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We Need to Ask Better Questions

williamthomaswAre we all completely stressed out or are we getting dumber? All of us, it seems, ask some pretty inane questions of each other, particularly in casual conversation.

A few weeks ago I’m on my walk, a one-hour loop around Morgan’s Point, and I pass a guy standing on a ladder cleaning out his eaves trough and he yells: “Hey! I see you’re still walkin’!”

And I wave and give him a thumbs up and carry on … walkin’! But what I really want to do was stop and say: “So what was the first clue, the continual forward motion with the complete absence of wheels?”

I do it myself with my 11-year-old niece. “Geez Leighann, look how tall you’re getting, eh?” And she gets embarrassed and gives me a hug but one day I fully expect her to say: “Yeah, that’s why I’ve started smoking cigars Uncle Bill, to slow the process down a bit.”

We all do it.  You run into somebody as you’re about to take a seat at the cinema and you say:  “Hey! What are you doin’ here?” The person will probably humour you by saying: “Here to see a movie,” or “Same as you.” But one of these days you’re going to hear: “Oh I thought you knew, I’m a part-time, plain-clothes usher. Would half way down and in the middle be okay?”

The most ridiculous question you will ever hear comes when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair.

“Tell me if this hurts, okay?”

And your reply: “Ooo, oo, na, na.” But what you really want to say is: “Ah, I am unable to actually talk with this dazzling array of tools in my mouth so if you just hand me that scaler, every time I feel pain, I’ll just jab you a couple of times in the thigh.”

I go into the convenience store where I get my gas and I get behind a guy who is attempting to win every lottery in the world one day. He’s buying new tickets, the woman behind the counter is checking his previous tickets, bells are going off, an electronic voice announces “winner” in both official languages and I’m standing there holding a box of English muffins and a package of thin-sliced turkey. Passengers on Carnival Cruises spend less time in lifeboats together than Mr. Lottery and me.

And he looks over his shoulder and says: “Not a lottery player, eh?”

And I shook my head and mumbled about the original concept of convenience stores but what I really wanted to say was: “No, I come here for an hour each day as part of my ongoing hunger strike.”

It’s gotta be stress. I’m working harder now at the end of my career than when it started with me writing an entire magazine each month using six or so pseudonyms. I have column deadlines, a book to finish, a travel feature to sell, an author series to operate and a local theatre to help save.

So, the other day, late in the afternoon I decided I needed a break. I decided to spend one delicious hour staring at a fire on the break wall and sipping a glass of wine. First, I needed wood. So I’m over by the creek wearing rubber boots and shorts and throwing dead pieces of wood into my wheel barrel when my new neighbour walks over trying to catch her unruly but hopelessly adorable dog Molly.

After some small talk, Carol looks at me, looks at the wheel barrel and says: “So you do this just to kill time?”

Seriously, in order to avoid some smart-ass answers, we need to ask better questions.

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