WILSON: The value of free advice, knowing what to ask

While traveling to the far side of the ever so enchanting, Never-Ending Forest, a wizard (known as Rick) and a demigod (known as LoDi) saw a road sign proclaiming “Free Information and Advice — Not Too Far Ahead.”

The two wanderers looked at each other and wondered aloud, “Did we take the déjà vu fork in the road?” It seemed they had been here before.

The pair began their journey a couple of years back at the entry gate to the near side of the forest. Their destination was the far side of the forest and a symposium on “Mysticism and Other Tom-Foolery.” The demigod wanted to attend the workshop on “Super Natural Power Brokerage,” while the wizard was interested in “Unlocking the Secrets of Herbal Hair Conditioners.”

However, because the forest just happened to be of the never-ending variety, the trip was taking a little bit longer than Google Maps had predicted.

“I think we have been here before,” grumbled the demigod in disbelief.

“I recognize the sign,” the wizard also grumbled. “Either we’re going around in circles or this guy has franchise opportunities available.”

Soon, the pair came upon a small tent with a massive blinking neon sign proclaiming, “Free Information and Advice — 5 Gilders Each” (just like last time). In front of the tent positioned behind a small card table sat the world’s largest dwarf (just like last time). In spite of his unimaginable size, the two knew he was a dwarf because a hand-written sign taped to the front of the card table proclaimed, “The dwarf is in” (just like last time). Yep, they had been here before — and yep, they had been going around in circles (making their trip through the Never-Ending Forest even further behind schedule).

The last time through these parts, the wandering duo learned that, although the advice was free, Lucien the Dwarf charged a small fee for the opportunity to ask the question — only five gilders each (or three for 17.50). They also learned Lucien only accepted cash and had an ATM machine, just inside the tent — how convenient!

“Good morning, travelers,” the dwarf said to Rick and LoDi. “Welcome back.”

“How do we get to the far side of the forest?” asked the wizard, impatiently. “We have been traveling for far too long…”

“And this wizard seems to have gotten us lost,” interrupted the road-weary and easily irritated demigod. “We have important business to attend to.”

“You are in luck, travelers,” said the dwarf with a toothless grin. “We are running a special today. Your first question is only seven gilders, the next two questions are six gilders, each.”

“Your sign says five gilders,” protested the wizard.

“That’s what makes it special,” answered the dwarf, with a shrug. “How many questions would you like?”

“What is the fastest way to the far side of the forest?” asked the demigod, as he tossed a five gilder coin onto the card table. “We have important…”

“…Business to attend to,” interrupted the dwarf. “I got that. Since you are returning customers, I will answer. However, be careful of the value of your question. The fastest way is by airplane… please exit through our souvenir shop.”

“Clever,” smirked the wizard, as he tossed another coin on the tabletop. “No nonsense, this time. What is the shortest way to the far side?”

The dwarf scooped up the second coin and nonchalantly responded, “The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. Please exit through our souvenir shop.”

“Enough!” bellowed LoDi. “We have given you 10 gilders, and you have given us nothing in return. “Tell us now, or I will show you my wrath!” Veins in the demigod’s neck bulged in anger (wandering around for months in a never-ending forest can have that effect on any easily irritated demigod). “What path should we take to get to the far side of this never-ending forest?”

“You should have led with that question,” smirked Lucien. “In your haste and rudeness, you insisted on an accurate, yet free, answer to an imprecise, cut-rate question. I answered completely and gave you the full value of my free answer. Please exit through our souvenir shop, where we sell maps of the never-ending forest trails — only 29.95 for the large-print edition.”

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