The Strangest Question
I work in a public building where a large part of my job is giving information to people. I stand behind a desk and answer questions. Rich and poor, young and old, educated and ignorant, all types of people come to me with their questions. It is a good job, because I get to be smart, and people don’t end up hating me for it.
Usually the questions are easy. I honestly don’t know how many times I have told people the time. It is like second nature to explain the location of the nearest postbox or fax machine. And I know, for a fact, that there are a lot of aimless people out there just looking for a bathroom.
Sometimes things can be a bit more challenging. Drunk people come in and ramble about things I can’t understand. Fancy, upper crust people come in and ramble about things I can’t understand. Probably because they are also drunk.
Professionals brag about how far above me they are, and then demand my help in finding obscure documents. They aren’t even sure what those documents are called. Or if they even exist. If can be difficult, the life of a clerk. They are simultaneously the least and most important people around. Kind of like janitors.
Every once in a while I will get a question that makes me start asking questions myself.
One day, I as standing at the desk when a man came rushing in. He was a bigger, older guy with a harrowed kind of look about him. He was obviously a little out-there, but was honestly no more alarming than many of our usual clientele.
As the man came in he hurried past the desk. Then he suddenly stopped. He turned to me, and as if it was an after thought he asked, “Is today Wednesday or Friday?”
What a weird question! It was Wednesday. Obviously, because of the way his question was worded, I told him it was Thursday. I couldn’t help it. I’d do the same thing again.
The man looked at me with unknowing terror in his sunken eyes. It was like he had never heard of Thursday. Like Thursday was some fabrication. Part of an illuminati plot to control humanity. And now they had found him!
The guy started blinking and jabbering like he was either going to freak out or shut down. Realizing the damage I had unwittingly wrought on his psyche, I quickly backtracked. I told him it was actually Wednesday. I thought about reassuring him that there was no such thing as Thursday, but that would have been cruel. He would find out about Thursday soon enough. Probably the next day, which was Thursday.
Just telling him it was actually Wednesday seemed to calm him down enough. The look on his face was that of someone who had seen the entire universe fall apart, and in the same instant put itself back together again. I suppose I could have lied and said it was Friday, and he wouldn’t have cared. So long as it wasn’t wretched Thursday.
Placated, the man went on with his day. Whatever that entailed. And he left me wondering…
“Is it Wednesday or Friday?” What kind of question is that?
Did he know about Saturday through Tuesday? Was he afraid of those days too, or just Thursday?
How could he go his whole life without hearing about Thursday? And why did he seem so afraid if it?
What does that crazy old man know about Thursday that the rest of us don’t?