By John M. Silah
There is an old question, posed by those who want to know if you are an optimist or a pessimist. The question is: “Is the glass half empty, or is it half full?”
If you say it’s half empty, they say you are a pessimist. If you say it’s half full, you’re an optimist.
I have thought about this question from time to time, and finally concluded that I must be an optimist. To the “half-empty folks,” I say that if you’re so concerned about the half-empty part, then you can have that half, and I’ll take the half with the water. I believe that if we were in a desert, all of them would soon get my point.
But I also began to wonder how different kinds of people would answer the question. Since it is a hypothetical question, it is only logical to me that I should ask hypothetical people. Okay, sometimes I have my own kind of logic. Call it “creative logic.”
First, I asked Sterling Scientist, “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?”
“Of what?” Sterling asked me.
“Of what? I don’t know; it doesn’t matter what – say – water.”
“Okay, then it depends,” he continued, peering at me over his eyeglasses.
“Yes. What temperature is it?”
“Water,” Sterling explained patiently, “at room temperature is one level, in this case we’ll assume it is half way. But if it were below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, its volume would expand to more than half way.”
When I asked Riley Religious, his answer surprised me. “In God’s world,” he said, “All things are possible.”
“Right,” I said, “So, in God’s world, is it possible that the glass is half-empty, or half-full?”
“Yes, it is,” he answered, “It is whichever way our Lord wills it to be.”
“You don’t happen to know which way that is, do you?”
“I can’t speak for the Almighty,” he replied. Refreshing, I thought, since so many others seem to have no trouble speaking for Him.
When I asked Harold Hypochondriac, he eyed the glass warily. “Get that thing away from me,” he said as I approached him.
“What?” I stopped short.
“Where did you get that from?”
“What? The water?” I answered, “It’s just tap water.”
“Tap water!” he exclaimed, as if I had said, ‘toxic waste.’ “Don’t you know how many germs are in that water?”
“Yes, microbes, bacteria – germs! It’s positively crawling with them!”
“Looks clean to me.”
“That’s because you didn’t look at it through a microscope. It’s a zoo in there. Not to mention the radium. You don’t actually drink that stuff, do you?”
“So I assume you drink filtered water?”
“Filtering is better than nothing,” he replied, looking at me as if I did not have a clue, “But to eliminate germs, you have to either boil it or distill it, of course.”
“Of course.” Harold didn’t look comfortable being in the same room with the water, so I moved on.
It was even worse when I asked Pete Paranoid. “Where did you get that?” he asked, suspiciously, “Did someone give that to you?”
“Have you been watching it?”
“Watching it?” I repeated.
“If you let it out of your sight,” he snapped, “someone may have tampered with it.”
“Why would they do that?”
“You should have it tested.”
“For biological warfare. You know: W.M.D.’s.”
“W. M. – oh, Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
“Right,” he said, reaching for the ‘phone, “I’ll call the F.B.I.”
“No, no,” I said, backing away slowly, “It’s okay, Pete. I’ll call them.” It was definitely time to move on.
Phil Physicist asked me if it was regular water or “heavy water.”
“Doesn’t feel heavy to me,” I answered.
“Is this a water quality issue?” Polly Politician asked me, “Are you one of those prickly environmentalists?”
“No, of course not,” I answered, adding, “although I do like air I can breathe and water I can drink.”
“I thought so,” Polly snapped, “What’s your political affiliation?”
“This is not really a political issue,” I explained.
“Everything is a political issue,” she replied. I figured she would probably have to take a poll before she gave me an answer, so I just left.
When I asked Phineas Philosopher, he looked at me thoughtfully. “Are you sure the glass is really there,” he asked finally, “Or does it exist merely as a thought in the mind of God?”
Not to be outdone, I replied, “Did you think of that, or is it God’s thought, and you just think you thought it?” That ought to hold him for a while, I gloated as I made my escape.
In the end, I decided that it was Paul Practical who had the best answer. “For the amount of water you have there,” he simply said, “Your glass is too big.”
John Silah is President of the Fond du Lac Area Writers Club