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Ramblin’ Man: The Questions You Ask

The Questions You Ask
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rambling man columnHave you ever known someone who asks everyone they meet the same question? For example, if my friend Jason comes to your house for the first time, within seconds of coming inside he’ll ask you where the bathroom is. Then he’ll sit down and do whatever everyone else is doing without going to the bathroom. If you ask him why he asked, he’ll respond, “I just like to know, just in case.” Seems wise, if strange.

A certain guy I know has been known to ask people if they’re a virgin or when they lost their virginity. He seems to be unaware of the fact that his question makes a lot of people uncomfortable, or at least he pretends to be unaware of it. To his credit, his other question is less intrusive: “What are the three things most important to you?”

One of my best friends asks people, “Can you tell me something good?” Usually people aren’t sure what to say, though with some prodding, they can usually come up with something. I like this question because it forces people to acknowledge the positive things around them. I’ve heard answers like, “My mother just recovered from back surgery” and even “Puppies.” Good stuff.

Another guy I know likes to ask everyone he meets, “If you could do anything in this life, what would you do?” It’s interesting to hear the answers that people give. Some people focus on the immediate and give answers like, “I want to go to Paraguay” or “I want to go skydiving.” Fair enough, though the deeper answers always seem to be a little more interesting, though harder to achieve, such as, “I want to make the world a better place.” Some people are even more specific: “I want to meet the woman of my dreams, have three children, and become a doctor specializing in hemorrhagic fever.”

I have a question like that, though I don’t ask it to everyone I meet. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to hear all the answers people would give, but sometimes it’s just not the right situation to ask such questions. My question is a trick question. I like to ask people without any sort of context, “What do you want?” I get answers that range from defensive to whimsical. From “I don’t want anything” to “I want to be free.” I like to leave the question open for the person hearing it to interpret without specifying whether I mean right now or next week or even in the next life. The best answer I’ve gotten to this question came from a Buddhist monk I met outside of a sacred cave in Laos. He said, “I want what I have.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if that was all we wanted? I’m certainly not so enlightened as he is. My answer depends on my mood, where, when and in what context I ask myself. That’s why it’s a trick question. Maybe instead, I should start asking people if they still masturbate.