Hey Page, the message reads, when you get a chance, I’d really love to pick your brain.
“Ooo boy,” I say aloud. It sounds like a very generic harmless request. And I would interpret it that way, if it were sent by someone else.
I quickly text a close friend of mine. “You’ll never guess who wants to pick my brain,” I say.
“Oh?” she says.
I tell her the name. “OH MY GOD,” she replies. “The nerve.”
“I know, right?” I reply.
“Don’t do it,” she says, “it’s a trap. He’s a user. He just wants to cheat off your homework.” A beat. “Metaphorically speaking of course.”
“Of course,” I say.
“He’s been all over social media talking about how he’s got some big project cooked up,” she says. “Figures he’d come to you. Probably looking for secret sauce. How to become rich and famous and all that.”
I laugh. “Probably. Not that I’m either of those.”
“Hey, you’re Internet famous,” my friend says. “Seriously though, it’s a trap. Don’t give him anything.”
I laugh again. “Don’t worry. I won’t. I just thought you’d find this amazing.”
“You were right,” she said.
“You know,” she says, “usually when people say they want to pick your brain, it’s just this harmless, slightly flattering request. They’re telling you that your brain has good things in it, and they want to learn from you. But… when he says it, it sounds so sinister.”
I nod. “It’s almost like he wants to pick through my brain like it’s the bargain bin at Goodwill outlets — where you pay by the pound and most things are shady so you really have to look and get your hands dirty to get the valuable bits.”
“Oh honey,” my friend says, “your brain is nothing like one of those bins.”
“I dunno,” I say, “it gets pretty chaotic in here sometimes.”
“Or maybe it’s like when an animal is picking the bones of a carcass, trying to get every last scrap of meat from them,” I offer.
“Yes,” my friend says, “that’s the kind of predatory image that applies.”
“Maybe it’s my love of absurdism,” I say, “but there’s another meaning that really appeals to me.”
“Oh?” my friend says.
“Mmm… it’s more literal in a sense, just using a different definition of ‘pick,’ to mean choose. It’s like there are a bunch of brains lined up at the pet shop, and then someone comes in and is like.. hmmm… which one should I adopt?” I can’t get this out with a straight face of course.
Once she’s stopped laughing, my friend says, “There. That right there is why he wants to pick your brain.” She pauses. “And it’s why I’d adopt your brain from the pet shop any day.”
“Thank you very much,” I reply. “I’m sure you’d give it a good home.”