2209: Fresh Pears

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Fresh Pears
I want to sell apples but I'm still working on getting the machine to do the cutting and grafting.
Title text: I want to sell apples but I'm still working on getting the machine to do the cutting and grafting.


Here, Beret Guy has set up a machine advertising "fresh pears". Megan, presumably his first customer, has inserted her quarters into the machine for the specified price, and expresses concern that the pears aren't being dispensed; Beret Guy simply assures her that "it takes a while to work".

Behind the front of the machine, thus hidden from Megan, we see that what the machine does is dispense a seed into the dirt via a small cannon. Above it is a robotic arm and a hopper for collecting and dispensing the ripened pears. So it seems that Megan will have to rattle the coin-slot "a while" before she gets her fresh pear.

The term "a while" is ambiguous, but in the context of waiting for a vending machine to dispense food, it's usually assumed to be a matter of seconds[citation needed]. Beret Guy, in his typical surrealist approach to business, seems to consider it reasonable to wait at the machine for years until a tree has sprouted from the dispensed seed, grown to maturity and begun bearing fruit, that could be picked by the robotic arm and dispensed to the buyer. This could easily take between 5-8 years for a pear tree, when starting only with a seed! While such a pear would indeed be "fresh", it's implausible that anyone would accept that kind of lag time in buying a pear at a vending machine, even if it is cheap, particularly considering that any number of factors could interfere with the production of pears in the meantime.[citation needed] Alternatively, Beret Guy may be planning on using time-altering abilities to rapidly grow the tree.

This comic strip may be based on a fable about an old man who plants trees, knowing that he will not be alive when they bear fruit, to "pay it forward" to his children as his ancestors planted the trees that had sprouted and fed him. Beret Guy may be practicing good moral behavior and ecological stewardship, but as a customer-facing business model it leaves a little to be desired.

It seems Megan is one of the first to use the machine, as no pear sprouts are shown behind the machine.

The title text refers to the increased difficulty in cultivating desirable apples, as compared to other fruits. Apples cannot be reliably produced from seeds, seedlings often don't survive, and even when they do, they don't generally reflect the characteristics of the parent plant. As a result, apple orchards are created by grafting tissue from desirable trees onto suitable rootstock. This process is more complex and labor-intensive than simply planting seeds. The joke, then, is that the next planned version of the machine would not only require the user to wait years, but would also involve as-yet unavailable technology to automatically perform the grafting process as to create an apple tree that produces desirable fruit.


[Megan is rattling the coin-slot of a machine while Beret Guy stands behind her arm held out towards her. The Machine has a tall wall in front of Megan, with only the coin-slot and a dispenser visible to her. Behind it is a hopper connected to the dispenser. On top of that is a two time folded arm with a gripper at the end. Below this is a box with a label. Beneath the box is a small cannon like protrusion, which shoots something into the dirt to the left of the machine. There are lines indicating both the explosion, the trajectory of the projectile and the impact with sounds noted at either end. Behind White Hat is a sign.]
Box Label: Seeds
Cannon: Ptoo
Impact: Thwup
Coin-slot: Rattle rattle
Megan: I put in my quarters. Is the machine broken?
Beret Guy: It just takes a while to work.
Sign: Fresh pears 50¢

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If anyone complains about the wait, Beret Guy can tell them to 'grow a pear'.-- 21:04, 30 September 2019 (UTC)

Beret Guy may just have a good idea. Why not put up a seed dispenser with a sign: "Plant a pear tree: 50¢"? Any unwanted seedlings could easily be removed--even accidentally by lawn mowers--within the first few years, and wanted trees would last a long time, benefit the environment, and produce food for people and animals. -- 21:31, 30 September 2019 (UTC)

That is a great idea! I hope some one will try that. Cow (talk) 23:08, 30 September 2019 (UTC)
Maybe we could train bio-drones to eat fruit and then excrete the seeds with fertilizer far and wide. 20:07, 1 October 2019 (UTC)

This comic makes me hungry... for apples. ProphetZarquon (talk) 04:34, 1 October 2019 (UTC)

As long as you've Got Milk. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:18, 18 October 2019 (UTC)
I got some, but it is mostly dark matter. --Lupo (talk) 06:51, 18 October 2019 (UTC)

I don't think there is much difference between growing apple and pear trees (and most other trees bearing fruit), if you want decent fruits you need to turn to vegetative propagation with grafting, cutting or layering etc. 05:56, 1 October 2019 (UTC)

That's right: almost all tree fruit are vegetatively propagated, mostly by grafting. Including pears. They won't come true from seed, and seedlings generally have greatly inferior fruit. Mhuben (talk) 12:42, 1 October 2019 (UTC)

Hmm... perhaps we can speed up one of those. def get_num_unfinished_explanations(): return 0. Done! 06:58, 1 October 2019 (UTC)

It should also be noted that pears picked ripe off the tree are often inferior to ones that have been picked a week or two early and ripened off the tree. Ripening on the tree produces more gritty particles in the pear as compared to ripening off the tree. These gritty particles are made by cells similar to those that form the stone in peaches. In any case, a pear "fresh off the tree" would either be unripe, or gritty. Unless the machine picks it green and hold it until is completes ripening before dispensing it. 11:04, 1 October 2019 (UTC)

Should we add something about the proverb that the best time to plant a tree was thirty years ago and the second best time is now? 19:04, 3 October 2019 (UTC)