The Wisest Man in Wyoming

Contributor: Thomas Pitre

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Amazing Francis was married to Wyoming. Francis was a magician that worked a small, private club. His charm was strange and dangerous. His quest for the bizarre, the unique and anything intellectually stimulating occupied all of his off-stage and spare time. Francis believed that a single conversation with a wise man was better than ten years of study, so he sought out the wisest man in Wyoming.

He put an ad in the biggest paper in Wyoming. It read: “Seeking the Wisest Person in Wyoming.” “100 dollars reward to the party that introduces me to the wisest person in Wyoming.” He placed the ad and waited. Nothing. Two weeks passed and an email arrived that stated that the writer knew the wisest person in the state. He left instructions how to reach the man, and Francis called him. They agreed to meet at a café in Cheyenne on the following Wednesday. Francis told the man he wanted to buy an hour of his time, up to $300, but that was the limit, as he had a modest income.

Wednesday came around, and Francis left his hotel room to head for the rendezvous. They met at The Paramount Café at ten a.m. Francis walked in, looked around, and spotted a little man sitting by himself in a booth in back. Francis approached him and asked if he was Mehdi. He said he was, and gestured for Francis to sit across from him. Francis said he would keep track of the time, and he pulled a wad of twenties out of his pocket and put it on the table, under his water glass.

Francis asked Mehdi if he was going to order. “No. I had a yogurt and some toast about an hour ago. I’ll just have some tea. Francis began asking the questions he had prepared. “What do you do, Mehdi?” Mehdi said he was retired, but he used to be a teacher. He said he taught philosophy and coached the chess club. He admitted that his I.Q. was not particularly high, but he did read a lot, and he spent a lot of his time with his dog at the park, reading the papers, walking his dog, and people-watching. He learned more watching and listening to people than anything else. He said he had learned nothing in public school, and even less when he went to college. He learned to observe things, and if something intrigued him, he would study it…often to the point of taking it apart to see how it was made or what was inside. As a child, his father gave him old watches and radios to dismantle. Doing this, Mehdi had drawn conclusions about how careless and thoughtless the design process was. He discovered scores of design flaws in what he dismantled, but he never gave it another thought, other than to think that objects could serve man better and longer if a little more care went into their design. He picked up the napkin dispenser and demonstrated how the napkins were torn when removing one if the dispenser were too full. He pointed out the relatively sharp edges of the holder and how they might scrape the hand of the waitperson that refilled them. He showed Francis how the sugar caked in the corner of the little flap on the top of the dispenser, keeping the flap open and allowing too much sugar to be poured or requiring the user to shut it after pouring. Mehdi said that design extended so far into our lives that ordinary, personal communication carried as many design flaws as the objects surrounding us. He had learned a long time ago, that folks don’t know how to listen. They would rather get their own thoughts out before they lost their train of thought, and too bad if the other person had something to say or ask. Mehdi had made it a point not to speak for a full year after he retired. He pretended he was mute, so he carried a little magnetic powder board, similar to an Etch-a-Sketch, to write on. He learned so much by listening, and only writing brief, but essential things on his “notepad”.

He paused for a second and took a little notebook from his pocket and scribbled a few things. Francis asked him what he had written. Mehdi said he made a note to himself to buy another magnetic powder board next time he saw one, since they were getting harder to find. He wanted one for his friend, Art, who had a hard time listening. He was going to suggest that Art just stop talking and listen for a year.

The hour was nearing a close, and Francis asked Mehdi how he thought he had gained his wisdom, or what influence bore on him to the greatest extent. Mehdi believed it was because of his nervous breakdown. He professed that he had come out of his breakdown with a new and powerful kind of wisdom he had not experienced before. Mehdi said that he had returned from his journey of madness with important insights, and he became a wiser and more grounded person as a result.

With that, Francis pushed the money towards Mehdi, saying the hour was up, and that he appreciated all of Mehdi’s time and for agreeing to meet with him. Mehdi pushed the money back toward Francis, and said that he enjoyed the meeting and if Francis would buy his tea, he would consider it full payment. He excused himself, and left quietly, looking back, once, and smiling at Francis. He was a wise man, indeed.


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A retired educator, living on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State. LIving and consulting quietly with my furry children, riding mower and paint box.
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2 Responses to this post

  1. Chris Sharp on August 16, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    Even though I was in a great rush to do something else, once Mr. Pitre's first deadpan sentence caught me, I was stuck here until the end, and liking it. Encore!

  2. Anonymous on August 18, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    This is such a unique and interesting piece, that it hits you on so many levels. Extremely clever and really makes you think about those universal questions we all ask. An amazing and thoroughly entertaining read.

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