“There is no such thing as a stupid question.”

~ Mrs. Reynolds, kindergarten teacher

I’m sorry to be the one to disappoint Mrs. Reynolds, but there are stupid questions. Many of which I, personally, have asked. Take last week, for instance.

Upon returning home from work, I found a woman was trying to get into my building. She looked to be in her late 60’s or early 70’s. She had short hair and wore bright red lipstick. As I approached, she smiled and immediately struck up a conversation. Clearly, she was from out of town.

“I’m here to see S and C. I can’t get the door open,” she said, looking a little frazzled. She demonstrated by ringing their apartment. I heard C’s voice over the intercom. He buzzed to unlock the door  and she waited until the buzzer clicked off, then tried to open the door.

“Ah, well, you have to push the door while he’s buzzing. You know what, why don’t I just use my key?”

As we entered the lobby and made our way to the stairs, she asked if I knew S and C. I said that I did. “I’m S’s mother. How do you like that?” Maybe she thought they were some kind of power couple — the Brad and Angelina of our building.

Just then, we intercepted C on his way to the lobby. “I buzzed you in three times. I was coming down to see what was wrong.”

She ignored him and took me by the hand — we were old friends by now — as we started to climb the stairs. “I’m here to see my granddaughter, B. Have you met her?” I had, indeed. She and Reggie are quite good friends. Reggie searches her stroller daily for any Cheerios that may have been left behind.

Anything interesting in here?

Anything interesting in here?

“And I’m here to celebrate my birthday.” She put her finger to her lips and nodded in the direction of C, who was bringing up the rear. She rolled her eyes and whispered, “It’s tomorrow.”

“I can hear you, and I know your birthday is tomorrow,” C said, more to himself than us.

“Well, happy birthday.” And then, in the midst of all the awkwardness, I added another layer to the uncomfortable conversation. “So how old will you be?”

How old will you be? Had those words really issued from my lips? Had I just asked a slightly off kilter, postmenopausal woman how old she was? My mouth had disconnected from my brain and taken leave of its senses. 

We each paused in our tracks for a beat. She opened her mouth to say something, and I thought, For goodness’ sake, please don’t answer that question. I looked to C for help, but he was staring at his shoes, probably glad that the heat was off him for a moment. Lucky for me, she didn’t answer. Submarine captain to crew: Dive! Dive! Dive! 

“Well, would you look at that? I seem to have forgotten my mail. You all keep going. I’ll catch up with you.” I hunkered down by the mailboxes until I was sure there was an all clear.

Have you asked a question or made a comment you wish you could take back? 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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