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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Whatever the Question, ‘Belligerent’ Is Always the Answer

I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s what you don’t say that’s important.

Specifically, it’s been my experience that any sentence ending with, ‘if that’s what you’re trying to say‘ is trouble. With a capital ‘T’. And an italic ‘r’. And the rest of ‘ouble’ in a nice Arial font. With serifs, and all that shit.

Anyway, I used to be in the habit of ending sentences with ‘if that’s what you’re trying to say‘. It seemed like a good idea — at the time — to strike a precautionary blow against whatever nasty things people might be thinking about me. Which seemed to happen quite a lot, really. So I’d have conversations like:

Boss: Say, did you finish that report that I asked you about yesterday?

Me: Well, I didn’t blow it off and spend the afternoon surfing for panda porn at my desk, if that’s what you’re trying to say.

Boss: Oooo-kay, then. I see.

Or how about:

Friend: Dude, I just scored Sox tickets for Saturday. You wanna go?

Me: Well, I don’t not want to go, and instead sit at home building a voodoo doll out of Play-Doh and hair from your shower drain, so I can stab at you for asking Joe first… if that’s what you’re trying to say.

Friend: Uh… is that a ‘yes’?

Me: Sure, pick me up at noon. Go Sox!

Or maybe:

Wife: Honey, are you going to finish that ice cream?

Me: Well, I’m not going to slide the bowl down my pants, and then go outside to see if the dog will lick it off, if that’s what you’re saying.

Wife: Erm… it wasn’t, really.

Me: Oh. Well, then, yeah, I’ll finish it. Strawberry swirl is tasty!

All that does is get me into trouble, people. I realized that I wasn’t so much nipping those ridiculous thoughts in the bud, as I was planting them in peoples’ heads. Silly me, for figuring that everyone else is just naturally as twisted as I am.

So now I’ve resorted to another plan. I don’t want to bring up any specifics in these situations, but I still want to put folks on the defensive — just in case they’ve come up with some other (and probably sicker) idea of the type of thing I’d be doing when I’m not working, watching baseball, or eating yummy ice cream. So now, I answer every question I get with an angry:

What the hell do you mean by that?

Sure, it makes ordering at a restaurant a bit tricky:

Waiter: May I take your order, sir?

Me: Just what the hell do you mean by that?

Waiter: Nothing. Nothing, sir. I was just wondering whether you were ready to order. No problem. Perhaps I should come back in a few moments?

Me: And what the hell do you mean by that?

Waiter: Um… well, just that maybe you need another minute to decide. But I can take it now, if you’re ready. Do you know what you’d like?

Me: Hey, buddy — what the hell do you mean by that?

Waiter: Look, this is getting tiresome, sir. Either give me an order now, or I’ll come back in a few moments. Otherwise, I’ll have to get the manager. You don’t want that, do you?

Me: Yo, cupcake, just exactly what the hell do you mean by that?

Waiter: That’s it! I’m getting the manager. We waitstaff don’t need this kind of abuse, sir!

Me: (to wife) Man, what a douchebiscuit. And I heard the service here was good, too. Tsk.

Wife: You’re an idiot. And get that ice cream out of your pants.

No, it’s not a perfect system. But it’s better. Maybe someday I’ll graduate to ‘Are you talking to me?‘, or the simple-yet-effective menacing, ‘Whaaaat?!

Meanwhile, I’m doing the best I can. And it seems to be working — people ask me way less questions than they used to. Which is all I ever really wanted. Isn’t it everybody’s goal to just be left the hell alone sometimes?

(‘Now just what the hell did I mean by that?!?‘)

Permalink  |  4 Comments

4 Responses to “Whatever the Question, ‘Belligerent’ Is Always the Answer”

  1. Cassie says:

    I personally prefer the, “Silence, I am watching tv” (or whatever I might be doing). Imperial sounding and rude it may be, but either the person runs away with their tail (or ice cream) between their legs, or they start yelling and screaming, which is always followed by another “silence”, heh, and you just keep going.

    At which point, exasperated, said person leaves you alone.

    Granted, if they’re a roomate or a waiter, or some other such person who controls the food you eat, maybe just answering the question might be better.

    I’ve tried the “whaaaat” everyone just ends up thinking you’re dumb, and you lose your Sox tickets.

  2. Daan says:

    Perhaps you should try the simple-yet-effective innocent sounding “Whaaaa?”, whilst slowly turning your head in the person’s direction – you know, Jon Stewart-style. It’s non-abrasive, it’s alienating, it’s bewildering. But it gets the job done.

  3. Kari says:

    ROFL.. sometimes I feel really really sorry for your wife. :P

  4. kate says:

    If all you want is for people not to bother you, just learn a little bit of American Sign Language (enough to look authentic, it doesn’t matter if you’re really saying “No picnic under we middle together”) and just pretend that you’re deaf. I took ASL for three semesters and the way people run away in fear when they figure out that someone is deaf is unbelievable.

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