We get questions at work all of the time. Most of them are simple, easily answered, intelligent requests from curious people. No one here minds answering those; helping people is part of the job. Many of them, however, fall into the dumb questions category and a few have entered the Hall of Fame. Not all of them are asked by blondes. Comedian Bill Engval makes millions every year doing a routine with “Here’s your sign.” The stupid things people say to him, however, sometimes pale in comparison to the questions we get asked on an almost daily basis.
Now, I’m not trying to insult our customers; they’re great people and I want to keep my job. I just think that sometimes the tongue reaches out, grabs the brain, and says “Wait, I’m going first this time.” Otherwise intelligent people let things slip out that, if they’d stop and think, would never have gotten past the teeth. The questions may be strange, but asker is just your average, ordinary guy that let the thought process idle in neutral for a few minutes.
I work in a travel center right off of a freeway exit. We have a whole bunch of gas pumps, a separate diesel section for truck drivers, truck scales, payphones, showers, a convenience store, a game room, coin operated washers and dryers, and two restaurants.
I’ve worked here for almost a year and a half. Do you know how many times someone has asked me “Do you know where the bathroom is?”? I always give them directions. I wish that one day, however, I could start answering their dumb questions with snappy answers. Sometimes, for that one, I’d love to respond with “No, and I’ve been holding it for over a year, so if you find it first, I really need to know!” I’ve also actually considered responding by saying “no habla ingles,” “we usually use the bush behind the dumpsters,” “our only bathrooms are in the showers, and that’ll cost you nine bucks,” or just simply “yes” (and walking away and leaving it at that).
My favorite questions, though, often involve our menu board. At least once a day, someone will come up to our counter, eye the menu board above our heads for a minute or more, and then ask us, “is that your menu?,” “what kind of sandwiches do you have?,” or “are those your prices?” Think of the responses I could have for those!
“No ma’am, that’s not our menu. Our menu is across the street at Burger King. We posted their menu here in case people get curious.”
“No sir, those aren’t our prices. You see where is says 6 inch Chicken Bacon Ranch $4.29? That means we can only sell that sandwich at 4:29; a.m. or p.m., your choice. Since it’s only 1:29 now, the only thing you can buy are three cookies. Wait ten minutes and I can sell you a medium coke.”
“Nope, that’s the weight of the product,” or the cost to make it, or the current e-bay value, or the number that we’ve sold so far today. You pick.
Another of the all time classics has got to be, “is that clock right?” (“No, we just set it wrong to screw with your mind. I see it worked!”) (“Yes, if you’re in Greenland.”) (“We don’t know, we’re having its head examined on Tuesday.”)
Sometimes, a customer will ask, “How much is a six inch sandwich?” Our response, of course, is something like, “That depends on which sandwich you want: tuna, cold cut trio, roast beef, etc.” Many otherwise normal people will come back with, “A six inch, just like I said.” The brain is obviously not communicating with the tongue and ignoring the ears.
“Do you sell your cookies?” (“No, they’re just a display item; we bake them because we like the smell and the display looks pretty.”)
When someone comes to our counter, it is normal and courteous to ask, “How may I help you?” Some customers, trying to be clever, will give a snappy response to that and say “I’m beyond help.” Do you know how many times we just want to say “okay” and walk away?
I also love it when people really are not sure where they are at. Our travel center is located right on the Texas and New Mexico state lines. Coming from either direction, you pass big signs right by the exits welcoming you to the new state and telling you that you are leaving the old one. What questions do people have to ask?
“Can you tell me where I am?” (“About three feet from the chip rack.”)
“Can you tell me what state I’m in?” (“Obviously a state of bliss, since ignorance is bliss.”) (“Since you don’t know, I’d guess a state of confusion?”) (After first looking to see if they are wearing a ring, “The state of matrimony.”) (“It’s all a state of mind anyway.”) (“Yes.”)
“How much further to Texas?” (“About 150 feet ago.”)
“Have you ever been to New Mexico? (“Not since just before I got to work this morning.”)
Just this morning, someone came up and asked me, “Is the water in this country drinkable?” I really wanted to tell him, “No sir, you have to cross the Rio Grande into Old Mexico before you can safely drink the water.”
Often, someone will ask, “Are your vegetables fresh?” I’ve always wanted to respond with “well, they’ll flirt a little bit, but they’re really harmless.” We get the same thing about the tuna, when they ask, “Is your tuna fresh, or has it been laying there all night?” One of my employees swears that one day she is going to say, “No sir, we get it up to dance around the store every morning.”
Recently, one man asked us what time we closed in the Subway. I responded to him that we were open 24 hours a day. His follow-up question was, “So, are you open at midnight?”
