One of the worst facets to come out of the Cubicle Culture that has been manufactured for us over the past century or so – especially with the advent of the World Wide Information Superhighway – is definitely the Questionable Hypotheticals. What’s a Questionable Hypothetical?, you ask annoyingly, crinkling your nose the way you do when you ask a question that asks itself and you don’t even care about the answer, you just want to say something because you’re desperate for attention but still want to look like a sassy observer.
A Questionable Hypothetical is when someone says something in a way that awkwardly either invites an answer or response, or is just being said to being said (“I’m just sayin'” is the most prevalent and annoying way that this latter statement is being…stated). It’s unsettling. You have no eye contact due to the cube walls, and you’re looking at something completely different from the person who’s saying something (if you’re looking at the same thing, I doubt a QH will come up). Usually, you can’t even tell by inflection if it’s a question or just a statement.
Seriously. What the crap am I supposed to do when someone I’m not having any previous conversation or even eye-contact or spatial proximity just blurts out “Bacon Flavored Cake.”
Silence only makes it more awkward, and that onus is on us, those who receive the Questionable Hypothetical. Sure, it’s unjust, but thems the breaks. You’ve got to say or do something that shows you heard it and that you’re going to do something about it. Or not. You could just be quiet. I could totally see you being that guy who everyone always talks about. “Oh yeah, [insert your name], we’d always talk to them, but they never said a word. Can’t believe the cops found them dead in their single’s apartment at the wrong end of a cat farm mutiny…so sad…”
Here are some tips to getting around it because I’ve worked in some offices. Oh my, have I worked in me some offices:
1.) Give Your Own Questionable Hypothetical
This may just be adding fuel to the fire, but maybe that’s where they got the phrase to fight fire with fire. Fire. Fire. Pyromania. Burn, baby. Burn.
Anyway, next time Sally or Rick just says “Native American Pickles” out loud and to no one, just return it. It doesn’t even have to be related, just make sure it’s somewhat immediate. I suggest just clearing you head and saying the very first thing that comes to mind. Just the first three or four words your stream of conscious affords you: Michael Keaton cherry farts. DONE. That’ll be sure to end conversations or at least open up ones that you might actually want to have. It’s your Questionable Hypothetical, after all.
This is sure to just shut everyone up, which if you’re like me, is blessed. But it can’t just be any ole S-word or F-bomb. You’ve got to string together something so profane that no one’s every going to want to say anything to you again. Sure, maybe it’s like swatting a fly with a handgun, responding to “Hasselbeck Chocolate Sauce” with “Well f*** me in the c*** with a f****** pair of h********s.”
If you get an audible gasp, you win!
Ok, sometimes people are looking for laughter as a response to these QH’s, so this could get dicey, possibly encouraging even more. Just laugh really, really loudly. Make sure it’s sincere, don’t be a D-word about it. But really, think of the funniest thing you’ve ever seen, and go to town. Just keep laughing, and laughing, laughing. Get up and walk around, just laughing. Put your hands on your head, like you’re out of breath from running, and laugh and laugh.
Repeat. And repeat. Make sure you sound like you’ve got a good case of the crazies, and that any random insertion of words into your brain could open some nutty floodgates.
4.) Find a Catchphrase
This is you going on auto-pilot, which might be a good thing. Just find an expression that anytime you hear these words, and at no other time, you use and use proudly. “French Fry Frisbee…” “WIBBITY WIBBITY!” “Toe Implants…” “WIBBITY WIBBITY!” “My son scored a 31 on his ACT’s…” “WIBBITY WIBBITY!” “You’re fired…” “WIBBITY WIBBITY!”
5.) Approach Them
No, not to be like “Could you maybe not distract me from my work?” because that’d be polite/lame.
Next time someone says anything like “Shake Weight Disco,” get up from your chair. Walk to wherever they are. Walk slowly, but with purpose. Get to their cube, put your right on their chair. Take a knee, likely your left one, since your right hand should be firmly placed on the arm of their chair. Don’t let go. Take a deep breath. Maybe close your eyes. Oh! If you’ve got glasses, close your eyes, and remove your glasses emphatically.
Then say, “What.” Don’t ask it. Say it.
Making them repeat it will make them create more attention around those stupid random words than they would’ve ever wanted to create. Do this three or four times, you should be good.
Like I said, I’ve worked in A LOT of offices.