A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



Into the Woods

Somewhere in central Europe, a government inspector visited the foreman in the government's forest.

“You have four crews of workers here. Please to tell me which team is the most efficient and productive, and which is the least productive. I shall let the least productive crew go, we have no need of them.”

“Well, sir that would be most difficult.”

“Why so?”

“Well, sir, the teams, you see, they work they do, it is very different. We have a team of loggers you see sir – and they chop down the trees. And then sir, we have an underbrush team sir, and they clear the underbrush, so that the loggers can do their work. And the sawyers sir, of course. And then the team that digs the drainage ditches sir, and shores up the dams and the dykes and the levees, without them sir the loggers would be up to their knees.”

“This is a trifling problem. Simply rearrange the crews so that each crew has loggers, sawyers, underbrushers and trenchmen.”

“A yes, sir, we can do that. But of course that won't show us which team is the best sir.”

“Whyever not, you foolish man?”

“Ah well, sir, you see, the forest is very uneven. Some parts of the forest, they don't really need anyone to drain the land, you'd be wasting trenchmen sir, really putting one of them on the hilltops. Some parts, the logs fall easy and the sawyers can get at them. Down by the river sir, well it's hard work there.”

The government inspect concluded that the foreman was a fool. He returned to his office in the regional capital and had his secretary type up a rota which deployed four crews, each made up of a sawyer, a trechmen, a logger and several underbrushers. He dictated a memo to the foreman instructing him to rotate the crews from down by the river to the highest mountain areas each month, and to report back figures showing which team produced the most logs overall.

The foreman read the memo carefully – and even displayed the rota in his office, neatly pinned with drawing pins to his cork board. He said nothing to the crews.



I know I don't want to be a member of a club that would have me join, but I wish I had a club to beat some sense into this numbskull foreman.

If we'd stayed in the old country and survived the progroms, the German occupation, the holocaust, the Warsaw pact and the critics, I might be writing a letter to my local secret policeman to complain.


Nothing is a the same as a nothing boss. If two a things, they are a the same. Well a then. They are a the same thing. There's a just one thing. Not a two. If a two things are a two things – well a then. They are a not a the same. You wanna you compare two things? How you know you know which a bits are a different? How you know which a bits are a the same?

You no understand? Maybe I can a show you with these a shells and this a pea? You got ten bucks?