Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stupid Questions

Todd Rhoades asks if the old adage “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” is really true. I understand where he goes with the idea and why. Basically Dumb Questions and the People Who Ask Them is explaining that in order to have effective communication in your leadership team there ought to be an environment where team members can ask their questions without getting slammed.

I agree with him as far as the whole leadership team communication thing goes. However I don’t think it really is necessary to deny the fact that sometimes people do ask some pretty stupid questions.

Mike Adams also wrote on the subject the other day in an article called Who says there are no stupid questions? I especially liked this one: “What makes you think that all illegal aliens have broken the law?”

Then there’s Bill Engvall who has built a whole comedy routine around people’s stupid questions. “Here's your sign.”

I think there are lots of stupid questions out there. Here are a few categories of questions that I find particularly stupid:

  1. Questions that were just answered if the person had been listening – Grrr!

  2. Questions that the asker can answer themselves if they took a moment to look for the information. In some of my previous jobs this would happen to me a lot. People would call me and expect me to stop what I was doing and look up the information that was usually in a report or memo I had given them a week previous or, worse yet, really didn’t involve my department but because I actually kept good records they knew I could look it up for them.

  3. Questions that the asker answers even before they finish asking the question. While I have to include this in my list of stupid question categories, I’m not really bothered by this type of question. I understand that some people are just not capable of thinking before they start talking. If my listening to them ramble through their thought process verbally is what it takes for them to work it out, I’m usually glad to help.

Most everybody asks stupid questions from time to time. I know I do. I bet if you asked Gorgeous she would tell you that the majority of my stupid questions begin with something like, “do you know where….” or “have you seen…” Sometimes it comes out as, “where did you put your…”

You see I have this uncanny ability to get the object I am searching for directly into the center of my field of view and not be able to see it. It is not uncommon in our house for me to be looking for something, finally get to the question that I know is about to be shown as stupid, then have Gorgeous come to the rescue reach in on the shelf where I am looking, and pull out the item.

The cats usually ignore this exchange.

Unless it involves me opening a door to look for the object, that is. In that case Low-Rider will come scampering up and get as deeply into the closet as he can. And since he’s a black cat its even odds that I didn’t see him going in either. This will lead to a fun game of “Where Is That Noise Coming From?” later on (at feeding time).

I swear I didn’t have this problem (as much) before we were married. I was never organized at home mind you. But I could usually reach in through the strata of the pile and pull out exactly the item I wanted. Of course I don’t think Gorgeous really believes me about this. She thinks my memory about things pre-Gorgeous is pretty much suspect. As proof she’ll offer up the fact that I claim to want to move back to somewhere cold again. She says I romanticize the snow and don’t remember all the bad parts about winter.

I think she has some sort of hand held invisibility field generator which she can turn off right as she is reaching for the item. Or perhaps it is an SEP field generator, for those of you who remember the Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Either that or she has some sort of mind control that directly affects my ocular system.

I also suspect that she reorganizes and moves things around just to make it more challenging for me to find them. If she does, it would certainly add to her job security around here.

Sometimes I even phrase my stupid question in the form of a statement, something like, “I can’t find…”

A classic example is “I can’t find the [insert item needed for home improvement project here]” It doesn’t matter the item. Because this is really code for, “I am running out of ways to procrastinate getting started on this particular project because I don’t have a clue how to really do it and I’m a little afraid I’ll screw it up and make it worse so now that I’m completely out of time to really get it done before this important deadline I’ve decided to finally get started but you see I can’t because the vital item I need just to get started is missing and now I’ll just have to go and watch the SCI-FI channel and leave the project to another time.”

Sometimes I’ll follow the statement up with a guttural exhaling, “hhhheeeehh” which means, “I’m so disgusted from not being able to find said item that even if it turns up now there is no way I’ll be able to get started on the project now. I think I’ll go look at some propaganda online.”

Has anyone seen my coffee cup?

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