Thursday, November 6, 2008

Clarifying the Comparison

Ok. I still have people telling me that you can't compare apples and oranges. They're right, you can't, and it's not what I've done. Perhaps this will help.

Imagine that you are going apple picking. You're in some northern state in the US, maybe Washington or Oregon. It's a crisp sunny day. You're wearing a sweater but don't need a coat. So you get to the farm. At the farm stand you pick up a paper bag. The sign says that your apples will be weighed and you'll pay by the pound. You might pick up a hand-drawn map of where the different varieties are growing, and perhaps the person at the farm stand will tell you where the best picking is. You'll head out to the field. The trees are pretty low - you can reach almost all the fruit. There is a smell of slightly fermented apple from the fallen, rotting apples on the ground. Yellow jackets hover around these fallen apples. You hop over or skirt around muddy ruts in the lanes between the trees. You fill your bag and head back. The person in the farm stand weighs the bag. You add a gallon of fresh cider to your purchases and head home. At home, you decide to do a tasting. You slice three varieties of apple and compare their flavor, texture, aroma and so on. They are crisp, sweet, tart and totally delicious. All in all you had a wonderful day picking apples.

The next week you fly to Florida or California and decide to go orange picking. It's hot. You put on sunscreen and your straw hat. When you get to the farm, you are told that only one variety is available right now, and you'll have to ride on the tractor to get out there. It's a bumpy ride out to the grove. The trees are pretty high - you can barely reach the oranges on the lower branches. The tractor driver has a pole with clippers and a basket or netting on it. He or she helps you get the oranges from high up in the trees. It's hot out there. You can see the heat waves shimmering as you look across the field. When you return to the farm stand, you pay by the piece rather than by weight. You also pick up a gallon of freshly squeezed orange juice. At home, you peel a still-warm orange and enjoy it's juicy sweetness. The juice runs off your chin and up your arms. All in all you had a wonderful day picking oranges.

Got it? It's the experience, not the fruit, that's being compared.

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