Things People Say
Questions Asked of Librarians
- I used to work in an art supply store. We sold artists' canvas by the yard, and you could get it in either of two widths: 36 inches or 48 inches. Customer: "Can you please cut some canvas for me?" Me: "Certainly, what width?" Customer: (confused and slightly annoyed) "Scissors?"
- I was pulling into a gas station one day when I saw a woman drive off with the nozzle still in her gas tank. She jerked the nozzle right off the hose. Realizing what she had done, she pulled back in, took the nozzle out of the tank, and put it back on the pump. Then she went inside to straighten things out with the management. While she was inside, a young man pulled up to the pump. He took the nozzle, with no hose attached, into his tank. He couldn't seem to figure out why he wasn't getting any gas. He even took the nozzle out and repositioned it in the tank a couple times. I thought about pointing out the obvious problem to him but then decided that he'd be embarrassed enough when he figured it out on his own.
- I was at the airport, checking in at the gate, when the airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" I said, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled and nodded knowingly, "That's why we ask."
- The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it is safe to cross the street. I was crossing with a dense co-worker of mine; she asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals to blind people when the light is red. She responded, appalled, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?"
- At a goodbye lunch for an old and dear co-worker who is leaving the company due to "rightsizing," our manager spoke up and said, "This is fun. We should have lunch like this more often." Not another word was spoken. We just looked at each other like deer staring into the headlights of an approaching truck.
- Once I was on a school trip to England. We flew there in a Boeing 747. Shortly after take-off, the flight attendant had distributed candy. One girl didn't know what to do with the wrapper, so she started trying to open the window. Others nearby started snickering, but she shouted, "Shut up and help me open this blooming window!"
- Twelve years ago, while stationed in Germany, I walked into the post exchange at Leighton Barracks in Wurzburg to purchase some velcro. I told the woman in the fabrics section that I needed two yards of the stuff. She frowned and informed me, "We only sell it it in feet." At first I thought she was being humorous, but when I realized she was serious I said, "Ok, then, give me six feet." For a moment I was afraid she was going to cut it into twelve-inch segments, but instead she hauled out a length and began measuring it against the yardstick attached to the table. She paused, looked, thought, then measured out two yards, cut it and rang it up without another word.
- I work for a cable company. About two years ago a storm caused terrific damage to a neighborhood about three blocks from our office. A customer called to complain that his cable was off. I asked his address. When he gave it to me, I recognized it immediately. I had done a damage survey less than an hour before. Me: "Sir, isn't this the big yellow two story house on the corner that's divided into apartments?" Him: "Yes." Me: "Well, sir, a tree is lying on your roof isn't it?" Him: "Yes." Me: "Sir, that tree tore down the power, phone, and cable lines. We'll have to wait until your landlord has the tree removed to fix the cable." Him: "Listen, I want my service fixed now. I don't care about the tree." (Yeah, that makes sense. Let it rain in the house but don't miss must-see-TV!) Me: "Well, sir, even if the tree was gone, we have to wait for the power company to remove the power lines." Him: "I don't care about that. I want you to fix my cable now!" Me: "Sir, even if the cable was working, without power you couldn't turn on the TV." It was about this time I wondered how he was calling me -- remember, the phone line was down too. He answered the question for me. Him: "Listen buddy, I've got a generator and a cell phone. I've got to see the game. I don't care how big the hole is in the screen of the set. I can work around that."
- I had a craving for french fries one day, so I pulled up to the drive-thru of McDonalds. Me: "I'd like a large french fries please." Clerk: "Would you like fries with that?" I got sort of confused at this one and told him no. He told me to pull ahead, so I did, and then he asked me why I was sitting there. Clerk: "I thought you didn't want fries." Me: "No, I ordered a large french fries." Clerk: "Ok. Do you want fries with that?" Since saying no the last time had gotten me nothing, I figured I'd better say yes this time. He gave me two large fries.
- When I brought my mother-in-law home one afternoon, she discovered that she didn't have her key to her second story apartment. I went to the garage, took out the ladder, and climbed up, finding that all the windows were locked. As I stood there on the ladder, deciding whether to break the window or not, she looked up at me and said, "Too bad Mrs. Jones (the owner of the building) isn't here. She has a key to my apartment, and she could go up and open the window for you!"
