How much did that thing cost you?
It seems like a fairly innocuous question. I get asked that question every time I am out gliding about on my Segway. I know it’s an unusual device, especially where I live – I think I’m the only one in Plumas County, CA that has one, or uses one regularly. But I sure wish people would think about that question before they blurt it out.
What would be your reaction if a stranger walked up to you and asked how much you paid for your car? A person you have never met comes up and asks, “what’d you pay for your watch?” Someone stops you in your tracks and says, “how much you pay for that bike/ring on your finger/bag of groceries?
Maybe some people don’t mind personal questions like that. Maybe they even like to brag a little – either inflate what they actually paid or prove they are quite the bargain hunter. But it is a personal question. Only if you are family or close friends would those questions be acceptable to most people. From complete strangers, it’s just plain rude.
I guess I reached the boiling point today. Someone saw me gliding down the sidewalk on my Segway and blocked my path just to ask me what I paid for the Seg. I didn’t know her, she was prob’ly a very nice lady and I tried to avoid the question. I just said “a lot.” She persisted, “how much is a lot?” So I came up with a smart-ass answer of “$19.99 at Walmart.” Unfortunately, when you say “nineteen ninety-nine” out loud, it could mean 1,999.00 and she replied, oh, that’s not bad.” I told her I was just kidding. I shouldn’t have done that. She wanted to know why I wouldn’t tell her. I was irritated by then and said it was a personal question. She snipped back that it was not personal to ask the price of something that is publicly available on the open market. That’s when I turned into an asshole and told her, “well, look it up at segway.com then!”
One of my friends from The Bay Area answered that question, while we were out gliding in his neighborhood one day recently. It’s something I should have remembered: “Ten bucks at Walmart.” He says it with a big grin and just keeps on gliding. That’s what I should have done. It doesn’t sound like anything other than what it is, just a smart alecky, all-in-good-fun answer to avoid the question.
The Segway has changed my life in ways I would have never anticipated. It has definitely been a 1 Foot Out, as opposed to a 1 Foot In sorta feeling. It gives me mobility that I could not have enjoyed with the late stage emphysema that has made every exertion a struggle. I can go shopping, take a “walk” and even dance, in my own fashion. But better yet, it has given me social interaction that I hadn’t known before, not even when I was healthy. Even though I could talk flooring (my business for 35+ years) until I was blue in the face, I was always a clumsy conversationalist. But the Seg has provided many enjoyable discussions. It has been the conversation starter and they usually evolve into other areas of interest.
Anthony, at American Valley Hardware in Quincy, CA, is the kind of person you can ask price of – what’s the price of these PVC fittings – but I wouldn’t think to ask what he paid for the nice hat. Chrissy, of The Knook, in Quincy, I can ask how much for that sandwich in the window (and oh man, does she make a great samich), but it would be rude of me to ask her how much the cool sneaks cost her.
But that persistent question keeps coming up. People of all ages that don’t know me from Adam think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask that personal question. When it comes straight out of the blue, it bugs the heck outa me. When I get stopped on the street only to be asked what kind of money I had to have to get such an intriguing device, it’s just too personal. If you do that to me, you risk confronting the unknown. Will I answer with a big grin, “ten bucks at Walmart” or will I be the ass who says, “none of your damn business”? Better you just don’t ask the question.