May 15, 2006

A Play A Day #32

The Longest Lie Of The Longest Line


Setting: Severin and Gus's apartment. They are both reading magazines.

Severin: (from his magazine) Hey, Gus, listen to this: "If the entire population of China were lined-up single file and walked past you, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction."

(Gus, who has been looking at Severin while being told this, gives a little shrug, then goes back to his own magazine)

S: Isn't that cool?

G: (not interested, still in his magazine) Hmm?

S: The line of Chinese people walking past you?

G: Oh.

S: You don't think that's interesting?

G: Hm?

S: That if the population of China was walking by you, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction?

G: That's not what you said.

S: Yeah, if the population of China was walking by you...

G: (interrupting, stressing the first word) "walking by you"?

S: Yeah, the line wouldn't...

G: (interrupting again) No. No. No. Actually read what it says again.

S: Why?

G: Just do it.

S: Alright... um... "If the entire population of China were lined-up single file and walked past you, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction."

G: See?

S: Uhh... what? See what?

G: That magazine either needs a new editor or you need help reading.

S: I don't get it.

G: It says, according to you, blah-blah-blah "and walked past you, the line would never end..."

S: Yeah? And?

G: Don't you get that, if the entire population of China walked by you, then the line has already ended.

S: Oh, c'mon...

G: Yeah, they have already walked past you; so, therefore, the line's over.

S: Yeah, I get it, but you know what they mean.

G: I do; it's just poor writing, that's all.

S: You're so picky. I mean, I still think it's an amazing fact.

G: Uhhh...

S: But, you go off about word choice. I just think it's amazing that someone even thought about that.

G: Really?

S: Yeah, it shows the dangers of over-population.

G: Single-file lines are the among the dangers of overpopulation?

S: No! You know what I mean; sometimes problems have to be thought of in concrete ways like this to get people to realize that one-point-whatever billion people in one country is pretty dangerously overpopulated.

G: Why not jut say "one-point-whatever billion people in one country is pretty dangerously overpopulated"?

S: No. You need to think of it in, like, real-life examples, like the single-file line.

G: No, you don't.

S: Well, you don't have to, but it helps.

G: No, it doesn't.

S: Whatever.

G: It would help if it were a "real-life" example, but it's not.

S: Yes. Hello? People are always in lines. Lines are real life. This would just be ... umm... the longest line.

G: No. It's the longest lie. Not the longest line.

S: What? You're just being a contrarian now.

G: No, I'm not.

S: See, exactly.

G: No. Listen to me now; think about it.

S: The line?

G: Yeah, the line. Think about it.

S: (pause) What's to think about?

G: Let's start with logistics.

S: Logistics?

G: Yeah. How do you think that happens?

S: Logistics?

G: Yeah. The logistics of that line.

S: What do you mean?

G: How do you do it; that's what I mean.

S: You line them up, single file.

G: Just like that?

S: Yeah. Start with one, the next person behind them, and another, etc...

G: Yep. How long does that take?

S: Doesn't matter. You don't start counting until they start walking past you.

G: They won't ever be able to get to the walking.

S: Sure, single file and you go.

G: You can't get over a billion people to line up. Doesn't work; not even in a dictatorship.

S: You know this is all just a theoretical example. Why do you need to tear it apart?

G: There are better ways to express it than trying to get the entire population of China to line up, single file.

S: Just one way to talk about how big the population of China is.

G: Obviously. I get that, but it's a stupid way to talk about it.

S: How would you talk about it.

G: Told you already. Just say it's way too many people iin one country and be done with it.

S: So creative.

G: No need to be creative about it.

S: What?

G: If they want to be creative, why are they talking about this in such a concrete example?

S: It's theoretical.

G: Yes, but you yourself said it was a "concrete" example.

S: It can be both: concrete and theoretical.

G: It can. True, but it can't also be all three: concrete, theoretical and impossible.

S: Not impossible; it's theoretical!

G: It's actually impossible, therefore it can't be theoretical.

S: That makes no sense!

G: Sure it does, think.

S: No, things which may be impossible have to exist only as theories.