- I set a VCR up for my father and asked if there was anything he'd like taped soon so I could show him the on-screen programming. There was, and I did, and I said, "Then you just put a blank tape in and shut the VCR off, and it will come on and tape your program at the right time." Sound instructions. Except my father had heard that you shouldn't leave a blank tape in the VCR, so he took out the tape and shut the power off. Without the tape in the VCR, the timer icon blinked in warning. So he unplugged the VCR.
- It's amazing how stupid people can be on the telephone. I used to work for a major northwestern bank in the collections department, and we would frequently get calls like this: Caller: "Could I speak to Mr X?" Me: "I'm sorry, but that person is [on vacation, out of the office, otherwise unavailable]. Would you like to leave a message?" Caller: (annoyed) "I'm calling long distance!" As if calling long distance will magically make the individual magically appear in the office!
- Caller: "Can I speak to Mr.X, please?" Me: "I'm sorry, Mr. X is on vacation." Caller: "I'll hold."
- I work for a cable company, and this is without a doubt the stupidest question a customer has ever called in with. It was during a blizzard, which had knocked out power in the many areas.
- Customer: "Hi, my cable is out." Me: "Ok, do you have power?" Customer: "No, but my cable is out." Me: "Well sir, if your power is out you wouldn't get cable." Customer: "Why the hell not? What does my power have to do with cable?" Me: "Well sir, without power you--" Customer: "Look, just get my cable working. Send someone out." Then he hung up, without so much as giving his name or address.
Questions Asked of Park Rangers
- "I'm looking for a book."
- "Do you have books here?"
- "Do you have a list of all the books written in the English language?"
- "Do you have a list of all the books I've ever read?"
- "Where is the reference desk?" -- Asked of a worker sitting at a desk, over which was a sign saying 'REFERENCE DESK'.
- "Can you tell me why so many famous Civil War battles were fought on National Park sites?"
- "Which outlets in the library are appropriate for my hairdryer?"
- "I was here about three weeks ago looking at a cookbook that cost $39.95. Do you know which one it is?"
- "I need a colour photograph of George Washington." -- Other individuals asked for, by other patrons, are Christopher Columbus, King Arthur, Moses, Socrates, and more.
- "Do you have any books with photographs of dinosaurs?"
- "I'm looking for information on carpal tunnel syndrome. I think I'm having trouble with it in my neck."
- "Is the basement upstairs?"
- "I am looking for a list of laws that I can break that would send me back to jail for a couple of months."
- "I got a quote from a book I turned in last week but I forgot to write down the author and title. It's big and red, and I found it on the top shelf. Can you find it for me?"
- "Do you have anything good to read?" -- The response was, "No, ma'am. I'm afraid we have 75,000 books, and they're all duds."
- Patron: "I am looking for a globe of the earth." Librarian: "We have a table-top model over here." Patron: "No, that's not good enough. Don't you have a life-size?" Librarian: (pause) "Yes, but it's in use right now."
Everglades National Park:Questions Asked of Cruise Ship Pursers
- "Are the alligators real?"
- "Are the baby alligators for sale?"
- "Where are the rides?"
- "What time does the two o'clock bus leave?"
Grand Canyon National Park:
- "Was this man-made?"
- "Do you light it up at night?"
- "I bought tickets for the elevator to the bottom -- where is it?"
- "Is the mule train air conditioned?"
- "So where are the faces of the presidents?"
- "So is that Canada over there?"
Denali National Park:
- "What time to you feed the bears?"
- "What's so wonderful about Wonder Lake?"
- "Can you show me where the Yeti lives?"
- "How often do you mow the tundra?"
Mesa Verde National Park:
- "Did people build this, or did Indians?"
- "Why did they build the ruins so close to the road?"
- "Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?"
- "Why did the Indians decide to live in Colorado?"
Yellowstone National Park:
- "Does Old Faithful erupt at night?"
- "Do you put the animals away at night?"
- "How do you turn it on?"
- "When does the guy who turns it on get to sleep?"
Carlsbad Caverns National Park:
- "How much of the cave is underground?"
- "So what's in the unexplored part of the cave?"
- "Does it ever rain in here?"
- "So what is this -- just a hole in the ground?"
