Monday, April 29, 2019

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 2 Episode 7 (Nick of Time)

I remember reading once that if you removed the star signs from the newspaper’s horoscopes, most people wouldn’t be able to know which one was meant for them.  This is how vague they are.  If you take a step back, how could a set of vague sentences accurately guide the lives of roughly 8% of the population?  There are roughly 327 million  people in the US.  Do you really think that your horoscope can really be that effective for about 25 million US residents?  What about those living in the rest of the world?

Don and Pat Carter find themselves in a similar situation.  They’re passing through a small town when their car breaks down.  The mechanic has to order a part, leaving the newlyweds to explore the area.  They start with lunch in a diner, where they find a small fortune-telling napkin holder.  You can ask any question you want for a penny, provided that it calls for a yes or no answer.

Don is intrigued.  He starts with something simple:  Will he get the promotion he applied for.  The fortune teller responds that it has been decided in his favor.  When Don calls, he finds out that it already has.  One might chalk that up to a lucky response.  So, Don asks other questions with similar outcomes.  When asked about the car being fixed, Don is told that it has already been taken care of.

The answers are vague, but seem accurate.  Thus, Don becomes obsessed with the contraption.  Pat has to be the voice of reason, pulling him back from surrendering control.  What Don fails to realize is that the cards spit out by the machine were probably printed long ago in some factory somewhere.  Much like a fortune cookie or daily horoscope, the person writing the message is doing so for someone they will never even meet.

Most people can take a fortune cookie or horoscope as entertainment.  Even if you believe in such things, I don’t imagine that you’d live your life by either one.  You take it for what it is:  an inspirational message, at best.  For Don to make decisions based on what a simple machine says makes any outcome meaningless.  What good is a fixed car if Don won’t leave the diner?  What good is a promotion if it’s in another city?

There comes a point where you have to step away and accept that you don’t have all the answers.  The true measure of success isn’t in always being right or knowledgeable.  Instead, it’s how you handle what you don’t know and dealing with things that you don’t get right the first time.  Pat realizes this.  What does it matter knowing where they’ll live if they can’t enjoy it?

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