A woman buys a television set from a friend and brings it home. She plugs it in and the tube lights up for a second, and goes "ping" and dies -- kerplop. The woman turns off the set and then turns it on again and again she gets the same thing -- "Ping Kerplop." The lady wants to know, should she ask her close friend for her money back?
This is a hard question to answer, especially in English. (Somehow I feel there is a French expression to cover this situation.) It is this sort of questions that comprise the thorny little morality plays of modern life.
For instance, should the woman call her friend and ask for the money back or should she just call her and tell her what has hapened and let the friend decide what to do? If she does that, isn't she just telling her friend what she expects her to do or should she simply say nothing since she knew when she bought it that it could go kerplop at any time? In essence, what is more important -- a television set or a friend? The answer to that one is simple: It depends on what's on.
The answers to other such dilemmas, though, are not so simple. In fact, I don't know them. Maybe the readers will write in and the answer that gets the most responses will from now on be The Right Answer.
Another one: You mention to a friend that you need a plumber and he recommends one. The plumber comes to your house, works on your verticals, works on your horizontals and floods every room in your house with rusty water. Should you blame just the plumber or should you also blame your friend? Should you ask your friend if the plumber did the same thing at his house or should you assume that that the recommendation was not a hostile act?
Think. Think for a moment before you answer. Do you mention it at all to your friend? Do you want your friend to feel guilty? Do you think your friend should pay the damages? Do you think your friend is somehow negligent? fShould you never mention it? On the pain of death? Will this give you an ulcer? Can you contain your hostility? Will it come out one night at dinner when someone mentioned the word "pipe" and you dump a bowl of carrots over your friend's head?
Write your answers on a little card. Mail the little cards to me, Richard Cohen at The Washington Post. Do not send stamps. Do not send cash and the earliest entries will get here first.
Another one: A man is at a swell dinner party. His hostess is well-off.The man somewhat less so. He leans back in his chair. There is a nub on the back of the chair -- part of the chair's design. The man rocks back and forth. Every time he rocks back, he rips a very expensive Chinese screen behind his chair. He notices what he has done. What should be do?
Think. Don't rush to take pen to paper. Give some pause. Consider. Reflect. Reflect, in fact, upon the following.
Should he keep his mouth shut, because the hostess will never notice? Shold he keep his mouth shut because even if she notices, she will not care? Should he keep his mouth shut because even if she cares, she has the money to have the screen repaired?
No! Yes! Maybe! What if she fires a servant for the deed? Should he mention it to the hostess? Should he offer to pay for what he has done? What if she takes him up on his offer and it's a lot of money -- like $5,000? (How the hell would I know how much it costs to repair a Chinese screen?) If she says she'll accept his offer of money and it's a lot of money, can he say he can't afford to fix the screen he ripped and from now on she should not seat poor people next to expensive items?
If you get into a cab and it goes the wrong place but the cab is being driven by a foreign student learning to be a dictator do you pay him because he is a student? Would you pay someone who is not a student? Would you pay a black driver, but not a white driver or maybe the other way around? Do you think getting lost is someone's fault? Do you hold them responsible? What if the student has to account for his mileage even though it's miles traveled in the wrong direction? The answer to this one is not "take the bus."
Send in those cards. Mail in those letters, to me, Richard Cohen, The Washington Post. Duplicate entries will be counted twice. Goodnight.