Yosemite National Park:
- "Where are the cages for the animals?"
- "What time of year do you turn on Yosemite Falls?"
- "What happened to the other half of Half Dome?"
- "Can I get a picture taken with the carving of President Clinton?"
Banff National Park:
- "Is that food coloring in the lakes?"
- "When did you build the glaciers?"
- "How much for a moose?"
- "Where are the igloos?"
- "How do the elk know they're supposed to cross at the Elk Crossing signs?"
- "At what elevation does an elk become a moose?"
- "Are the bears with collars tame?"
- "Is there anywhere I can see the bears pose?"
- "Is it ok to keep an open bag of bacon on the picnic table, or should I store it in my tent?"
- "Where can I find Alpine Flamingos?"
- "Where does Alberta end and Canada begin?"
- "How far is Banff from Canada?"
- "What's the best way to see Canada in a day?"
- "When we enter British Columbia, do we have to convert our money to British pounds?"
- "Where can I buy a raccoon hat? All Canadians own one, don't they?"
- "Are there phones in Banff?"
- "So it's eight kilometers away. Is that in miles?"
- "We're on the decibel system, you know."
- "Is that two kilometers by foot or by car?"
Glacier National Park:
- "When do the deer become elk?"
- "When do the glaciers go by?"
Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, Sacramento
- "Where are the tracks the wagon trains ran on?"
- "Where do you cook?" / "We cook over the fire here." / "Don't your pans melt?"
Words Without Thought
- "Do you make your own electricity on board?"
- "Why can't I get cable stations?"
- "Are you the Captain?"
- "Do you actually live on this ship?"
- "Do these stairs go up or down?"
- "Does the crew sleep on board?"
- "Could you call the captain to stop the waves? I am getting seasick."
- "I just saw the Captain in the dining room. Who is steering the ship?"
- "What time does the midnight buffet start?"
- "What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?"
- "Can you get these chips on land?" -- Referring to casino chips.
- "Why is it so windy outside?" -- On a cruise liner traveling 30 miles per hour at the time.
- "I see them!" -- The inevitable response from a member of the crowd whenever a casino dealer on a cruise liner played a favorite joke -- pointing out "penguins" on a "little piece of ice" during a cruise through Bermuda.
- "So what is the elevation here?" -- On an Alaskan cruise.
- "I want to change cabins! I paid good money for this cruise, and all I can see is a rusted crane in the harbor!" -- Asked before leaving port.
- "Is there chicken in your vegetarian gumbo?" -- Asked of a waitress.
- "Just the chicken." -- The response a waitress gave when asked if there were any dairy products in a soup.
- "Would you like cream and sugar with that?" -- Asked by a waitress when a customer specified orange juice instead of coffee as part of a breakfast meal.
- "Do you want cheese on that?" -- Asked when a customer ordered a plain cheeseburger.
- "You want fries with that?" -- Asked when a customer ordered an apple turnover.
- "Do you want onions on that?" -- A waitress, in response to a couple ordering a milk shake and a large cola.
- "Is there any meat in the veggie rolls?"
- "Do you get rice with your fried rice?"
- "Which of these coffees did you want with cream and sugar?" -- Asked of a customer who had ordered two coffees, one with cream and sugar and one without.
- "Is this for here or to go?" -- Asked of a Dairy Queen customer at a drive-through window.
- "What's the difference between the 1/4 pounder and the 1/3 pounder?"
- "What's the difference?" -- Asked of a waitress when asked if the customer would like breadsticks with or without cheese.
- "Sir, we only have one thousand island dressing." -- A waitress, when asked for two thousand island dressings.
- "How many pieces are in the eight piece chicken deal?"
- "How much is the $1.99 popcorn chicken?"
- "Is the honey mustard sauce sweet?"
- "Is the spicy chicken just spicy or is it hot and spicy?"
- "Our whipped butter is made with margarine." -- On a menu.
- "7 ounces of choice sirloin steak, boiled to your likeness and smothered with golden fried onion rings." -- On a menu.
- "We dare you Burger for two (Served on a Stretcher) - A Whole Loaf of Crunchy French Bread running end to end with Broiled Hamburger topped with melted Yellow American Cheese, Lettuce, and Tomato. Accompanied by a mound of French Fried Potatoes, Red Pepper Relish, Ketchup, and Pickle Wedges. Delivered to your Table by Two Waitresses on a stretcher." -- On a menu of a restaurant in Danvers, Massachusetts.
