Asking to ask

“Can i ask you a question?” a well meaning communard or guests will say to me.

“You can always ask me a question, and you never need to ask.” is my regular reply

Because we live, work and socialize in this tight little hyper village, we have a number of agreements as to how we will protect peoples personal space.  One of the most foundational is “Asking to ask”.   Let’s say you have had a hard day, you are at line for dinner, someone who has been trying to find you sees you there and approaches.  If they use this protocol, it makes it relatively easy for you to repulse their inquiry.  They are anticipating that you might not be wanting, in this particular moment, to talk with them about what ever it is that is so important to them.

I dislike this norm.

Ignoring for a moment that the person is already presuming they can ask you a question, by asking this first one.  It is inefficient and formulaic and it is basically never the case that i personally want someone to check in about talking with me.  And despite me repeatedly exempting everyone on the commune from this agreement in my particular case, almost everyone keeps doing it to me, despite repeated reminders.

And it is not a big deal.  i get why it  is important to some people i live with and i am happy that we take care of them in this way.i get to make my little speech about how i am special and dont need this form of care taking and then they get to remember that i have told them this perhaps a dozen times before.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

5 responses to “Asking to ask”

  1. Dan Kappus says :

    I feel safer when I get to ask to ask because I can suppose if the answer is “yes,” the person has chosen to interact with me. It doesn’t have to be “may I ask you a question?” but “do you have a moment?” For better or for worse, this verbal tick really stuck with me from visiting with y’all. I think if I actually lived with y’all, it would be really difficult to except just one or two people. It would be like trying to excise “y’all” from my vocabulary.

    But really, you’re right– even having asked this, there is no guarantee that the person being approached really is okay with being asked a question, or the specific question being posed. “Maybe” and “Don’t Know” from the chart above are real, and really annoying.

  2. Vermin F. Cockwolf says :

    That norm always bugged me. First, mainly because I’m a smartass, my response to the question as stated above, would be, “I don’t know; can you?” That implies that the proper phrase would be “may” I ask. But, like I said, I’m a smartass.

    Having said that, I did always prefer to ask people if they had a moment to discuss something. If my expectation was a simply yes, no, maybe, or I don’t know, I felt it silly to ask if I could ask. If I was asked a question that required a longer answer than I was in the mood to deliver, I’d suggest that we make a date to discuss it at a later time convenient to both of us.

  3. danceeternal says :

    I agree that “can I ask you a question?” is a waste of breath. I have very different feelings about “can I ask you a question about ________?” It avoids the the “you just did” absurdity, and it also gives people information about WHAT you want to talk about, giving them the opportunity to decide whether they want to engage based on subject matter.

  4. paxus says :

    Oh, i understand the norm. It makes sense to me, especially in the “Can i ask you about ______” format. And it i certainly is infectious – most Oakers do it with everyone everywhere after they have gotten used to it, i certainly do.,

    • Vermin F. Cockwolf says :

      I remember people would also answer the “may I ask you a question” question with, “you just did.” But my favorite smartass response that I often use to this day came from Bobbi:

      “I have a questions for you.”

      “I have an answer; let’s see if they match.”

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