Monday, July 5, 2010

Stupid Answers to Creepy Questions

Hello! Hope you all had a lovely fourth of July Sunday and that you're kicking up your heels today on this federal holiday.

A few weeks ago, I had some family visiting from out of town. We went to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and did the touristy bit. We had lunch and ended up at another tourist destination. We went into a little artisan shop that offered an array of carved wood um...well, it was mostly crap. I'm sorry. I'm sure someone spent a very long time carving intricate little things, but it was mostly just awful. And extremely expensive, which offended me.

Anyway, we walked in. No one else was in the shop (as you will see, perhaps with good reason). We moved carefully among reams of carved crap. The shopkeeper, whom I remember as a strange gnome of a man, said to me, "Are you vulnerable?"

Oh dear.

A thousand different answers flitted through my mind, except of course one that would sum up why I, a potential customer of wooden carved crap, should perhaps not be spoken to in this lecherous and cryptic way. His question was so odd, you see, that only odd answers came to mind, like "Blueberry."

Eventually, my sense of order settled on a simple "No." I felt that by delivering this without indignation would be odd enough. (I was wrong.)

He said, "It would be better if you were."

GROSS! Now the red alert system went off in my brain: Attention. Attention. All personnel please get the hell out of creepy Leprechaun's Crap Shop. I said, "I'll keep that in mind," even though I had no such intention, and then hauled ass out of there.

My family, however, was oblivious to the scene, and remained. I, still operating under a misguided sense of propriety (shut up, stop laughing), said nothing except that I would wait outside. Truthfully, I felt that if I said something, his orcish hearing would pick it up and he would spring into action and trap us in a cave hollowed out of the rocky floor under a trap door.

Anyway, I was out of there, and that was the main thing. My family remained inside an awfully long time, considering the crap on display. I was just debating whether I should run and get help when they emerged, and apparently something had happened. A piece of crap had been knocked to the floor and the Leprechaun had tried to pretend it was worth $130. But he would do them the enormous favor of knocking of 30% of that price. My cousin asked to see the piece of crap knocked off the crap, but the Leprechaun couldn't produce it, and then, according to their account, did a strange little dance. Not joking.

We still don't know how they emerged unscathed.

The thing I've wondered since the scary incident was: why can I never think of the right place-putting thing to say when I need it? Blueberries? Really? I notice I have no trouble giving my characters the right thing to say, although I worry that it will come across as unrealistic (and I do think it's a fine line). If this had been a scene I'd been writing, here is how it would have gone:

Troll: "Are you vulnerable?"

Me: "What? WTF kind of question is that to ask a customer? How terribly rude."

Him (taken aback a bit, but still so desperately in love with my vision of gorgeousness that he is unable to stop himself from sounding like a creepy crap-carving cave-orc): "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it like that. Please, won't you take a carved pirate ship, on the house?"

Me: "Certainly not. Good day."

What about you? Do you have trouble saying the right thing at the right time? When little crap-merchants say outrageous things to you, what do you do? Do your characters have this problem?

P.S. The Leprechaun's web site boasts that many visitors come by the shop and are blown away by its beauty and say things like "WHOA" and "OOOH." I put forth that they say these things in relief after escaping his clutches.


Lt. Cccyxx said...

Maybe he just didn't get a chance to finish his question, which was: "Are you spending too much money on useless crap?"

Because otherwise his question makes absolutely no sense.

I like to think I'm fairly quick on my feet with respect to verbal sparring, but not when someone comes totally out of left field like that. I think leaving the store was probably the best thing to do, since the only alternative would have been to get in his face and say, "Now what in the f is that supposed to mean?" Which isn't worth it when people are obviously crazy.

Project Journal said...

That's soooo scary!! Oh my goodness, I'm sorry but I'm glad it was you and not me : )

I probably would've done a shaky, laugh sort of reply of 'No' and tried to walk away...or left. It would've been like you basically......sorry that's not too inventive!

Okay, that's way too creepy, I've gotta go think about that some more or maybe try not to think about it anymore

: S


Sierra Godfrey said...

LOL guys. Lt, I like to think I too am pretty good at verbal sparring, just not in super creepy situations. Thanks for the validation Hannah. I never know what to say when people catch me off guard like that.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I always think of the witty response right after the moment passes, so annoying. I totally would have bailed too. How weird was that question, seriously.

