You know how you learn when you’re a kid that we only use 10% of our brain, but that scientists believe there’s huge potential for that other, unused 90%?
I have long insisted that there’s a part of that dormant brain – and it gets bigger and bigger the older you get – which I like to call “Too Late to Ask.”
You know the section of your noggin I mean. It’s stuff you knew, but now you’ve forgotten. So you wind up asking yourself questions like:
“Have they gotten divorced?”
“Is her mother dead yet?”
“Is there still a Yugoslavia?”
“Did I date you?”
For me, the problem with these questions – and so many more! – is that it’s Too Late to Ask. The window of opportunity-without-embarrassment is long passed.
The kid behind the counter at my corner market falls into this category. My theory is that he’s the son of the owner, but I don’t know that, because I’ve never asked him. He’s been there about five years, so he’s the “new guy” to me: I’ve been going there 30+ years.
He’s a real card, this guy. His most frequent line, when he hands you your change, is “Enjoy the weather.” Dead of winter, middle of the night, it doesn’t matter. It’s funny because it’s old. But the last two Saturday mornings I’ve been in there around 7 a.m., which is very unusual. Last week he said, “Going dancing? It’s Saturday night.” I gave him a half-answer; I was half-awake. This time he says, “I’m going out tonight. Dancing. Hookers.” Now I realize he’s trying to bait me, get an answer, see what kind of stuff I’m made of.
“Sounds good, “I reply, “and I’m saying nuthin’ about that wedding ring you’re wearing.”
In this kind of interchange, which we all go through several times a day, it’s usually the worker who’s in a trance, isn’t it? But he’s really making an effort. I’ll bet it’s a game with him: how many people can I snap out of their reverie?
“You know,” I finally say, half a decade now after this kind of hijinx has been going on, “I’m sorry to say I don’t even know your name.”
“Teddy,” he replies, shaking my outstretched hand. “And I’m glad we finally met.”
Hunh. I thought he didn’t even know who I was. Guess it wasn’t Too Late to Ask after all.