We Don’t Know: A Koan

“We Don’t Know”. Intriguing name for a restaurant. “What don’t you know?” I asked the waiter.

He smiled in what I think was supposed to be an enigmatic manner. “We don’t know anything, Sir.”

“Ok,” I said. I was starving. “Can I get the menu please?”

He gave me a large leather bound menu. Except there was no menu. Just a piece of paper with numbers from 1 to 10, arranged vertically.

“Excuse me, what are these numbers? Can you get me the regular menu?”

“This is the regular menu, Sir.”

“How do I order the food? What do these numbers mean?”

“This is how it works, Sir. You pick a number, I enter it into the system and the computer tells me what to get you.”

“So you don’t know what I am going to get until you put the number into the system?”

“Right, it’s completely random.”

“Huh.” I looked at the menu again. $20 each, 10 numbers. What was I going to get? I looked to my left – a man enjoying a platter of sushi.

On my right, a couple sharing what looked like chargrilled prawns on a bed of rice. This could be interesting, the surprise element. Not exactly my thing, but I could do it.

“Get me a…hmmm…let me see…Get me a 4.” Ten minutes later, he brought me my order.

“Are you serious?”

“Sorry sir, that’s what you got for 4. You want to try again?”

I stared at the diet coke. “What the hell. Get me a number 2 and a number 6.”

August 2, 2009 | 12:55 pm | By Dr Shyam Bhat