- "Open seven days a week. Closed Sundays." -- On the bottom of a pizza parlor's take-out menu.
- "Parking for drive-through customers only." -- A sign at a McDonald's in California.
- "We are Handicapped - Friendly. For example, if you are blind, we will read the menu for you." -- A notice in a restaurant.
- "Eat Here - Get Gas" -- A sign at a gas station.
- "That's not an animal. It's a mammal." -- Cafeteria worker serving shrimp at a public high school.
- "Does your ice cream contain dairy products?" -- A customer at the drive-through of a fast food restaurant.
- "Excuse me. These ham and cheese rolls -- do they have ham in them?" -- A customer at a bakery cafe.
- "Don't you guys have them 99 cent Whoppers?" -- Asked of a Taco Bell cashier.
- "This is to go." -- Commonly said by customers at drive-through windows.
- "I'd like a large Pepsi pizza." -- A customer ordering pizza over the phone. After saying this, the customer was heard saying to someone else with him, "Wait, Chuck, is that right?"
- "Are Saving Private Ryan and Private Ryan two different films?" -- Asked of a moviegoer, referring to the theater's marquee, that displayed abbreviated film titles due to a lack of letters.
- "For The Lion King, you have shows at 11:45 and at 12:15. Does that mean it's a half-hour long?" -- Asked by a customer of a multiplex.
- "Can I still have a ticket? I'll find a seat." -- Asked by a customer after being told a particular showing of a movie was sold out.
- "Do you sell butter dishes? Why not?" -- Asked by a customer.
- "Diapers! I need diapers!" -- Demanded by a customer, gesturing angrily and waving his arms around.
- "I need blades for this." -- Woman, holding up a belt sander.
- "Do you carry blades that can go over rocks?" -- Woman, buying her third lawn mower blade in two weeks.
- "Do you have wheels?" -- Customer who, when questioned as to what type of wheels, replied, "You know! Wheels!"
- "What time does the 7 o'clock ferry leave?"
- "It depends. Are you coming from the north or south?" -- A man, when asked if one should turn east or west after getting off the freeway.
- "Horizon proudly donates a portion of the proceeds from our complimentary in-flight service to the preservation of Glacier National Park." -- A flight attendant, describing Horizon Airline's complimentary beverage and snack service.
Dictated To Staff Members of a Typing Pool:
- "According to witnesses, he suddenly struck the victim with a clenched face."
- "He walks up and down stairs, holding onto mother's hand one foot at a time."
- "Mother reported a gunshot wound to the derriere, apparently grazing the ear with subsequent hearing loss."
- "England? Can you get there by train?" -- Asked of an English tourist in the United States.
- "England? That's in London, isn't it?" -- Asked of an English tourist in the United States.
- "England? That's near Paris, the city of love!" -- Asked of an English tourist in the United States.
- "Do they have beer there?" -- Asked of an English tourist in a bar in the United States.
- "So, you guys are from Ireland - did you drive across?" -- Asked of two Irish women on a trip to Delaware.
- "Oh, are you going to drive there?" -- Asked repeatedly of a couple moving to Iceland.
- "You guys are working on the Fourth of July? I can't believe it! Don't you celebrate it?" -- Asked of an English employee by an American employee of a international company.
- "You're from New Zealand, aren't you? That's just off the southeast corner of Canada, isn't it?" -- Asked of a New Zealander on a trip to Washington D.C.
- "What do you mean New Hampshire's a long distance call?! It's part of Massachusetts!" -- Declared by someone who grew up in Boston.
- "What state is Minnesota in?" -- Overheard in a store.
- "After moving here, how were you able to know what the speed limit was? Could you read our traffic signs?" -- Asked of a Canadian who moved to the United States.
- "Would it be cheaper to fly to California and then take the train to Hawaii?" -- Asked of a travel agent about travel arrangements to Hawaii.
- "Sorry, we don't sell tickets outside of the U.S. . . . I don't care how new Mexico is, we don't sell tickets outside the U.S." -- A ticket salesperson for the 1996 Olympics, on the phone with someone from New Mexico.
