Somewhere in the Realm of What Could be Expected
You walk around a thing long enough, a rock, for instance, you
forget it's a rock. You learn new information: Rock = diamond =
love = eternity. The picture gets bigger, deeper. The information
pool spreads, leaks into rivers. The rivers sprawl. Take a human
being. Complicate the math. A friend: Algebra. Girlfriend: Calculus.
Wife: Theoretical physics. That is, Eternity - (love + diamond)
= people and objects dissolving, pouring through my fingers. The
odds my wife Nellie was humping someone else, or being humped, or
was half-humper/half-humpee, stood about even, at least according
to the poll I conducted in the men's room of Lewis & Phipps
Public Data Systems. Yes, Nellie had fallen in the river of information,
but I gave the push.
My concern began about the time I decided to retire. It became important
for me to know whether she was faithful, although I had suspected
she was not for many years. After all, when I retired, we would
spend days on end together. I might live another twenty odd years.
If my suspicions proved true, well, it mattered now in ways it didn't
before. You see, the plain of my life shifted, so that where once
the eastern skyline mattered, now the western ruled. You see how
we're tricked? You have to see this. It's important to understand.
I want you to know.
I was a proofreader at Lewis & Phipps Public Data Systems.
I only read the reports. I had no training in statistics. Oh, I
had some jumble of knowledge, a mish-mash of this and that. It went
something like this: "The rules of the sample integrate the
people in the sample and all the people in the population. The population
and all the people in the population and all the people in the people
in the population and all the characteristics for all the people
in the sample of the population must know the characteristics for
all the people in the population to be sampled. But first we must
know some characteristics of all the people in the sample."
It may not mean much to you. Understandable. I, however, absorb.
That is, given a certain amount of information over a certain amount
of time, I will assimilate that information and learn -- not as
one might learn in a classroom, but through, again, absorption.
In this case, I learned a particular method of polling that suited
my needs. Accordingly, I would conduct my poll in the men's room
of Lewis & Phipps Public Data Systems. If I spent time alone,
thinking about my wife, and became utterly lost in the question,
then, of course, my best hope was to poll a similar population and
see what they made of the situation. Of course, I couldn't run around
the offices discussing intimate details, so I would confine my inquiries
to the men's room:
Harry, urinating: "How's your consumer confidence, Lloyd?"
"I'm quite confident about the economy."
"And your fear of violent crime?"
"Very low. Harry, give me the odds a wife cheats these days."
"The ladies? Between ten, twelve percent."
"Twelve percent, huh? One in ten, roughly?"
"Roughly, Lloyd. What makes you ask?"
"You Republican or Democrat?"
"You'd think I'd know by now. Well, you keep a low profile.
He zips and leaves just as Sam exits a stall, toilet paper clinging
to his shoe. "Independent, huh, Lloyd?"
"Well, that's Lloyd for ya. The loner. What's your religious
"Methodist. Where's that fall in the way of national norms?"
"Oh, somewhere in the realm of what could be expected."
Sam exits. Mitch enters.
"Look who's here," Mitch says. "How's it swinging,
"How's it hang?"
"They say consumer confidence is down."
"Down? It's in the shitter. Every indicator's down."
"Means nothing. People say anything and everything sooner
"So what's the point of asking?"
"You live on a racetrack, you place bets. Things move fast
"Well," I said, "I like it slow and easy."
"Bet that's what the old lady says."
"Nellie? She's faithful."
"Sure she is."
"Well, you asked. What's she do all day while you're at work?"
"I don't know. Sometimes she smells like beer when I get home."
"Beer? Well, believe what you like. That's best."
I kept my ears peeled and eyes open. Sometimes votes in the poll
came involuntarily, in chance comments, cast-asides, in far-flung
opinions and low-flying humor. At other times, I put the question
directly and the answer came the same. By my last day of work, the
question remained undecided by popular opinion of men who used the
Lewis & Phipps' bathroom. I knew to expect this from a pamphlet
we sometimes gave dissatisfied customers, entitled, "Errors
in Polling." As I remembered, it went like this: "There
are enough disasters in theoretical calculations, in sampling, enough
disasters in theoretical calculations, including refusals to be
called erroneous, that if journalists are the least bit interested
-- the least bit interested! -- and alas most are not, then well
might they ask: How undefined and unrefined. How unrefined the undefined."
From this I ascertained I needed to sample an outside population.
I decided I would celebrate my last day's work at the pub that stood
between the bus stop and my home. The occupants of that bar's bathroom
would decide the issue once and for all.
On the bus home, two men sit behind me.
"So I tell her, I'm doing six and you can't wait?"
"I might have smacked her if -- hey grandpa? Turn around.
This ain't the Paul Harvey show."
"Well, that's the deal with the bitches," the friend
"That right, grandpa?" the other one says, leaning toward
me. " Is that the deal with the bitches?"
"I wouldn't know."
"You oughta know by now, gramps."
They lost track of me. Some part of me thought: