messaging that occupied the shopkeeper until this moment, the response comes without further ado, pomp and/or circumstances:

“No.”

A protracted Q&A then follows, in which we discover that the shopkeeper might not be as sure as it seemed about the information, goes away to verify, comes back with the size 45 box, and (sans excuses), places it on the desk with a resounding “Izvolite.”

***

Both of these stories are true, by the way. If exaggerated a little. The relationship between the need for information and the dispensing of it has always been a pet peeve of mine here in the White City.

And I am always to blame.

If I look back, I always get the answers I need in the end – but only if I have formulated the question to its fullest possible extent. I.e., If that door is not the door to the men’s room but rather to the women’s room in which direction I have inadvertently propelled myself, where – pray – is the door to leading to the men’s room? Please?

Or, in the case of the shoes: Do you have size 45? In this style? And furthermore, the case being affirmative, could you retrieve them from the back that I might try them on?

Invariably, however, I ask questions that would seem to have these further questions embedded within them, and I erroneously think they are implied.

Silly me.

And by the way, this is the final line of this piece and no further information will be provided below it. Unless you ask.

 

 

 

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