A Teatime List of Annoying Questions
How to discuss the important things in life.
My inner curmudgeon has been having a field day of late; I’m sure there’s something in the water around here, which I make palatable by brewing a cup of tea (Earl Grey at the moment). Or maybe it’s just me. But c’mon, let’s be honest, you’ve experienced these situations:
“How are you?” is asked 99% of the time by someone who doesn’t actually give a s^&*. Yet there you are, knowing that they don’t really want to know the actual answer to the question, yet they feel compelled by the norms of polite society to ask. What’s polite about doing that? So I take it the next step in my head and give the questioner the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe the question is genuine, and then pulling back before I humiliate myself by actually answering the question with something other than a plastic smile and a drawled “Fiiine.” And a nod, of course, and quickly ask the same of them, whether I really want to know or not. That’s how it is done and it is annoying, isn’t it?
“How do you feel?” Answer this one truthfully when asked by anybody other than a nurse in a hospital, and you answer at your peril. Even the nurse in the doctor’s office really doesn’t give a rat’s ass, it’s just a formality. Unlike the question above, one does not in turn ask the nurse how she feels. Or the doctor–don’t ever, ever make that mistake, they really don’t like it, and it could complicate your diagnosis.
“Are you happy?” is one that sends me screaming and running into an existential no-man’s land where first happiness needs to be given a definition, then a context, or maybe the it’s the other way around. Happiness to me is relative, and I’m not at all sure any questioner intends the definition I work with. I always feel like I am supposed to answer in a positive way, like “Yeaaah,” with a smile and a nod, but often I just stammer, which of course makes the questioner think I am not happy, when in fact I am not necessarily not-happy. I have to fight the tendency to answer this question with another question, even an aggressively rendered, “Are you?”
“Would you like some coffee?” when visiting someone who hasn’t actually made any yet. The questions whirl in my head: will I be putting them out, do they want coffee or something themselves, or maybe they prefer tea but they think more people like coffee so they offer to make that, is it too late in the day for caffeine, if I say yes will they make the abomination called hazelnut coffee and I won’t be able to rid myself of the taste and smell for the next three days? If it’s a really good friend, I’ll say yes, but generally back down if it isn’t. Asking, “What kind is it?” seems ungracious. But the hazelnut coffee fad seems to have subsided, thank my lucky beans.
(Here I take a moment to enjoy my 60-calorie “teacake”: 1 tablespoon of low-sugar raspberry preserves–25 calories–spread on 1 plain rice cake–35 calories.)
“Do you have a Rewards Card with us?” means the moment I say no I am going to be subjected to the spiel for getting me to sign up for one, when all I want to do is get the hell outta there with my printer ink and on with the rest of my life. Maybe I should just fling an aggressive, “Do you?” at them. I’ve lied and said yes, but I left it at home, but now they say they can credit a rewards card online if I give them my phone number. Sigh.
“Paper or plastic?” when there is a substantial collection of my own canvas shopping bags in a pile right in front of the bagger. What century is he/she in???
Feel free to add your own