The Judgment of Strangers
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Like most Americans, the Urban Man believes that the only fair way to decide any issue is to ask a group of ignorant strangers. I have faith in special elections and unqualified juries. I believe in asking folks who can't balance their checkbooks to reset my tax code and make complex law.
You see, I'm pretty sure that somewhere out in the cosmos, there's a Universal Fairness Principle which can be accessed only by asking the totally uninformed.
Certainly, when I have a personal disagreement with a colleague--or a spouse--I appeal to that principle as if we both agreed that it exists. As if, say, we took a poll of a hundred random individuals, at least 51 would agree with me.
And sometimes I think: Hey, maybe that could be arranged. I mean, I do live in this big city.
The other day, my beautiful wife and I planned a nice evening out to argue about money. We sought a neutral arena, and chose an upscale restaurant with a clean and Spartan look. Vegetarian, of course. I mean, we don't want any animals as collateral damage.
As we enter, I approve the stiff, uncomfortable chairs, the bare tables, and the frank lighting--all much like a courtroom. I think: surely Universal Fairness can be accessed here, probably right after the miso soup.
Our argument begins in a pleasant and organized way. In fact, I waive the green tea to avoid the caffeine. But by the time they serve us our impartial Peruvian yucca and two honest leaves of raddicio for $18.95, I'm starting to wish I had a jury before whom I could make an impassioned speech. "Surely," I say to my wife, "a stranger would take my side."
Just then I look over at a young woman sitting by herself at a nearby table. She's wearing a prim sweater and reading E.M. Forster's A Room with a View--one of my favorite novels. Huh, I think..this woman's a stranger, but surely a kindred spirit. Maybe I should give it a try.
Aloud, I say to my wife, "Let's ask this lady at the next table."
"What do you mean?" replies my wife in alarm.
But I'm already determined to take my case directly to the metropolis.
"Excuse me miss," I say. "You don't know me, do you? Good. My wife and I are having a little disagreement, and I was wondering if you could give us, you know, an unbiased opinion."
"Excuse me?" says the young woman, glancing at my wife's horrified expression.
"Seriously," I say.
Again she looks at my wife, who shrugs.
At last the young woman recognizes her important role in the cosmos. She says, "Okay, try me."
So my wife and I present our positions, and at least one of us delivers an unprejudiced summary of the facts. The young woman seems to get it. At last she gives me a smile and pushes aside her plate of radish sprouts with a firm hand. "Well," she says, "I guess I'd have to agree with…your wife."
At once, I recognize my mistake. I mean, besides the small sample and the lack of pre-trial interviews, I picked a woman as my only juror. Despite the E.M. Forster, I should have known better.
Still, I would recommend this technique to anyone. For truly, at that moment, a warm American joy welled up in my soul. I may have lost the argument, but I accessed the Universal Fairness Principle. And certainly, I gave my wife a great and noble gift--better than any jewel. I mean, how many of us ever gets vindication from a total stranger?
And yes, when the Urban Man and his beautiful spouse left the restaurant, we did so hand in hand.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
Banner image is from a painting by Gordon Dickinson
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