Linda Godfrey said...

So bizarre! I doubt I would have come up with anything either, other than, "No, I'm Linda. I think I saw Vulnerable over there."

But someone so weird might take that for flirting for maybe saying nothing was best.

Sue London said...

If you'd given the link to the website I would have been tempted to click, but that's probably exactly how the trolls get you in the cyber age. What's the internet equivalent of a bridge?

Meanwhile, my verbal sparring skills are inconsistent and difficult to predict.

Tawna Fenske said...

OMG, this seriously cracked me up! So I trust your family didn't actually purchase the piece of crap?

I'm never good at coming up with quick retorts, either. My husband is surprisingly skilled at it. We once walked out of a grocery store and found ourselves confronted by a wild-eyed man toting a fistful of religious pamphlets. "Do you know where you'll be spending eternity?" the guy demanded. My husband nodded. "On a sailboat off the Queensland coast of Australia." The man pounced on that. "Ah, will Jesus Christ be with you?" My husband didn't miss a beat. "He walks on water, right? He shouldn't have trouble finding us." I laughed about that the whole way home.


Anne R. Allen said...

LOL Tawna! Your husband gets the witty retort prize.

But there's a reason most of us can't come up with a good response. Most people don't have a lot of practice with crazy. A shrink once told me that when people say something off the wall like that, it's about THEM, not you. So the best response is: "No. Are you?"

But in my opinion, it's even better to run like hell. A personal question from a stranger is like an invasion of your personal space--simple bullying. Bullies are best ignored.

Alicia J. Frey said...

LOL!! This was an awesome post. I'm all giggly now. I never, ever, come up with the right response on the spot, and regret it immensely later when the ideal comeback materializes. That's what I luuuuvvveee about writing. If I'm unhappy with what my character says in a given scene, delete, delete, delete, retype and ta-da. There have been several ridiculous things that have came out of my mouth that I wish that I could revise. :-)

Roh Morgon said...


I can never think of a witty response (or even a response that makes sense) when I'm stopped short by someone's remark.

In fact, neither can my female MC in my WIP - her standard answer tends to be "Oh."

Sierra Godfrey said...

Roni, glad it's not just me.

Linda, that cracked me up. Why couldn't I think of that? And I definitely did NOT want him thinking I was flirting so yes, I had to discard other saucy answers. (Ok. I had none. But still.)

Sue -- that is why I didn't provide the link. The troll does actually try to run a business (although the real reason is I don't want my name associated with his!)

Tawna -- Pythagoras wins!! That was awesome.

Anne -- you are right!

Alicia - you and me both. How many times have I wanted to take back the stuff I say!

Roh - You know what? I like "Oh." Oh works!

Simon C. Larter said...

I see my minion did me proud. I shall have to thank him for that. Although I'm disappointed he didn't manage to part you from your money, so perhaps my thanks will have to be in the form of a speedy demise. I shall think on this.


Martinelli Gold said...

that probably one of the creepiest things a man could ever say.

if you wrote that into a story your reader would roll their eyes and go, "Oh BROTHER, like any person would say anything THAT creepy."

Christine H said...

Sierra... I am the kind of person who does say "Blueberry" and gets strange looks.

Last week, one of the senior research gurus I work with saw me in the hallway and said, "There are three of them in the field!"

My response: "Cows?"

I instantly regretted this, but had no idea what he was talking about. Then he explained that three new surveys had been launched online... "in the field."

Fortunately, he did not notice (or pretended not to notice) my cow comment.

Anonymous said...

I never know what to say when people are creepy. Since your story was so great, I thought I'd share mine:

I was heading toward a movie theater with a friend one day, we were maybe fifteen or so at the time, and an old man on an oxygen tank looked me up and down. With a years-of-smoking voice and a slight southern accent he croaked, "If I were forty years younger..."

Of course, my friend was on the phone and completely oblivious. I grabbed her arm and rushed us toward the theater.

At least you had a response for the creepy guy! My response was say nothing and run away! Which I guess was a safe thing to do, at least.

Looking back, if he were forty years younger, it would have still been illegal for him to do anything about it in such a situation, and I should have said so. And not just illegal, forty years younger and that guy still could have been my father, if he started having kids late in life!

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