My old friend Deadspot (old as in we've been friends over twenty years. He's not old. He's young. At least he's younger than me) posted yesterday about a meme he's starting: The Big Dumb Meme.
It's simple: all you have to do is tell the dumbest question you have ever been asked.
Now, one would think that my dumb questions have come in the course of my work as an educator. And in fact, I do get some dumb questions. They usually relate to just what the assignment was-- an assignment I'd just spent ten minutes discussing while they were either talking over me or showing up to class ten minutes late. Another dumb question I get every single day (though less frequently, as they figure out the answer) "Hey, you got a pen? And some paper." Answer: "Um, most people, by the time they reach high school already know that there's a good chance that there'll be some pen and paper useage. Um, no, I don't have those things for you. I was busy getting prepared for my job-- you know, writing lesson plans and going to years of school so I could do this. So I guess I figured that showing up with a pen or pencil and some paper to do our dumbed-down curriculum was within your abilities. I guess I was wrong. Maybe you should have bought that instead of cigarettes and expensive sneakers."
No, actually, I just answer "no." And they've all pretty much figured out that it's always my answer and have stopped asking.
Actually, my really, really stupid questions have been asked in the course of my work in the restaurant business over the years.
I worked at a popular north side restaurant that had just opened a unit in East Rogers Park. On the back of their menus was a set of daily specials-- for instance, on Fridays they'd offer mussels in wine sauce or on Wednesdays they'd have vegetarian lasagna, etc.
At least once a week, someone would ask for one of the weekly specials by name-- as in they would come in on a Thursday and tell me "I'd like the Saturday special, please."
And every time this happened, I was faced with the task of explaining to them that we hadn't just decided that "Saturday" would be a nice name to give to Chicken Vesuvio-- it was the special we had on Saturdays.
"I can only get that on Saturdays?"
"Yes. That's why it's called the Saturday special."
I also had to bite my lip and resist the temptation to tell them "Yes, you can-- if you don't mind waiting a few days."
In any event, that happened at least once a week.
A few years after that, I ended up working at the N.N. Smokehouse, one of the best rib joints in recent years in Chicago (it closed in 2000). It was a great, fun job. I loved my regulars. But like any other place, there was the occasional idiot, with the inevitable idiotic question:
"What's the difference between a full slab of ribs and a 2/3 slab?"
I would look at them with a straight face and tell them:
"The full slab is a full slab of ribs. The 2/3's slab is 2/3's a slab of ribs."
This happened more than a few times. On those occasions, the burning tempation I had to avoid was to state "If my 4th grade math serves me right, I'd say the difference is about 1/3 of a slab...."
I still work in the restaurant business. Again, I love where I work. But again, the place is not immune to idiots. I have to add one more thing: Dumbest answers. My most frequent idiotic interchange involves imaginary side dishes.
Our standard side dishes are baked potatoes, steak fries or sauteed vegetables. Once in a while, as someone is ordering, I'll rattle off their side dish choices, and their answer will not be one of the ones I've stated. In fact, it'll be one we don't have.
"Would you like a baked potato, steak fries or sauteed vegetables with that?"
"I'll have the potatoes au gratin."
"Um, we don't have potatoes au gratin." (me thinking "That's why I didn't say "Potatoes au gratin")
"Are you sure you don't have them."
"I could have sworn I got them here before." (customer eyes me suspiciously, like I am trying to hide them from him or her)
"Um, no, I've worked here for seven years and we've never had them. Not once." (me thinking: "No, dipshit-- I'm holding them out on you for some mysterious reason.")
So what was the dumbest question you've ever had to answer?