The other day I was working away at my desk in my shared office minding my own business – just like usual – when the coworker I share an office with asked, “Sarah, can I ask you a random question.”
Random question? Like, why is milk white? Or, what causes ingrown toenails? Even something along the lines of who decided that the habit of wearing jeans in the “sagging” fashion is even remotely a good look?
Any of those would be great, random questions. I like random questions. I think of random questions all of the time and usually I think of them while I’m driving (because I spend a lot of time driving). Unfortunately, often times I’m alone while driving so I have to ask myself the random question to which I already know I don’t know the answer. When Mr. Muse is along for the drive, I tend to raise my hand as if I were in grade school and proceed with my question once Mr. Muse responds, “Yes, Sarah?”
What I’m not so good with is anything that falls into the category of: Personal Questions.
“Where is Mr. Muse from? I don’t think you’ve ever mentioned it.”
Those are all things I thought of after I was struck mute for a moment as my mind struggled to grasp why my coworker was wondering and then in clipped cadence uttered, “From [insert major metropolitan area here]”. The coworkers response was an, “okay,” and silence resumed.
How I really wanted to respond was, “Why the fuck do you want to know? Who’s asking? How does your knowing have any impact on your life?” (I swear a bit when my hackles get raised.)
My facade was not one of serenity and calm, but more of perplexity and incredulity. However, on the inside I looked like this:
It was an entire day later where it occurred to me that my coworkers question wasn’t random – it was personal. I was blindsided. Again – yes, this has happened before. I was prepared to tell her how ingrown toenails were caused. But she’s someone whom I wouldn’t hang out with outside of the office and even now my proximity to her is only because I’m forced to share space. I find questions of personal nature rude and intrusive when they are asked out of the blue and by people who make no effort to get to know me outside of asking personal questions without context or discourse.
So, I’ve formulated my responses to “Sarah, can I ask you a random question?” I shall respond with at least one of the following:
“No.” – Short, sweet and to the point.
“Is it related to work? If it is – sure. If it’s not – no.”
“Is what you want to ask really a ‘Personal Question’? If it is – then No.”
“Why don’t you you ask and if I don’t respond, you’ll know I didn’t want you to know.”
“I think what you really meant to ask was, ‘May I ask you a random question’. No, you may not.”
What are your feelings on the Random vs. Personal Questions?