Friday, July 27, 2007

An Unanswerable Question?

This one has me stumped, I'll admit.

I was taking an online survey the other evening, and one of the first questions, if not the first, was :

    CITY. Which of the following cities do you live nearest to? (Check one only)

So far, so good. There was a drop-down menu with a fairly long list of choices--Amarillo, Baltimore, Kansas City, Nashville, New York, and on and on.

And there, at the bottom of the lengthy list (right after Wilkes-Barre), was the stumper:

    None of the Above

Well, clearly, that can't be right. One of those cities must be nearest to me. Even if the list had consisted solely of cities on, say, the African continent, one of them would have had to be nearest to my domicile, no?

I mean, if the question is, Do you live nearer to the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean, the answer cannot be "neither." You do live nearer to one than the other. (I suppose it's mathematically possible to live on a spot that is precisely equidistant to both shores...but even so the odds are greater that you would be at least a couple of inches closer to one or the other.) And don't tell me that you actually live closer to the Indian Ocean: That wasn't the question! The question was which of these particular oceans do you live closer to.

Ditto for the list of cities. I don't live very close to Las Vegas, but that wasn't the question--the question was which one of these cities do I live nearest to...and clearly there is an answer. (In my case it happens to be Kansas City; your actual mileage will vary.)

Which makes me wonder where the people who wrote the survey live.

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