- "You're from America? Do you know my cousin Patrick in Chicago?" -- Asked of a tourist from Connecticut in Ireland.
- "When I press on my brakes, the car doesn't stop. Do you think this is something I should have fixed?" -- Asked of a worker at an auto repair shop.
- "If you record silence on a tape and then play it back with the volume all the way up, will that drown out the noise in the room?" -- Asked by a woman of her boyfriend at the time.
- "Where do you think water comes from? The SKY?" -- From an overheard argument about water conservation.
- "Do you want specific information in general or what?" -- From an overheard conversation between two managers.
- "I wasn't able to tape Oprah. Could I possibly come down there and watch it?" -- Asked of a local television station.
- "Can I speak to Tom Brokaw?" -- Asked of a local cable service representative.
- "What day is New Year's again?"
- "How much is that $10 watch?"
- "Oh, honey, here's a watch store -- maybe they have it. Do you have any toe rings?"
- "I hate stereotypes. We Canadians don't really talk like that, eh?"
- "What do you do with the mogels in the summer?" -- Asked of a ski lift operator.
- "Isn't it funny how Thanksgiving lands on a Thursday every year?" -- Woman, overheard in a diner.
Signs and Notices:
- "How To Repair Your VCR." -- The title of a how-to video tape.
- "Great New Taste!" and "Same Great Taste!" -- On opposite sides of a drink cooler in a grocery store.
- "Watch Blow Out" -- A sign outside a jewelry store.
- "Ears pierced while you wait." -- A sign in a shop.
- "Free Parking ($1.50 per day)" -- A sign at a parkling lot in Ocean City, Maryland.
- "Please! No walking allowed without membership card." -- A sign in a mall.
- "If you can't read or write, phone this number."
- "Lunch and Learn Seminar: 'Who's controlling your life?' (get your manager's permission before attending)" -- The contents of a flyer for corporate seminar.
- "Warning: Dangerous Area. No Trespassing Without Permission From Main Office." -- A sign outside a lumber yard in Troy, Idaho.
- "Be Kind -- Please Rewind." -- A label on a DVD disc at a rental.
- "We are sorry, but these toilets are out of action. Please use floor." -- A sign on a shopping center's restroom door, indicating that the restroom was closed. The sign was intended to give directions to the nearest open restroom, but the staff had forgotten to fill in the blank.
- "Mon-Fri: 6:30. Sat-Sun: 7:30." -- A sign on a coffee shop in Spokane.
- "It is indeed fitting that we gather here today to pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln, who was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands."
- "Unfortunately we are not equipped with hindsight in advance."
- "From now on, I'm watching everything you do with a fine tooth comb."
- "There comes a time to put principle aside and do what's right."
- "Because the number and quality of applicants is so high, it is impossible for us to accept any of the qualified people who would like to study at [name of university]." -- A letter rejecting an application to enroll in a graduate program in English.
- "They're multi-purpose. Not only do they put the clips on, but they take them off." -- An explanation for why the Air Force bought $1000 pliers.
- "A reminder to all lady Lancers that you are not to wear t-shirt tank tops on campus. If you do so, you will be asked to remove them." -- An announcement that appeared in a Hilltop High School (Home of the Lancers) bulletin.
- "1. Resolved, by this council, that we build a new jail. 2. Resolved, that the new jail be built out of the materials of the old jail. 3. Resolved, that the old jail be used until the new jail is finished." -- Board of Councilmen, Mississippi, mid-1800s
- "But I thought the ocean went all the way around the world!" -- A young woman, in response to an attempt to explain why Arizona doesn't have any beaches.
- "That green stuff down there - that looks like the ground!" -- A passenger on an airplane.
- "No, just a driver's license." -- Woman, when asked if she had a photo ID.
- "It works fine. It just doesn't heat." -- Customer, describing a broken microwave to an employee of a repair shop. Also said to this employee, this time about a broken TV, "It works great. It just won't come on."
- "Honey, you tell your husband like I told mine, if you kill it, you clean it!" -- Advice one friend gave to another, who said she had spent the weekend cleaning grout.
- "Raw toast? Ughh!!" -- A high school student, looking dubiously at her sandwich.