I stumbled across a news story this evening about tour guides and crazy questions, and I felt compelled to post my own story there. However, it is something that should absolutely NOT be kept to myself. I swear to you this happened, and I am certain the woman was serious. Let’s just get that out there right now.
Here is my contribution –
For five years I ran a small sunset cruise in the middle of the Florida Keys. I got hit with plenty of stupid questions, including being asked at least once a week “Do you live here?” I usually answered, “No, I just fly in from Miami every night to take you fine folks out for a ride.”
I’ve been asked some incredible questions and always had a snappy come-back, until one night when a woman came out by herself along with the rest of the evening’s passengers. While we were moving along the coast, and I was running through my usual chatter about the wildlife and waters, we hit a spot in the trip where everyone became quiet and drank in the beautiful evening.
As we sat watching the sun slowly sink over the horizon this woman kept turning around to look back at land. After a while, she spoke up and asked the most incredible question I may have ever heard in my life. With a dead straight face this well dressed, seemingly intelligent woman looked me straight in the eye and asked,
“Are these islands here all year, or do you just bring them in for the tourist season?”
I was speechless.
No amount of logic or reason could account for that question. I couldn’t even come back with something snappy because she caught me so completely off-guard. Even the other passengers stared at each other in disbelief but said nothing. A few snickered behind their hands but most found something of interest to stare at far away so they did not have to make eye contact or conversation with the mystery woman.
After the sunset I drove back in silence. I tried to tell myself it was a joke, or that someone I knew had put her up to the comment. For days, I tried to come up with a way to reconcile her question with some breakdown in her high school science or geography class. Now, 22 years later I can still see her in my memory asking that question, with a puzzled look on her face and drink in her hand.
Did she think we deflated them every summer and stored them away, or took them off somewhere for repairs and maintenance? Did she think we moved them around as needed to keep up with tourism demands? I will never know what possible breakdown of logic and reason could account for that question.
I never had a better question. I’m not sure how there could ever be one.
So now, whenever I travel for vacation the first thing I do when I get to the islands I’m visiting is to look for the little valve they use to inflate them every year. Just once I’d like to find one, and maybe see what happens if I crack it open for a little while.
And yes, I swear that’s a true story.