G: If they may be impossible, then it can be theoretical. But this isn't the case here.

S: Yes it is.

G: Theories have to be provable or refutable. If it's actually impossible, as this example is, then it isn't either.

S: If it's actually impossible, then it's refutable.

G: No, because someone would always be able to say; you can't refute this because you didn't get the whole population of China, this one guy stayed home, of this whole town never got the message. What I mean to say, is that this example is just totally impossible to prove or disprove.

S: No.

G: But I can completely disprove the possibility of this even becoming a theory.

S: Doubt it.

G: Yeah, I can. Play along.

S: Fine. Disprove or debunk or whatever.

G: O.K. Number one we've covered: How the hell do you get the entire population of China to line up in one line?

S: Issue a command through the national press; television, radio, computer, e-mail, newwspaper, pamphlets.

G: And those who are unreachable?

S: Dispatch troops to find and inform those people.

G: Fine. There's no way they'll find everyone; it'll cost a ton of money, but I'll give you this much.

S: Gee, thanks.

G: You're welcome. Now, everyone knows the time and the location where they are supposed to go to join the line?

S: Sure.

G: I'll give you this much, but how do they get there?

S: Give'em plenty of time.

G: And money?

S: Yes.

G: O.K. I'll give you this much. It'll cost a ton of money, but let's assume everyone, even those dying in hospitals or at home, are given a lot of time, let's say a year, and given enough money to make it from wherever they live to the line.

S: Right. Wait, why a year? I was thinking four weeks would cut it.

G: Even extremely impoverished families from the farthest reaches of the very large country of China? They will be able to walk to the location of the line? In four weeks?

S: We gave them all the money they would need, remember? They would rent a car?

G: If that's even possible in the far-off, disconnected towns. But, o.k., I'll give you this much. Somehow, they get cars; somehow, they learn how to drive. Somehow, they find roads where only trails existed before. Fine. I'll give you this much.

S: The government could transport them all.

G: Fine. Another wise investment. I'll give you that too.

S: You're most gracious.

G: I think so. Now, given all that you've been granted, tell me where the line is located?

S: Probably be best if it ran as close to the center of the country as possible.

G: Sure. Makes sense. What about geography?

S: What about it?

G: Rivers?

S: Well, they'd go across bridges.

G: Mountains?

S: Through the passes.

G: Swamps?

S: Uhhh... I guess they'd go around.

G: Alright, deserts?

S: Around.

G: So this would be a rather convoluted path.

S: (an idea) Or, they could just follow Great Wall!

G: Fine, let's do that. It's not centrally-located, but it solves many of the geography problems. O.K. I'll give you this much.

S: Good. So big of you.

G: How do they start?

S: They all start walking at the start time; what else?

G: O.K. Miraculously, they all start at the same time. I'll give you this.

S: Yeah, o.k.

G: And you are at the start of the line, just watching them go by?

S: Yep.

G: So let's say that this has all happened to everyone's satisfaction so far; in fact, I'll be generous and skip a few more logistical nightmares, and just go to a big one.

S: What's that?

G: Shit.

S: What?

G: Shit. You know, feces. Where do the billion-plus Chinese take a crap?

S: Oh... they just hop out of line, and do their business and hop back in.

G: No toilet paper?

S: You don't need toilet paper.

G: Fine. They just drop trou right there in front of everyone walking by?

S: Yeah. I guess... or, there could be rest stop areas. Port-a-potty things.

G: And those people who have ilnnesses or diseases that make them have to use a bathroom very frequently?

S: Just have a lot of them.

G: A thousand-mile long line of port-a-potties? Tons of toilet paper in each? Quite expensive.

S: Anyway. Any other problems?

G: Oh, we're just getting started.

S: Yeah?

G: Toileting needs are now taken care of; I'll give you this much. Now, what about the sick, infirm, paralyzed, quadripalegic, or those simply not able to walk because they have no legs or they're really old or they're just really out of shape?

S: Duh, that's what wheelchairs are for.

G: Government supplies these to everyone who needs one?

S: Sure. If they don't already have one.

