“Which would you rather eat: a slightly overripe or slightly under ripe banana?” I am meeting my friend Anthony for lunch. He wanted to talk to me about his PHD.
“Overripe? Under ripe fruit makes you ill.”
“Interesting. You’re in the minority on that one.” He pulls a pencil from his pocked and marks a tick on his napkin. “If you could only listen to one Radiohead album from now on, forever more, which would it be?”
“Kid A, obviously.” He puts an X on the napkin. “Why the questions?”
“It’s part of my thesis. Broadly speaking, I’m working on a series of questions that illuminate certain aspects of the human psyche. They query general preferences, and appear unrelated, but when answered together can provide a complete psychological profile of the subject. Would you rather listen to a Dutchman or an Australian speak English for an hour?”
“A Dutchman. But what’s the point? I mean, why not just psychoanalyse them?” He ticks the napkin.
“The applications are endless if you think about it. One could evaluate unresponsive patients, suspects, potential terrorists. Just make a couple of casual enquiries in the course of conversation and you’ve got everything you need to know.”
“I think you might have trouble working these questions into a conversation. Plus, you know, people are different. Cultural differences, personal taste.”
“People aren’t so different as you think. There would be small changes made for new countries, demographics, whatever. But in as much as I’ve tested it should be good for anyone in the Western world. Eastern culture is outside my remit. Brown or white bread?”
“Brown.” He marks an X. “Does that mean I got it wrong?”
He grins. “There’re no right or wrong answers. Only ones and zeroes. Okay, if you could only have three hot showers a week from now on, would you elect to just shower thrice per week, or would you have cold showers the other days?”
“Can I wash in the sink?”
“Cold showers. Although being honest I’d probably pare it down to maybe five a week.”
He picks up the pencil. “Would you have an issue with me seeing Lisa?”
“My sister? Jesus, Ant. Yeah, I’d have an issue with that. She’s seventeen. Is this part of the test?”
He makes a tick. He’s suddenly looking a little uncomfortable. “Just a couple more questions. I appreciate you helping me out here. Emm… what if Lisa were pregnant? Would you have a problem with that?”
“Fuck, Anthony. Yes. That would be a problem. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I’m just trying to get some research done here Pierce. I don’t know why you’re being so difficult. You could just be supportive for once.” He makes a tick.