How real are you when asking a question to a stranger?

Editor’s note:  This is both satire and real life humor:

One of the things I like to observe are the questions that people ask when they don’t really care about the answer, or they when they are not expecting the standard response.

One of the things I try to do is answer questions honestly all the time.  This could be challenging and socially awkward, depending on who is asking me the question and what their intent is really all about.  Many questions are simply empty gestures.  These are the ones I relish.  I say that if you are asking me a question, then I must assume you mean it and not that it is part of your job description to pretend you care but really do not. What type of honorable corporation (and oxymoron to say the least) would ever demand their employees not be honest and real?

Questions are suppose to be a two-way street.  Correct?   That is why it is called a ‘question and an answer.’  Think of how silly it would be to be silent of a question being asked of you?  Worse, think of how contrived it would be to give a rote answer without any semblance of truth?

The grocery store

So, when I go to the supermarket and check out, I am frequently asked “How are you doing?”  My ears perk up, my right eyebrow starts to rise slightly, and my mind goes into full throttle with creativity. Just recently, I had this exchange with a cashier:

Cashier: “Welcome to Stop and Shop.  How are you today?”

Me: “Not so good.”

(Awkward pause by cashier)

Cashier: “Oh.”

Me: “Yeah.  I woke up this morning with some stomach cramps, then my dog deficated on the carpet, and when I went after him, I stubbed my toe on the door edge.”

Cashier: Looking at me with a blank stare. “Wow!”

Me: “And to top it off, I am going to miss the first few innings of tonight’s Mets game tonight because this line has been going very slow. I seem to always pick the person with 23 coupons and tons of fruits and vegetables that cannot be scanned quickly.”

Cashier: “Ok.  Well I am glad you shared all that with me (she is now lying through her teeth).”

Now this might sound a little bit odd.  However, I believe that if you are going to ask a question, please expect an answer rather than the pat one  – “I’m fine.”  In fact, most of the time I am just goofing with the cashier, but believe it or not, they really appreciate the exchange and a person with some originality.  Their work can be very mundane at times, and by actually engaging them with satire or sincere replies, it actually makes them smile.  Isn’t that a good thing?

The restaurant

Oh boy do I relish this exchange.

A server will come over to my table and ask if I would like “bottled flat or sparkling water.” I will just say that “I will have sink water.”

That’s right…sink water!  Well, isn’t that where it is coming from?  Of course it is.  They like to say tap water to make it sound politically finer.  Oh no, it is water that is coming out of a kitchen faucet.  Am I being too descriptive and giving too honest a reply that might seem dirty?  Or, am I just trying to be real and call a spade a spade.  The more pretentious a restaurant is, the more I like to knock it down a notch with thought provoking replies.  Now, out of the hundreds of times that I have done this in my life, I would say ninety-five percent of the servers either give me a look of amazement or come back with a witty line themselves.  Again, this is all for jest but to emphasize social cordialities that I think need to be redressed.

The Wine Sommelier

This one works best when going to your favorite Micheline three star French Restaurant.  When asked if I would like to see the wine menu, I reply, “But of course!”  I then hold my nose at the 30 degree angle higher than parallel, and after diligently looking at the twenty pages of wines throughout the world, I tell the Sommelier that I would like the “Kedem selection.”

At this point, the Sommelier is turning red (almost as dark as the Chateau Lafite for five hundred dollars a bottle).  For all his years going to the elite wine schools, he has no idea about this named wine. At this point, I need to help him so I would say “It’s from the Catskill region of New York, and it has a twist off cap, vintage early 2015.

If he still does not get my dry sense of humor, he will actually go back to see if he has anything close to the selection I want.  I then assume that he is googling it on the restaurant’s internet. I would pay anything to see the look of his face when he sees it is a kosher wine that is around seven bucks a bottle retail, and mainly used for cooking or holiday blessings.

When he comes back, I try to notice if he has made a yeoman’s effort or not.  If he has, I will tell him that I was just having fun and I hope that he wasn’t offended.  Again, literally everyone who I engaged in this humourous interaction has shown to be a great sport. Later on, many of the wine stewards would then lose their rigidity with me (which they really welcome) and start to banter with me about the wine I finally chose and how it would match up to the Kedem Kosher wine.  We all win!

The cologne department at Bloomingdales

Don’t you just hate walking through that booby trap of counters with annoying perfume and cologne hawkers spraying their bottles at you?  Is this a human fragrance car wash or something?  I just had a cigar and I am enjoying the aroma emanating from my hair for the public to smell.  I certainly do not need to add Tom Ford Cologne to the array of sensory overload.

Here is a helpful tip.  I go on the offensive.  I’d be damned if I have to play defense at Bloomingdales and walk through the mens underwear section just to avoid the cologne area to get to a pair of jeans I want to buy.  I am always one ready for action.  I will bring with me my own cologne that I just bought at CVS (the least expensive and most offensive fragrance they sell (Oud Du trashishe) and repel them before they get their hands on the trigger.  This acts as well as tear gas at a Baltimore riot.  They disperse behind their counter, horrified with their new scent they never asked for, and I walk away with a skip to my step.

Have fun with life.  Interacting with strangers in a nontraditional way will often make your day and theirs as well.

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