You’ve heard it before. You’re sitting around, chit chatting with a bunch of friends and before you know it the conversation turns to ghosts. Someone in the group has a story to tell about how their front door mysteriously opens and closes, once a year, at the exact same time as, coincidently, the previous owner “bit the dust”, as people are wont to say. Then there’s the guy who swears up and down that every morning when he comes down for breakfast he discovers that the front burner on the stove is on and there’s a faint smell of burnt toast lingering in the air, and he never eats toast so there has to be ghost in the house. And a hungry one, at that. This conversation continues on for some time, because who doesn’t have a story to tell about a ghost? But sure as the sun rises every morning, you know there’s gonna be one voice in the crowd, one Doubting Thomas who, before too long will emphatically declare “there’s no such thing as ghosts”. And while, in this particular case it’s entirely possible that the validity of this statement is open to debate, especially given all of the evidence you’ve just been privy to, I do believe there are circumstances when those who are so bold as to proclaim “there’s no such thing as” (and you can fill in the blank here) are, and I say this with the utmost respect, entirely wrong. Let me give you an example.
In my line of work people ask a lot of questions. It’s only natural. Some people teach, others learn and on both sides of this equation there are lots of questions asked and answered. Most often, a great deal of thought and consideration is afforded these questions. Teachers, as an example can spend days formulating the kinds of questions that will compel their students to think carefully and deeply about the subject matter. Students, on the other hand, know that the right question can send their teacher off on a tangent that, with any luck, will take a huge bite out of class time thereby preventing any further questions being asked of them. In either case, these are usually what one would call “good” questions. But every once in a while, and this is not unique to the classroom, someone, and you may well have done this yourself, will preface a question they are just about to ask with the rather self-deprecating proclamation “this may be a stupid/silly question but” primarily, it seems to me, to pre-empt the possibility that someone else may be thinking the very same thing. The polite response to this admonition is, of course, “there’s no such thing as a stupid/silly question” which, I am going to tell you now, is unequivocally not true. Because, and I say this with a fair bit of confidence and not simply because I am shallow, there really and truly is. I know this because I am routinely asked stupid/silly questions. Like these.
- Do you know who you look like? For starters, while I am not particularly vain, I am prone to looking into a mirror several times each day. Let’s face it. If nothing else, more than likely I’m gonna wash my hands a few times and typically, there’s a mirror above the sink in which I am doing that. Intentional or not, at that point I’m faced with my face so it’s not all that hard to come up with the answer to this question. Without a doubt I bear a rather strong resemblance to my Mother and at least one of my Brothers, which makes sense given that my siblings and I are the progeny of the same, happy couple. Nothing out of the ordinary here and probably the case for many people. Seems to me like a rather obvious answer to a somewhat silly question.
- Has anyone ever told you who you look like? Now I’m the first to admit that I’m no spring chicken which means I’ve been around the block more than once or twice. Barring the answer to that first question I have come to understand that I bear a striking resemblance to to a very popular chanteuse. Seems to be common knowledge at this point. So let’s think about this. If you who are asking me this question, have come to this conclusion all on your very own, why is it that you think perhaps no one else ever has? And if you see fit to actually come up to me, a complete stranger, to ask me this question, don’t you think it is possible that someone else may have done so as well over the very many years I have been on this planet? Fortunately, in most cases people answer this one themselves with “of course they have” relieving me of the rather tedious task of coming up with a witty response to what, now that I’ve explained it, you must conclude from my perspective, is a rather stupid question.
- Are you Barbra Streisand? Ok. I get it. You really want to meet a superstar and you don’t want to take any chances at missing out on your opportunity to do so. I will concede that the degree of stupidity of this question could be contextual. Let’s say you and I were to meet at the backstage door of the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night. We’re both dressed to the nines and as you glance over it suddenly strikes you that you may be standing next to the most popular singer, actress and director (not to mention a few other accomplishments), ever. You want to know for sure, so you ask. To tell the truth, this could very well be a legitimate question in this case. However, since I have never been in the above circumstance, I usually get this question in the midst of a somewhat more mundane activity. Like checking out at the Target. Or walking into Costco. Or stopping to go to the bathroom at some truckstop on the I-5. Or standing in line to check into my room at a hotel. Ok, so it’s a Hyatt. She still wouldn’t stand in the line. The answer to the question is, of course, “no”. But hey! You already knew that. Just seems a little silly to me.