Can I be awful for a minute? I mean, just tacky and graceless and snotty?
Good. Because I’m gonna.
I tell my students that, contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as a stupid question. I then go on to explain that any question that someone has not only already answered but also answered in writing falls under this category.
Because don’t be lazy. Also, try to listen.
As the semester winds down, though, I want to add a couple of things to this category.
1. Any question to which you could easily find the answer yourself is a dumb question. Especially if you look at me, see that I’m busy doing something, and decide to interrupt and ask me anyway. For example, don’t ask me what time it is. That is my pet peeve question. I cannot think of a situation where I can be trusted to answer this question politely. You can look at your phone just as easily as I can. Also, there’s probably a clock on the wall. Just turn your head.
You will get a look from me. I’m not sure I can help it. It might be involuntary. It might look something like this:
(Actually, that’s more my “stop being funny – I’m trying to look angry here!” look)
It will be the look that says, “Look how accessible this information is to you without any assistance from me whatsoever. Don’t you feel foolish?” I will give you a look, then I will slowly and deliberately turn my head to look at the clock or to look at the phone IN YOUR HAND while I put down what I’m doing and pick up my own phone. Then I will sigh. Then, finally, I will answer. This process will take at least five times longer than it would have taken you to figure it out yourself.
Overreaction? Maybe. Tacky? Sure. But not nearly as much as what I’m thinking about you in my head.
Because don’t be lazy.
2. Any question that forces me into small talk.
This is something that not many people know about me. I like greeting people. I like making eye contact, saying, “hello,” and wishing them a good day as they go off to class. I like doing my part to help set the tone for a pleasant day. I also enjoy welcoming the residents home and asking how their day went. It’s pretty much my favorite part of my day job.
You know what’s not my favorite?
When I say, “Good morning,” I mean it. When I ask how someone’s day is, I really want to know. It’s fine if they only want to mutter “okay” as they shuffle past. That’s their prerogative. But if they want to have a real conversation, I’m for it.
What I am not for is answering mindless questions about what I think of the weather 4,000 times a day. If you ever encounter anyone behind a desk, do us all a favor. Don’t talk about the weather. Be the one fantastic person in our day who doesn’t make us have that terribly boring “conversation.”
I mean, I will answer it. It’s not your fault that everyone in the history of the building has asked the same question. I will be nice about it. Usually. Unless it’s hot. Then I have feelings, and you will get to hear them, because hey – you asked. But if your goal is to be nice, you’ve failed.
3. Any question that isn’t a real question but is designed to “teach” me something through manipulation and general asshattery (i.e., condescension disguised as pleasantry).
“How are you today?”
“I’m okay. How are you?”
“Just okay? Why not GREAT?!”
“Why don’t you smile more often?”
“How are you today?”
“Are you sure? You don’t look it.”
You clearly don’t know me very well, so let me explain some things.
1. I have an MA in Communication. I know how to communicate, and I do it just fine. I do not need you to teach me how to act, and it’s rude of you to try to do so.
2. I am 39 years old. If you have ever encountered a grown ass woman before, you should know how to interact with one (hint – the conversations above? Not the way to go.).
3. I’m particular. I have reasonable expectations, but it takes a lot to impress me. And to get the reaction you are wanting, you have to impress me, not just meet the general expectation.
4. I am analytical. I am precise and honest. If I’m not “great,” I don’t say that I am. And as I am at work and NOT on a beach sipping an umbrella drink handed to me by a delightful cabana boy (who can smile or not, just as long as he keeps the drinks coming), I’m probably not going to be “great” when you see me. I’m okay. I like my job reasonably well, I’m glad to have it, and I choose to be here. But it’s still a job, not happy fun time.
People have different personalities. We aren’t all Polyannas. And thank God for that. We wouldn’t be able to breathe from all the syrup flying through the air.
I smile, but it’s usually pretty subdued, particularly compared to the bubbly stereotype you seem to want me to be. And it’s going to stay subdued until I have something to get bubbly about.
Or unless my boss requires it, but I don’t see that happening.
But if you are a random person trying to tell me how to act at MY desk in MY building? That will bring out the anti-bubbly. That’s a good way to get me to go from “okay” to “pissed off” in no time.