If a Tree Falls in the Forest ….

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… and there's no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Is a stupid question, because of course it makes a sound, Einstein. That observer-dependent bullshit only works at the quantum level. Hello! It's a tree, not a photon! So we need a new Zen question, in my opinion.

How about this one: If a man exposes himself at a bookstore for the blind, is that "indecent exposure"?

A question that could have real-world consequences, as FindLaw reports today. 

According to police in Newtown, Pennsylvania, a man reportedly exposed himself last Friday at the office of the Bucks County Association for the Blind. The reports say this happened in the association's "bookstore," probably meaning the "contemporary book room" in the thrift shop. Police said the man had then fled and at last report they had no suspects.

Now, while it's possible the book room only stocks Braille versions, obviously we know that not everyone there that day was blind. Otherwise, nobody would even have known this happened, I assume, let alone be able to describe the suspect. (Description available at the links above, if you have some time to go over to Newtown and look for the guy.) It strikes me that it might be possible to "expose yourself" to a blind person via a sort of sign language that I'd rather not go into any further, but that doesn't seem to have happened here.

FindLaw points out, though, that under the relevant Pennsylvania statute "indecent exposure" must happen in "a public place" or "in any place where there are present other persons under circumstances in which he or she knows or should know that this conduct is likely to offend, affront or alarm." (Emphasis added.) So, should this guy be found and charged, I'd very much appreciate it if he would try to argue that one who exposes himself at an "association for the blind" cannot be said to have known or be expected to know that exposing himself would necessarily bother anyone.

Assuming this did happen at the thrift shop and/or in a non-Braille-only bookstore, though, then the premise for this argument would not be valid, because there'd be no reason to expect everybody there to be blind. Also, of course, this is an association "for the blind," not "of the blind." I'd like to think that the culprit is stupid enough that he might actually have expected everybody there to be blind, and was startled to find out otherwise.

This is where the "should have known" element will get you, though. Not that stupidity is ever a very good defense.