Friday, June 20, 2008

Unanswerable questions

I recently showed my house to prospective renters. It went: normal, normal, normal, freaky. Crazy girl asked questions like:

"Can I ride my bike to work?"

"Is there traffic on the 24?"

And the best question ever…

"Will my dog get stolen?"

I had a question of my own. How does this woman get herself dressed in the morning? My responses to her, in order, were:

1. Check Google maps.
2. Depends on when you drive.
3. Take your meds.

This experience made me think about what types of questions annoy me. Like the preposterous dog question. Anything outrageously paranoid (except my own extremely cogent fears) bugs me. (Obviously, after talking to the freakshow I had to check the dog theft statistics - the chance of her dog being burgled is 000.1%. )

But the worst thing about the dog theft question is that answering it requires me to predict the future. I'm no risk assessment specialist. In fact, I have trouble even calculating simple cause-and-effect. I always think that nothing bad will ever happen, no matter how much I tempt fate. Shampoo my hair while talking on my cell phone? Electronics are notoriously hardy! Forget to water my plants for three weeks? Pour extra water on the shriveled leaves and watch them burst back into life like sea monkies!

The bike-to-work question is maddening for the dense mass of personal variables it presents. Does she have time? Does she mind busy streets? How far does she usually ride? Notice that she didn't ask for information upon which to base her decision. She asked me, a complete stranger, to simply make the decision for her.

I used to have a friend (emphasis on "used to") who asked questions like this all the time. She once borrowed some ibuprofen from me and asked, “How many should I take?”

I haven’t read an analgesic label since I was twelve, which is when I realized that you can pretty much take as few as you like or as many as you dare.

She also once asked me if she should wear a helmet skiing. Normally, I would say that wasn't necessary. But it was hard enough taking care of her when she had all her faculties. I seriously didn’t want to deal with her after a head injury.

I even hate the “Where’s the bathroom?” question in a restaurant. It’s in the back. Probably near, or possibly through, the kitchen. Or in chain restaurants like Chevy's, it’s by the telephones near the front entrance.

I mean, intuit, people!

Any question that requires me to put myself in someone's paranoid, indecisive, stranger-to-inductive-reasoning shoes makes me want to forcibly show the questioner how to create a flow chart.

That said, last week I asked Lisa how much curry to put in my curry.


aws said...

My old landlords (you know, the ones who were scamming the sub-prime housing market and contributing to the general downfall of society until they finally went bankrupt and lost their precious hummer) were always worried about their stupid, ugly, mean dog getting *stolen* out of the front yard! Given the neighborhood we were in, that might have been a legitimate concern about, say, the television--but the dog? Please...

leesajay said...

i can't believe i have waited so long to get caught up on your blog. you are brilliant, as ever.

this afternoon a friend from the east coast who is coming out here for work later this week texted me for weather/packing guidance. i told her it was chilly in the mornings and evenings and hot during the day, and she should bring layers but if she didn't run cold all the time, a sweater would do in place of a jacket. i felt like i was being quite charitable (she has spent a lot of time in the bay area before and so should know the answer is always going to be "layers," and plus,!).

i even felt ok about it until she texted me back: "how hot in day?"

i did not want to be responsible for her comfort in the face of microclimates and unpredictable temperatures. but i tried to be nicer than i felt while telling her that the interwebs would be better able to help her than i could.