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Pixels & Bits
posted 8/23/2012 by
by Randy Kalista
“More raisins please more raisins more?” My two-year-old daughter was being incessant. Despite my efforts, her request for more raisins had gone on for a full five minutes.
“No more,” I said. “You’re full. You’ll get a tummy ache.”
“Raisins more to please but more I said raisins please I said?”
“Daddy said, ‘No,’” I said in third-person.
Speaking in third-person is a useful tactic for megalomaniacs and parents alike. It defers decisions to a higher authority. “Sorry, kid, but it ain’t up to me. You’ll have to push your complaint higher up the chain of command. One moment, let me see who you’ll need to talk to to make that happen. Whoops, it looks like I’m at the top of the chain of command too. Answer’s still no.”
“No,” she said, and it sounded like she was agreeing with me. Daddy’s wisdom had finally shined through. I thought she must be thinking, More raisins would certainly induce a stomach ache at this point. I’ve eaten half a bagel, a bowl of oatmeal (with raisins in it!), an entire peach, and a cup of yogurt. Daddy’s right. I’m probably full. I’ll get a tummy ache. I should--
“--No,” she said. “Don’t say, ‘No.’ Daddy said, ‘Yes!’”
I stopped. I did that thing where a dog tilts its head to the side because it doesn’t fully understand what it just heard.
I hadn’t encountered this level of info manipulation from my daughter before. She had been hearing “Daddy said” and “Mommy said” for most of her two-and-a-half years. It was the voice of authority, she knew that much. It made it so people could have their way, she knew that much too. It was time to unleash what she had learned about this “Daddy said” and “Mommy said” voice.
This was her darkest hour. The hour of her greatest need. She called upon the great and almighty “Daddy said” voice for one reason and one reason only: more raisins. There was nothing more crucial in her world right now. Nothing more key to her survival as a person and as a member of the human race. She repeated herself because she’s a toddler and because her daddy was still standing there with his head tilted to the side.
“Daddy said, ‘Yes,’” she said in a calmer, Obi-Wan Kenobi manner of speaking. I half expected her to wave her hand in a gentle arc, seated from her highchair.
I stared at her baby face and found a layer of complexity I hadn’t seen from her before. Maybe it was the 30-degree tilt of my head, but I perceived a new expression in her. It was hope masked with reason. It was the face of a little human being that knows they’re on the crux of an important decision. It was the face of someone leaning their weight imperceptibly into a tipping point, waiting for a crucial matter, a life-changing resolution, to sway in their favor.
I’d recently thrown the pulpy investigative LA Noire back into my Xbox 360. It took one or two interrogations to get back into the swing of things, but I still botched some question-and-answer sessions like a rookie gumshoe. If I played my cards wrong with my daughter, this confrontational moment could turn into another fouled suspect interview. I’d failed the scene-winning interrogation in LA Noire’s case of “Reefer Madness” last night--failed it twice--so my confidence was at a perceptible low. I proceeded with caution.
“Estelle,” I said to my daughter, “did you already eat half a bagel?”
“Yes,” she said.
An invisible heads-up display materialized into view in my mind. It was the HUD from LA Noire that has three interrogation branches in the upper left side of the screen. The branching options, which come from the investigator’s side, are (A) Truth, (X) Doubt, and (Y) Lie. The investigator questions a suspect, the suspect spits out an answer, then the investigator--the player--decides whether the suspect’s answer is legit. The investigator then pushes the button corresponding with how they feel about the suspect’s answer. (A) The investigator feels the suspect is telling the truth, (X) the player doubts the suspect’s answer and gets confrontational to shake the suspect’s confidence and break up the lie’s foundation, or (Y) the investigator calls out the lie and presents a piece of damning evidence proving without much doubt that the suspect is lying.
I pushed the (A) Truth button in my head. Estelle had answered truthfully: yes, she already ate half a bagel.
“Estelle, did you already eat an entire peach?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Did you already eat a cup of yogurt?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, a little quieter this time. She suspected this line of questioning was going somewhere, but she hadn’t heard the part where she gets more raisins. Still, in regard to the cup of yogurt: (A) Truth.
I believed her answers, of course. There was little investigative work to be done on my part. I’d selected the peach, washed it, cut it into don’t-choke-the-toddler sized slices, then placed it on her plate not 10 minutes earlier. I’d given her the yogurt too. By asking her those two questions I was simply establishing baseline responses, like they do at the beginning of a lie-detector test to calm the person being questioned and smooth out the line being drawn on polygraph paper. So far my mental image of her polygraph was a flatline. That was good. But here was the kicker:
“Estelle, did you already eat oatmeal with raisins in it?”
“More raisins and oatmeal and there are raisins to eat and Daddy said, ‘Yes!’” she blurted.
Bam. There it was. The (Y) Lie.
“No, Daddy did not say you could have more raisins, Estelle. Daddy said, ‘No.’”
But in LA Noire, when you press the (Y) Lie button, you have to provide evidence that the suspect is lying. The investigator has to prove the lie. Unfortunately, in “The Case of Raisin Madness,” I had no proof I’d said no. It was my word against hers, even if I’d said it only 15 seconds ago.
I tried a different tack.
“Estelle, Estelle, listen. If you eat more raisins you will get a tummy ache.” I appealed to her sense of self-preservation. I hoped for the best.
“No no tummy ache eat more raisins my tummy is still good.”
Had my head tilted back to an upright position during this conversation? I wasn’t sure, because I became acutely aware that it was tilted again. As far as this interrogation was concerned, I was fairly sure the tables had turned on me. My daughter was now the investigator and I was the suspect. In her mind, I held the key to cracking this case, to getting a hold of more raisins, to solving the mystery of Where My Raisins At?
With the LA Noire HUD now on her mental screen--instead of mine--Estelle had pushed (X) Doubt. She doubted raisins would give her a tummy ache and, in good investigator fashion, she got confrontational. This “Daddy said” voice was lying and she knew it. Time for her to shake this suspect’s confidence.
“No tummy ache my tummy still good more raisins don’t say no DADDY SAID YES.”
Just like the explosive detective in LA Noire, my daughter had succeeded in exposing the thin foundation of my “lie.” I knew that she didn’t need more raisins. I knew she was full. But I’d been caught in a lie. A white lie. A half-truth at best.
Frankly, I was exhausted of this line of questioning. She’d worn me down earlier with her regular two-year-old repetition, and now this faulty handling of the “Daddy said” voice left be bewildered. I did the perp walk over to the cupboard, brought out a small plastic sack, and handed over a fistful of raisins.
“The Case of Raisin Madness” wasn’t historically important in our relationship because of the gravity of the situation. But it was a landmark case for my two-year-old nonetheless. She’d eaten those raisins and immediately declared, “No tummy ache!” She’d picked up her spoon and slapped it down on the table like a yogurt-splattered gavel. Case closed.
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