A colleague of mine selected a rather intriguing paragraph for some technical experiments that the two of us have been doing this month. Upon my inquiring, he said that it came from an excellent article that appeared last year in the Washington Post. The article narrates a real life experiment that turns a crowded metro station in Washington D.C. into a theater of public morality. To me, it reads almost like a short story; I was reminded of Saki and Maugham. Read it!
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment? – [Gene Weingarten, Pearls Before Breakfast, April 8, 2007]
Hint: The article relates (rather obliquely) to a previous post on Mirkwood called The Morning Dollar.