By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter, Contributing Writer
What are you doing this weekend?
Although it seems irrational, I hate that question. It should be a welcome inquiry because it implies that someone wants to spend time with me. But I think it’s a trap.
It’s a horrible query. The question is almost impossible to answer because there is absolutely no safe response. Clearly, I am wanted for something. Is it my charming company? My amazing wit? A ride? My muscle? Babysitting skills? Am I about to be invited to a home business “party” where I am expected to spend money I do not have to purchase items I do not need?
How difficult would it be to engage me in a bit of mindless small talk prior to introducing the ultimate intention of the call? I acknowledge that we are already friends, but a little schmoozing certainly would not hurt while trying to trick me into answering your questions. Plus, sometimes it’s important to feel like there is a choice.
So when asked about my weekend plans, I want to reply with a succinct “Why?” Then laugh maniacally and shout, “You can’t fool me!” Then whisper inside my head, “Again.”
Inquiries about my future activities appear benign, but experience protects me from sounding available. “I will be out of town. Family reunion. People we’ve never met. DNA testing. We’re helping National Geographic with a big project about the origins of man.”
I am pretty sure that although the words flowed quickly and smoothly, I was not entirely believed. My friend responded with a monosyllabic “Oh.” Perhaps she had just never met anyone who was in the position to assist National Geographic. That makes two of us.
After a brief pause, she asked if I knew anyone reliable to care for Mr. Cottontail while she accompanied her family on a camping trip. Apparently pet rabbits do not like camping. Now I was entrenched in a bizarre nonsensical situation where a rabbit could starve to death because of my unavailability. Why couldn’t she have been more direct with the questioning process? The last time someone took the circuitous route inquiring about my schedule, she wanted me to help her move.
I did a great deal of moving in my younger, leaner days. I moved myself, my friends, friends of friends. I would do it all for free pizza. Sometimes I would even move things from one side of the house to the other just because I could. Alas, I can no longer manhandle book-laden cardboard boxes as if they are pillows. And now I am smart enough not to be fooled. Most of the time.
Why didn’t she open with “Can you feed my rabbit this weekend?” How hard is that? Why ask me what I’m doing? What I have planned is irrelevant. All that matters is if I have time to stop by and be nice to a furry friend.
How can one explain disappointing National Geographic by reneging on a science investigation? I did what any reasonable person caught in a tight spot would do: I confessed, begged forgiveness and swore to take care of the rabbit. It was a giant relief, because unlike my 4-year-old, my lying skills leave a great deal to be desired—just in case my forced and inane excuse wasn’t a dead giveaway.
Obviously, there is a fine line between being rude and being direct. If she had been direct about her needs, I would not have felt compelled to weave a tale of idiocy. If I had been direct and asked her why she needed to know my plans, I would not have had to break out in a sweat while babbling almost incoherent tall tales. It’s like the plot of all the bad novels I read. Only in real life.
All was forgotten, if not forgiven, and I spent three days caring for a hapless woodland creature in an air-conditioned hutch.
It is abundantly clear, in most places, that direct and honest communication is preferred, although I will say that while living in the South I was once told to learn how to beat around the bush. Because of that advice, I was almost complicit in crimes against a bunny.
So I planned my weekend around my pet-sitting duties and promised to keep him safe and happy. It was also in those few days that I discovered that a rabbit’s cute appearance is not necessarily reflective of a gentle personality.
Apparently these animals are also proponents of direct communication as evidenced by spitting, hissing, growling and snapping. There was no question that I was not appreciated, and after almost losing my fingers on several occasions to keep Cujo’s cousin alive, I spit back and swore at the beast.
Feeding adorable pets? Don’t even ask. I’m busy.
DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Prince William County. Her column, “Tambourines and Elephants,” appears monthly in Prince William Living