"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Kids can answer the question readily because they have no clue where the boundary between reality and fantasy lies.
But as we get older, it becomes very difficult to decide what task we wish to perform almost daily for the better portion of the rest of our lives. Some of us don’t bother thinking about it seriously at all and then suddenly find ourselves in college realizing there is simply no way to score a BA in Boozing and Noncommittal Sex. So we major in English and eventually go into Advertising. Or something.
But what if we could actually determine our children’s futures while they were still young? What if, instead of asking the direct question that always receives a fantasy answer, we resolved to use an utterly oblique question? This way, the subject is not keen to the process and thus answers honestly and openly, without presumption.
An example of such a question might be the one from the old trick known as 52 Pickup. The trick is to get your hapless victim to pick up the entire deck of playing cards after you have thrown them all over the place. You ask, “Would you like to play a game of 52 Pickup?” If your victim says yes, you throw the cards everywhere and tell them to pick them up. It’s hilarious if you’re eight years old.
So we propose the 52 Pickup question and then determine the kid’s future occupation and other means based on his or her answer. It’ll make more sense after a few examples, so to give you a better idea where I’m going with this, here are some possible answers and the predictions we can derive from them:
“Would you like to play a game of 52 Pickup?”
“Sure!” – This response indicates a complete lack of forethought and is, sadly, the most common answer. People who answer this way will more often than not grow up to be blue-collar workers with lots of debt and/or child support. Many will be alcoholics.
“Nah.” – A child who immediately replies in the negative is either depressed or already knows what he wants to do and your new game certainly ain’t it. Either way, the kid will probably have a decent career as an emo rock musician or horror novelist. That is, provided he isn’t beaten to death by bullies for wearing eyeliner (combat boots if we’re talking about a girl).
“I don’t know.” – Children answering this way do so because they’re used to having everything spelled out for them and are nearly incapable of making decisions on their own. They require a strictly regimented lifestyle and thus are generally inclined to enter the military. Most will remain there until retirement.
“Huh?” – The 52 Pickup question having been asked slowly and clearly, this reply would indicate the child is either deaf or terrifically stupid. In the case of the former, the question would be written down for the subject and the new response analyzed. In the latter case, the child would be resigned to a life of picking up garbage on the side of the interstate.
“Might as well.” – This points to an unhealthy level of curiosity and/or resignation. A child expressing either of these sentiments in their answer will likely grow up to be a heroin addict or a prostitute. Quite possibly both.
“Is it any fun?” – This reply means the child is overly gullible and trusting. Most subjects responding this way will eventually become white-collar workers and be promoted to management before realizing being an office manager isn’t any fun at all. Approximately 1/3 of them will commit suicide.
“How do you play?” – This is one of the rarer of answers and indicates a curious but discerning mind. These respondents will end up going one of two distinct ways: they either become scientists or spiritual leaders, depending on other significant factors such as the types of literature they are exposed to and how their parents react to things like masturbation and late bed-wetting.
“Not sure I’ve heard it, but if you sing the first verse I can probably join in.” – Obviously, this little smart-ass will become a stand-up comic. Or possibly a lounge singer.
“Fuck no. Get the hell out of my face you shitstick!” – This child is an asshole and will have a lengthy career as a prison inmate.
“Who has time for games when there’s a real world out there chock full of vulnerable people to exploit!?” – Politician. Hands down.
I’ve limited the examples to ten for the sake of brevity, but I think these should suffice to prove that I definitely have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to psychology, which is one of the careers my personal response of “let me think about it” would have indicated for me.
In other words, this post is as pointless as the game 52 Pickup…
…except that you probably would have rather picked up a bunch of stupid playing cards.