Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Deadspot's Big Dumb Meme

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?


Beth said...

You gotta quit hiding the potatoes au gratin, Yen.

Dumbest question I've ever been asked? ”Are you a boy or a girl?”, asked by a very drunk girl at a very drunken Halloween party … when I was twentysomething, not toddlersomething.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Skylers Dad said...

very good JY, I have to start thinkun now!

SamuraiFrog said...

In high school, on senior ditch day, one of my teachers gave us a quiz worth a good part of the grade. Sample questions:

"How long is a six-foot 2x4?"

"Who wrote Arthur Miller's All My Sons?"

Cunning jerk. My favorite part is that this one football player still failed the test...

Mob said...

When I worked in a retail chain, I had a more than one customer approach me while I was wearing the company's green apron and nametag lanyard, and on at least one occasion holding a feather duster and ask:

"Do you work here?"

No, this is just the get-up I chose to go and do my shopping in.


deadspot said...

As part of my catchphrase service, I'm going to give you one, totally free of charge, for the next time someone asks if they can have the Saturday special on Thursday.

"The hard part is building the time machine."

lulu said...

I actually do give a similar answer to kids asking for pens and paper. Entertains me and annoys them, something for everyone.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You must have massive welts on your tongue from all those times you have had to bite it. Such restraint.

I was once at a Busker Festival, and had a woman come up to me, point at a fellow playing his guitar on the corner, and ask me:

"Is he a busker or is he just from around here?"

BeckEye said...

Ah, I remember my waitressing days. The dumb questions were actually one of the best parts. Great comic relief.

I was always amused when people would ask for Pepsi and I would ask "Is Coke okay?" and 99% of the time the answer would be yes...but there was that one person every so often who would react violently to the prospect of another cola product. "COKE? OH GOD, NO! I'd rather drink river sludge!"

vikkitikkitavi said...

A friend of mine used to work at the Red Lion in Lincoln Park, which, at least at that time, had a menu of English food. So this guy is looking over the menu, and he calls over my friend to ask him "What's this 'beans on toast'?"

And my friend said "Which part are you having trouble with?"

Andi said...

Mmmhmm. Further evidence that I would KILL someone if I worked in a restaurant.

GETkristiLOVE said...

The dumbest question I've heard by a sportscaster was during the winter olympics. It was the Super G and it was snowing a lot, making it poor visibility. I'm sure that's what the journalist meant to ask the Herminator about but instead, he asked him in an post-race interview, "Does the snow affect your skiing?"

Natalie said...

I've been thinking about this since deadspots post. I haven't been able to come up with one. One of my favorite restaurant moments was when a waitress asked my cousin if she wanted the soup or salad and she replied, "Yes, I'll have the super salad".

Phil said...

I always love when a customer asks you about an entree, say, the linguini.

Customer: "How's your linguini?"

Me: "I don't like it. I think it's often dry. I prefer our steaks and burgers."

Customer: "I'll have the linguini."

Why did you ask me what I thought?

SamuraiFrog said...

One more retail-related question from when I worked at Waldenbooks. After turning off some lights and pulling the mall gate down halfway, I told one couple "Excuse me, we're about to close."

The woman asked: "So? Does that mean we have to leave?"

I was stunned.

'Bubbles' said...

Funny, JY.
I've never been part of a proper wait staff. The things you must hear!!

Johnny Yen said...

Wow! She must have been pretty drunk. I've seen your pictures on your blog-- no mistaking that you're a girl!

A football player flunked it? Why am I not surprised? That made my day!

As a teacher, I am occasionally in office goods chain stores after work to pick up something I need. I usually have khaki pants and an oxford shirt on-- dress casual. And pretty frequently someone will come up to me and ask where something is-- they won't even ask me if I work there. I guess the lack of a nametag wasn't enough of a clue for them.

I think we actually used that one a few times. I don't remember-- we drank a lot at work back then.

Isn't smug superiority a fun feeling at times? We get to do it so often. Usually with administrators, and sometimes with students.

"No, he walks around with a guitar all the time-- it's sort of a security blanket..."

I've had that exact reaction both ways. I personally can't tell much difference between one sugared carbonated beverage to the next.

I'm so jealous of your friend having the perfect answer right at that moment.

Believe me, I've been tempted.

Yeah, sports color commentators are good for a lot of them.

"I think he's going to try to strike him out."
"He'll probably try to hit the ball here"
"He'll either pass it or run it here."

Lots of empty spaces to fill up, especially during boring games.

I got that exact answer just a few weeks ago.

Another one is when you ask them if they want soup or salad and they answer "Yes." "Um, did you want to specify that then, or shall I just bring out whatever I feel like."

Another in a similar vein is when you're discussing 2 or 3 dishes and the merits of each one and then they say okay, I'll have the (something we didn't even talk about)"

She's had a keen grasp on the obvious, didn't she?

Everyone should do it for some time in their lives, if only for the stories.