The best of both worlds

By Ron Scopelliti

So there was this mini heat wave at the beginning of September, and I was struggling to decide whether it was warm enough to warrant AC in the car, or if I should just roll down a window. After switching back and forth a few times, I couldn’t get the right comfort level from either, so I decided to go with both. I had my driver’s-side window half-down, and my AC fan running at low. And as counter-intuitive as it seemed, it felt great. I thought, momentarily, that I’d found the best of both worlds.

But then I started thinking about the “best of both worlds” concept, and how that guy in the Sonic commercials has it right when he says, “there are way more worlds than that.” Who first came up with this “both worlds” thing, and which two worlds were they referring to? Does saying “the best of both worlds” completely ignore the Third World? I suppose it does, but that’s such a First-World thing to do, why should it surprise me?

More importantly, “the best of both worlds” ignores the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics which postulates that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes, where all the things that didn’t happen in our universe did happen. For instance there’s a version of our world where Europeans never colonized America, and another where dogs never learned to bark, and still another where people have seven hands, and spend way too much money on gloves.

Personally, I like to imagine alternate worlds with only tiny variations on our own. Like a world where I drive a red Peugeot instead of a silver Kia, or where I’m better at poker than video games. Or a world that’s exactly like ours except that the most popular beverage is turkey gravy. Carbonated.

I’m sure that “Star Trek” fans reading this are already thinking of the alternate universe on the show where Spock has a beard. But what if there’s a real alternate universe with a version of “Star Trek” where regular Spock has a beard and alternate-universe Spock is clean shaven? And don’t even get me started on the alternate universe where Dr. McCoy has a soul patch.

With all these potential worlds, why would we tie ourselves to only two?

Apart from the “two worlds” aspect of the expression, I also find the “best” aspect troubling. It’s bad enough we’re stuck with only two worlds, but we’re also restricted to only their best. Sometimes you just don’t want the best. For instance, you’re unlikely to hear foodies arguing that McDonald’s makes the world’s best hamburgers, compared to some of the gourmet burgers that are out there. But there are times when you just feel like having a McDonald’s hamburger, and anything else would be disappointing, even if it is expertly seared, delicately seasoned, and made from aged Black Angus or marinated unicorn meat.

The same goes for fountain soda. Sometimes I’d rather have watered-down Diet Coke from a fountain than a fresh, highly-carbonated real Coke from their trademarked glass bottle. There’s something about that lackluster taste, the slight flatness, and the dulled sweetness that’s sometimes appealing, even though I know it’s inferior by every common standard of taste. Maybe that says something deeper about my life. I hope not.

Mind you, I’m not saying that I’d prefer to have the worst of both worlds. Not having the best doesn’t mean I want to downgrade all the way to the worst, though I feel like the binary nature of the “two worlds” scenario implies that there’s worst and best, with nothing in between.

Maybe it’s human nature to break things up into two polar opposites. Us and them. Heaven and Hell. With or against. Two worlds, with only “best” or “worst.” Maybe you do need to visit both extremes before you can think about meeting in the middle. Sort of like building the edges of a puzzle before you fill in the middle.

And I am writing this with a machine based on the binary system, where everything is either a one or a zero. But as much as I enjoy the digital technology that the binary system allows us, I still prefer to let my brain work in analog mode.

From now on, I’m going to consciously avoid looking for the best of both worlds. I’ll aim for something slightly above the overall average of an infinite number of worlds. Now if I could just find a setting for that on my car’s climate control system. Maybe in my red Peugeot universe…