Back to the library

Hey man, hey, I need to ask you somethin'!

I'm sitting around doing not much the other night when my friend Tad texts me and we have the following interchange:

g wtzup? wan go clb?
no ned $
huz ned?
no need tad
y? u 2 gd 4 me?
2 poor, no $$$
hw dr u!
no i poor, u ok
ok, i cvr u
thx
lezgo

So we're out walking to the club when all of a sudden I hear someone calling to us from a short distance away. As soon as I hear it, I know it's going to be a situation.

Hey man, hey, I need to ask you somethin'!

To my knowledge, no one has ever really needed to ask anybody anything at 10pm on a Tuesday night in the middle of a sparsely employed neighborhood. Many people have purposely wanted to ask a question, or perhaps even make a demand in the declarative, but no one simply needs to ask.

I've had this phrase thrown at me a few times in the past, in similar situations. This is how it doesn't go down:

Hey man, hey, I need to ask you somethin'!
Okay, shoot.
My computer locked up in the middle of writing a document, is it gone forever?
Are you using a newer version of Word?
Yeah man.
It should have an automatic backup on there.
Really?
Yeah, just control-alt-delete and reboot. It'll be fine.
Thanks man, I thought my PhD application was gone for good!

Nor does this conversation ensue:

Hey man, hey, I need to ask you somethin'!
Um, what's that?
How do you apply a tourniquet?

Those I would consider need situations, where someone's life or future depended on them getting immediate answers. But no, it's almost invariably more along the lines illustrated below, which is taken from true events:

Hey man, hey, I need to ask you somethin'!
Alrighty.
My car broke down and I need five bucks to take a cab back home. Can you help me out?

Mind you this guy is wearing a full-on tuxedo (i.e., no tennis shoes), but it is not a clean full-on tuxedo. It's dusty and reeks of sweat and some obscure brand of alcohol or cologne. His face and hair are disheveled. Not "My car broke down and I've been walking" disheveled, but rather, "I crap in hats" disheveled.

You know, perhaps he broke down on his way back from the opera and decided to leg it home through the sewer, but I doubt it. No, more than likely he was in the middle of a stage production of The Importance of Being Earnest when it dawned on him that he had a severe cocaine addiction.

Unable to continue as Algernon Moncrieff, he bolted from the theater and ended up right in the hard sweats. From the sweats, he came to me a few weeks later. When in public I tend to attract sweaty people looking for someone to talk to other than themselves.

Let me say right now I have complete respect for the homeless and the mentally ill and all that. I donate money to organizations, I used to give to panhandlers when I lived in DC; I'm all into it. What I don't go in for is people who, though creative, have decided I look foolish enough to believe their story.

So this guy needs five dollars to take a cab home. Five dollars! That's a lot of money to ask for all at once. No wonder he's wearing a tuxedo. If I'm correct the standard ask, if there is a specific amount, is for a single dollar; but I suppose if you're going to step up the request, you have to look the part.

Long story short, he got his money and I had bought my first bow tie.

Back to Tad and me. To help you picture the scene, we're about fifty feet ahead of the inquisitor, with me and him yelling back and forth as we all continue walking.

Hey man, hey, I need to ask you somethin'!
Who, me or him? (pointing to Tad)
Either of you, both of you.
Well we have different areas of expertise. It could make a difference.
No man, this doesn't require any expertise.
Is it about moo-vies?
What?
Is your question about moo-vies?
No it ain't about movies. Why are y'all still walking? Just come here and let me ask you.

At least this guy was smart enough not to say we'd dropped our wallets or left our shoes behind. The exhortation, "come here and let me ask you" is beautiful in its subtlety and presumptuousness. It's also code for "start running, now." Which we did.

We made it to the club eventually and downed a few ounces of liquid courage. We then moved on to liquid "Why didn't we stand up to that guy?" Perhaps a snifter or two of liquid "I could have totally taken him." And finally, a heaping helping of liquid "You're such a pussy, I don't even know why I hang out with you!"

But that's how things go with Tad and me. By the next day all was forgotten, which was probably more due to the alcohol than any sort of actual forgiveness. Around 2pm, Tad texted me.

g uok?
hdake, u?
hdake 2
sux
ya so
so?
i nd 2 ask u sumthin
har!
no rly
o ok
wan go clb?
.*.
wan go clb?
gby tad
k gby g ltr

Back to the library

Copyright © 2005-2013 Graham Cranfield