I’m sitting alone in an auto dealership, waiting for an oil change, tire rotation, and some sort of fuel injector check. Across the room, a crusty, fingerprint-ridden vending machine stands as a monument to Type 2 Diabetes. On the wall hangs a flat screen television, tuned to a daytime gameshow with deliriously energized contestants, ear-stabbing sound effects, and an animatronic Ken Doll host wielding a microphone. I grab the remote, mute the volume and walk over to a tower of styrofoam cups stacked next to a shiny silver pump jug and varied fixins of flavor-diluting chemicals and other alchemic accoutrements. I fill the cup – later followed by two others – with the elixir that fuels America’s automobile sales departments. *
I have an hour to kill. I check the news on my phone, followed by a scan of incoming emails and other messages. I recall a documentary I watched last night. A BBC program hosted by an overly dramatic professor detailing the life and teachings of Socrates, one of the fathers of Greek philosophy and Western thought.
Back in the undergrad days at Xavier University, I was required to fulfill 12 credit hours of philosophy as part of my degree. Most valuable classes I’ve ever taken, hands down. So I scanned the Google search results for something meatier than the Socrates Wikipedia page. The next forty minutes or so were to be a caffeine-fueled revival of my philosophic studies, centering on the principle teachings of the enigmatic rabble rouser of ancient Athens.
The unexamined life is not worth living…
I know that I know nothing…
All virtue is knowledge…
What is the pious, and what the impious?
BOOM! A whistling employee abruptly crashes through the door, speeding past with a sense of purpose and determination. She looks over at me reading, then looks up at the muted television.
"You wanna turn up the TV so you can hear it? Oh, never mind...you're foolin' with your phone.”
I glance up, concentration demolished like the ruins of the Acropolis. Foolin’ with my phone? Foolin’ with my phone.
“Naaah, it’s fine on mute,” I reply. "Thanks, though.”
Deep breath. Back to foolin’ with my phone.
* Note: Three cups of this rancid coffee had me hard wired for better than seven hours, explaining why the American automobile sales process is as annoying as the aforementioned daytime gameshows.