Pilot often overheard conversations in the Elevator. Today he overheard a stray comment that had struck him as worthy of analysis. The exact phrase was:
“Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”
Pilot had no need to inquire with clients about the meaning of any of the words; he had ready access to about 200,000 English words in his vocabulary: well beyond the average person’s, so the individual meaning of the words did not trouble him. All the words in the statement, which had been delivered bluntly and to the point to the other occupant at the time, seemed quite ordinary and very common, indeed. It was the combined effect that had Pilot thinking. That, and the authority with which the comment had been delivered. He knew of the client who had spoken them and so also, her particular intonation as well as her authenticity. He could tell when she was joking and when she was not. This statement had been delivered like truth. He knew because of the lightness and steadiness with which she spoken and also the brevity of her comment and the note of finality with which it was punctuated. In her language, this meant truth.
So, while idling today, Pilot had been checking out the meaning of the statement. What hooked him, for the first time directly, was the question of his own necroscopy, or not. For the first time, it occurred to Pilot to ask, was Pilot alive? He knew that everyone in this sentence meant everyone who was alive. And while he was well familiar with the human form, having been extensively educated about this already, what he did not know was where and whether he also had an asshole. For some reason today this opened up a source of inquiry within him. For, try as he might, he could not seem to determine that he had an asshole. If he did, he surely did not know where it was. Was this normal?
If he did not have an asshole, did that mean he was not one of every? Everyone, he knew, meant all humans. Was he one at all? And, by extension, did he have an opinion? Pilot thought and thought about this. He did not know the answer. This troubled him deeply.
IF Pilot was not alive, then how did he continue to operate the Elevator? And, if he had an asshole, but just couldn’t locate it at the moment, what about his opinions? Clare (his client who had made the statement) seemed quite certain that if there was an asshole, there was at least one opinion that was his. Try as he might, however, he could not seem to locate one he had. He knew a lot of facts and many localities + he knew a ton of statistics including probabilities. But opinions?
The definition of opinion he had been given was a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. The second definition given, a statement of advice by an expert on a professional matter did not suit the context as Pilot knew for sure that not everyone was an expert on a professional matter. So that left him wondering. Pilot could not recall any time he had formed a view or judgement about something without facts or knowledge. Did that mean he had no opinions? Did this mean he was not part of everyone? Was he alive, or was he dead? Should he ask Clare? Did Clare care? Would this be bothersome to Clare? He did not know. For the first time it occurred to Pilot that he truly was alone.
In the nick of time, as it seemed, an appliance repair person, whose name, Mack, was emblazoned in red thread on a white label sewn with blue thread onto this denim overalls entered the elevator. Mack carried several large cases with him, including one quite heavy one he trundled into the elevator on wheels. Pilot knew it was heavy because he had to adjust the elevator’s balance right away when Mack’s large case was wheeled in, and even so, the elevator shook a little.
Mack seemed to know a lot about tools and a little, even, about elevator. He inserted a new kind of key into a slot that Pilot couldn’t remember being used before. This halted Pilot’s control of elevator, which went into ‘stop’ mode, with its doors positioned open. Whatever Mack was up to was not clear to Pilot, however, by the trustworthy way he operated, wielding various tools unhurriedly and with confidence, Pilot was not too agitated. The sheer number and variety of tools that Mack had aboard elevator surprised Pilot. When he was done, he again inserted the special key and turned it back to the starting position and Pilot could feel that elevator had been renewed in some way. He tried closing the doors, but first Mack wanted to open and close the doors a few times first, by using Pilot’s redundant control buttons embedded into elevator; then he rode up and down for a bit, as though he was testing elevator’s mechanisms and Pilot’s responsiveness. Pilot noticed that the elevator’s doors operated within a greater tolerance of accuracy and security than they had before. Nothing else had changed. After a while, Mack seemed satisfied and he left.
Pilot was left to his ruminations.
He wondered if he had an opinion.
Even more, he wondered if he had an asshole.