Some questions just don’t deserve a response. One man asked me, while ordering a tuna sandwich, “Is there fish in there?” I’ve also been asked, “How many meats in a Cold Cut Trio?” A lady asked me, “Can I eat half my sandwich now and save the other half for later?” Another thoughtless inquiry was, “Is your ham kosher?” (“Only if the pig was circumcised.”)
Sometimes, people order things that are just gross. “Can you put some marinara sauce on my tuna?” (Yes I could, but then I’d have to throw up.”)
“Do you accept Mastercard?” (Yes, I do. I also take personal checks, money orders, and cash. Thank you for donating to my son’s college fund.”)
“Can I get my onions grilled?” (“Sure, let me drive down to Sears and buy a stove and a frying pan and I’ll have those ready in a few hours.”)
“I’d like an egg mcmuffin, please.” (Sure, I’ll get right on that as soon as we convert to a McDonalds.”) By the way, we also don’t sell peanut butter sandwiches, sloppy joes, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, onion rings, milkshakes, yogurt, ice cream, or tacos; we’re a Subway! Read the sign above your head! It’s also on the front door, on the building, and on both pole signs outside.
A classic, however, was when one of our travel center cashiers (and we trust this girl to actually take your money and ring up your purchases) asked me, “Is there flour in your bread?” I told her that there was, and asked her what she thought was the main ingredient in bread. She responded with a question: “yeast?” Yes, she’s blonde.
Several times, truck drivers have wanted to know, “Does Jared Fogel (subway spokesman and the guy that lost two million pounds eating our products) ever come here and make sandwiches?” I’ve always wanted to answer that one with another question: “Does Burt Reynolds ever get into his Bandit One Trans-Am and keep the smokies off your tail?”
Working in a travel center means that sometimes people will ask, “Can I get gas here?” I can’t say it, but my ideal response to that one would be, “Only if you eat the foot long refried beans with eggs sandwich on garlic bread.”
Truck drivers are a fact of life in a travel center. Many times, they will ask, “Got any free leftovers I can give my dog?” 24-hour businesses do not have leftovers. If it’s good, we sell it. If it’s old, we pitch it. We prepare the right amount of products for the business that we do and don’t waste anything.
A note to truckers: Please don’t ask any of my girls the question: “Do you take orders to go?” When they say yes, you invariably tell them, “then go get in my truck.” All my employees have heard that one more than once, including some of the guys. It lost the funny factor long ago.
The same is true when we ask, ‘What would you like on this sandwich,” and the customer responds by saying, “you.” My employees are not on the menu.
Another flirtatious question that drives the employees crazy generally involves some stupid winks and a grin or two from the asker. “What would it take to get you to make me a special sandwich?” (“A lobotomy and about 2000 volts.”)
Get the hint, guys. Sixteen through twenty one year old, hot, sexy, high school and college babes are never attracted to fiftyish (or older) men with huge beer bellies who haven’t shaved or bathed in 2500 miles. I can guarantee that, because I’m a little younger, a little thinner, have more hair than you, and shave and bathe regularly and they aren’t attracted to me either!
My favorite dumb question experience came, however, not at my travel center restaurant but at a movie theatre where I worked back in the 80’s and 90’s. In 1987, a comedy called “Casual Sex” starring Lea Thomson was released. People would come up to the box office and ask with a straight face, not realizing what they were saying:
“Do you have Casual Sex?” (“Is that an invitation?”)
“Can I have one for Casual Sex?” (“I’m your man!”)
“Is Casual Sex rated PG-13?” (“Only if you stop before the good parts.”)
“How much for Casual Sex?” (“Generally, it’s $5.50, but for you…”)
“Have you ever seen Casual Sex?” (“I wouldn’t call what I’ve seen casual.”)
“Can I watch Casual Sex?” (“Yeah, but it’ll cost you.”)
“Is there anything wrong with my daughter watching Casual Sex?” (“If she’s 18, she could join in.”) (“What would Child Protective Services have to say?”) (“Is she in to Voyeurism?”)
“Do you have Casual Sex in your theatre?” (“I prefer my bedroom, but what did you have in mind?”)
“Will you have Casual Sex on Friday?” (“That depends on my wife.”) ("With all these propositions, I might be to tired by then.”)
Subway varies their menu regionally. Here, we have American, pepperjack, and provolone cheeses. We’ll ask someone, “Would you like American, pepperjack, or provolone cheese?” Some, who show off their superior listening abilities, respond with answers like Swiss, cheddar, feta, or simply “yes.” We’ll tell them again which three cheeses we have (“We serve American, Pepperjack, or Provolone.”). Invariably, those who didn’t get it the first time won’t get it the second time either.
“You don’t have Swiss?”
“Then what cheeses do you have?”
I can honestly state that I have never hit a customer before, though the desire has been there.