The Fork Test?

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Theres one particular Yogi Berra expression my husbands fond of repeating:If you come to a fork in the road, take it.This could be a kind of test: What does this question mean? I can (only) think of three possible answers.Anita Sullivan

The Highest Cauldron

By Anita Sullivan

If you come to a fork in the road . . .

If you come to a fork in the road . . .

Anita Sullivan

EUGENE Oregon—(Weekly Hubris)—5/27/2013—There’s one particular Yogi Berra expression my husband’s fond of repeating: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

This could be a kind of test: What does this question mean? I can (only) think of three possible answers:

1) You are walking along one lovely summer evening humming a wordless song, and suddenly you see a dinner fork gleaming dimly on the road in front of you, so you pick it up. This first answer is that you’re trying to be humorous, because everybody knows “fork” has two different meanings, and you’re pretending to choose the one that’s obviously wrong.

2) When you say “fork in the road,” you automatically rule out the second possible meaning of the word; you have no choice but to interpret it as a crossroads, a split in the pathway, where two new roads branch off, and you must choose one or the other. Therefore, there is no such thing as “taking” this kind of fork, so the expression is silly and meaningless.

3) The fork in this case is a third kind of fork altogether. As such, you must “take” it both ways at the same time. This is sort of like plunging your face into the water with a snorkel mask and drawing a deep breath. You know it’s impossible, but you can obviously do it. Yes, if you come to this kind of fork in the road you most certainly can take it.

Naturally, I favor answer No. 3 because it’s fun, interesting, and even useful. In fact, I’m not sure I’d be able to go back to the first two forks. It’s like—once you’ve learned to read—trying to look at just the pictures on the billboards along the highway without reading the words.

From here, I could easily take off into a lovely harangue about our present society, and how most of the people in power fail the fork test because they have less than zero imagination. And harangue-hopping right along, it would be so very easy to continue with, “Lack of imagination will be the death of us yet!” Take that, homo sapiens!

If you (elected politician, appointed official, sports coach, CEO of vast corporation, University President, Bank President, President of Blah, Blah and Blah) can’t think up at least three ways to look at every critical problem that rears its ugly head, then you ought to be unemployed, drawing no wages, benefits, perks, severance packages, stock options, bribes, commissions, fees or any kind of money-producing reward from society. You are as dangerous an individual to yourself and others as though you were carrying a concealed hand gun that you have no idea how to shoot. In fact, you may very well think it’s a fork.

(Please indicate your approval of this essay by clapping with both hands. If you disapprove, you may clap with only one.)

Note: The image used to illustrate this column came via

About Anita Sullivan

Born under the sign of Libra, Anita Sullivan cheerfully admits to a life governed by issues of balance and harmony. This likely led to her 25-year career as a piano tuner, as well as her love of birds (Libra is an air sign), and love of gardening, music, and fine literature (beauty). She spent years trying to decide if she was a piano tuner who wrote poetry, or a poet who tuned pianos. She traveled a lot without giving way to a strong urge to become a nomad; taught without becoming a teacher; danced without becoming a dancer; and fell totally in love with the high desert country of the Southwest, and then never managed to stay there. However, Sullivan did firmly settle the writing question—yes, it turns out she is a writer, but not fixed upon any one category. She has published four essay collections, a novel, two chapbooks and one full-length book of poetry, and many short pieces in journals. Most recently, her essay collection The Rhythm Of It: Poetry’s Hidden Dance, indulges her instinct to regard contemporary free-verse poetry as being built upon natural proportional rhythm patterns exhibited in music and geography, and therefore quite ancient and disciplined—not particularly “free” at all. This book is a finalist for the Montaigne Medal from the Eric Hoffer Book Award. More about her books can be found on her website: The poet-piano-tuner-etc. also maintains an occasional blog, “The Poet’s Petard,” which may be accessed here here.
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