I loved “Mad Magazine” as a kid. All my friends did too, and we couldn’t wait for each issue. The jokes were aimed at teenage boys, and one of my favorite sections was called “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.”
Sadly, “Mad” is no longer around, but stupid questions still are. And since we are bombarded with them these days, we need to use our creativity to let people know they need to stop asking them.
The United States Postal Service is a case in point. Apparently, those who work the counter are required to ask the same security question anytime someone mails anything other than a letter. It’s gotten to the point I don’t listen anymore, kind of like ignoring the flight attendant who demonstrates how to use a seat belt. (“For those of you who haven’t been in a car since 1965,” to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld.)
Anyway, I got tired of hearing the question at every post office. One day I was mailing a 9" x 12" manila envelope with five sheets of paper in it. That’s all. Most clerks have enough sense to skip the question. Yet this clerk still asked, “Does this parcel contain anything fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous, including lithium batteries and perfume?”
Remember, this is a flat envelope with a few sheets of paper. Obviously, none of those items were inside. So I decided to have a little fun. “Yes, inside there’s a nuclear warhead and a tray of tiramisu, which is really perishable if not refrigerated.”
I thought I’d get a big laugh. Instead, I got a death stare. Zero sense of humor. The woman was not cheerful enough to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Hey, you ask a stupid question, you get a snappy answer!
Then there are rules that overlook the obvious, which result in stupid questions. Recently I’ve noticed that a few stores which sell alcohol have started carding people who are obviously waaayyyy over the legal drinking age. Like me. The last time I bought a bottle of wine, I was asked for ID. “What for?” I asked.
The young cashier rolled her eyes, knowing it was a stupid question since I obviously couldn’t see age 21 with a telescope and a time machine. “Sorry, we have to card everybody.”
“Even though I have neckties older than you?”
She laughed. “Still need your ID. It’s a rule.” I showed her my driver’s license. She shrugged and rang me up.
Another thing: lately it seems as if half the stores in town can’t let you check out without asking for some sort of charitable donation. “Would you like to donate a dollar to our cause?” Again, the poor cashiers are required to ask, and customers feel like grinches when saying no.
According to the Bible, the left hand is not supposed to know what the right hand is doing. Charity should be private. But now you can tell a cashier. Though sometimes I swipe my credit card and the screen lights up with a charitable request. Hitting the “no” button with my middle finger seems like a snappy answer.
Then there are the telemarketers following a script. “How are you today?” they ask, not really expecting an answer other than “fine.” So throw them a snappy answer which will send them into vapor lock.
“How am I? I’m covered with hives and this is my third day having projectile vomiting.” Then you’ll generally hear, “Oh, uh, I’m, uh, sorry to hear that. Did you know your car warranty is about to expire?” I respond, “Well, considering you’re the 50th person to ask me this month, yeah.”
Even inanimate objects are asking stupid questions. Used a certain store’s self-checkout lately? Before you leave, you’re asked to rate your experience. “I’d be happy to tell you if you had any human cashiers I could speak with,” is what I really want to type.
Finally, there’s the one question that occasionally isn’t asked, and it hurts me personally. Getting a senior discount without asking for it is really a cheap shot. Do I look that old?
Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.