For some reason, I once got the idea that what expertise I have, I ought to share with others who may not have the experience I have or the wealth of reference materials I have at my disposal. Never hurts to share, right? It didn't take long, though, to be disillusioned by the whole idea of answering questions on the Web. There are people who will ask things like "Where did I leave my car keys?" And not all of them are trolling, either. Still, there remain lots of questions which literally cannot be answered without information which the questioner isn't about to give out.

Perhaps the most pathetic of the bunch shows up a minimum of three times a week: "I just turned [age]. How much would the insurance be on a [model wholly unsuitable for someone of this age]?" The most sensible answer, to which no one has ever actually responded in a useful manner: "Send your name and location and a copy of your driving record." Umbrage is almost always taken. I tried a sideways approach: "About 5,000 people drive the same model of car I do. I doubt any two of them pay exactly the same insurance premium." Right over their heads. They're convinced that there is Exactly One Price for everything. (First trip to the hospital will serve as wakeup call.) Last week some guy asked what his '37 Buick was worth. I told him that no reference material existed, and that the only way to come up with a reasonable price was a hands-on inspection by an old-car expert. Apparently he inferred that this would cost money, and he didn't dare risk that. Next question: "How do I send you a picture of my '37 Buick?"

Rather a lot of people on social media shouldn't be. Scarcely a week goes by without "How can I read a private profile on Instagram?" "What part of 'private' do you not understand?" does not discourage them. And an amazing number of people believe that because some guy at the other end of the line can recite their IP address to them, he therefore must have hacked his way in. They really resent someone having that capability — unless they need to hire that someone to get back at one of their imagined enemies. Most wearying of this sort, if you ask me, is the guy who constantly complains about how wonderful the Web was a decade ago, when you could say anything you please, and more important, when you could download amything you please. It's difficult to come up with a response more pertinent then "Boo farking hoo."

Quora has a section devoted to nudism, and after a couple of my answers on the subject were received well, I decided I would hang out my shingle, as it were. Quora offers a space on your profile to explain the source of your expertise, subject to their approval. I submitted about a dozen such explanations, and they approved none of them. I read some of the other contributors, and all of their credentials are as generic as mine, telling me that Quora would probably rather do without this small but active group of naked people. Most of the questions in this section are of the form "What's it like to ...?" They don't seem to buy "Like it always is, except a tad breezier." I am sorely tempted to send up a photo.

And no matter what the topic, there is always someone to ask "I wamt only the best. Which is it?" In vain will I point out that there are practically no product lines in which Product A is clearly superior to Products B through Z inclusive, and someone else's needs might differ from theirs. Never do they believe it. This requires powers of persuasion far beyond those I could ever claim.

The Vent

  26 December 2018

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