G: These wheelchairs are powered by the individual in them, or pushed by someone behind them?

S: Duh!

G: Over the very rough terrain?

S: Just supply them with those all-terrain tires they make.

G: At the government's expense, of course.

S: (annoyed) Yes!

G: O.K. We'll give you this much. Now, when do these people sleep?

S: Sleep?

G: Yes.

S: It's a continuous line. No sleeeping.

G: Right because the rate of reproduction would just continue unabated for those eight hours, right?

S: Yeah.

G: But, you've solved that for us, Severin, now they will march without stop! Glad you made that decision. You know why?

S: Because now you can rub it in my face, I would guess.

G: (makes bell sound) Ding-ding! You're correct, Sev! Thankfully, you just opened up the biggest and most obvious conflict in this longest line farce: the mortality rate.

S: Oh! C'mon!

G: Marching, non-stop, exposed to wind and weather, infants, toddlers, the infirm, eldery people, and the list goes on and on. Let's assume, that the government is providing miles and miles of tables with mounds of food and water for everyone. Let's further assume, that these people can all walk or be pushed or carried. Then let's assume they are allowed very short bathroom breaks. Let's further assume that these people can ever get to this line in the first place, and then let's ask ourselves, how do they stop? One line. Continuous. Severin. People are gonna die.

S: Yes.

G: Slowly at first; you'd get a two or three hour grace period of people going by relatively unscathed. But, as the hours creep by, they'll be dropping at an ever-increasing rate. How long do you think that would last, Sev? A day? Two days? Do you start in the winter, spring, fall or summer? Each has its own challenges. I would guess, that after two days, you'd start having serious gaps in the line. After a week, you'd only get young people who were in extremely good shape to start. I would bet, after ten days, this infinite line would effectively be over. It wwould stop, Severin, not because of the rate of reproduction, but because of the rate of deduction.

S: Jerk.

G: Hey, don't look at me. I wasn't the one who believed it would be in anyone's interest to bankrupt the Chinese government in vain pursuit of the validity of an obviouly ridiculous proposition. You're the one who has killed the entire country of China. You, my friend, are the worst mass-murderer in the history of humanity. You are deadlier than The Black Plague itself. You're like The Black Plague, Part II, except you're much more efficient.

S: (nose back in his magazine, he is angry at having been shown up so easily, Gus also goes back to reading, long pause) Hey, Gus, listen to this: "If the entire population of India were walking past you, they would never reach the other side of your enormous ego."

G: (with a shrug again) Hm...

S: (throwing down his magazine and leaving) Someone should kick your ass!

G: (not looking up, but plenty loud enough to be heard by Severin who is now off stage) Get in line.



Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that, even if we give Severin everything else, even that the people are going to live, how are all these people going to reproduce? I mean, Die Frau and I have done it standing up, but from behind (they're in a line--hope it's a woman in front of each man or those sperm are wasted) while walking through over varied terrain? Sounds difficult. A little kinky, but mostly difficult.

Then there's the birthing process. No time to cut the umbilical cord. Just drag the bastard on the ground. Keep walking, damnit! We have a theory to prove! I said, keep walking!

Brendon Etter said...

I thought about that, but the how-do-they-do-it, literally, is trumped by the fact that no newly-conceived mass of cells; even if some talented gent and gal could... ummm... pull it off, would be around long. The prospective mother probably dying after a few days at most. The prospective father also dying too, but that is of little logical or biological value in this question.

The really issue is how do you give birth walking? Given some women could stop-n-squat, sounds like a good name for a line of interstate freeway pay toilets, the newborn mortality rate would fairly quickly hit 100%. There would be no "rate of reproduction" to speak of.

I could have drawn all this out in the play, but I didn't want it to get too long. I didn't want it to be a play where, if you lined up every word single file and watched them go by continuously, the play would never stop because of the rate of boredom.

Brendon Etter said...

Sorry, Tromvestite, just re-read your comment, and I seee that you were allowing for the people to live. In that case, your right entirely. Of course, they could sneak into the port-a-potties. Very romantic!