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"Lo, a rabbit."

I work at a supermarket. This might surprise you, but it's a job.

The other day, I was stocking the frozen aisle when I made eye-contact with a white haired lady who seemed like she needed help. "Hello," I said in my most professional manner.

"Am I not seeing frozen cranberries?" came her confusing reply.

I raised a finger. My mouth opened, then quickly closed again. "Why are you asking me?" I wanted to inquire. "Surely you know what you're 'not seeing'. Or were you using 'to see' as a verb of achievement, where whatever you might perceive, you cannot see it unless it is actually there? Do you think I have more direct access to reality than you, or are you checking to see if I'm psychic?" In my fantasy conversation, I let this sink in. "Either way, that's weird. I'm not sure how to address your bizarre question, ma'am."

It took me a moment of mouth-closed, finger-raised pondering to get through this line of thought and come up with something that was helpful, rather than priggish, pedantic, and condescending; but when I said, measuredly, "There are no cranberries here," she still wasn't happy. In fact, she seemed mad. You just can't please some people.

The whole thing reminded me a bit of Ludwig Wittgenstein's worries about translating other people's speech, and of  his objection to odd claims in philosophy like, "I know this is a tree." What are we to make of such statements (or questions) coming from otherwise healthy, normal adults?


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