The slow centipede story

I got a (typically) corny chain in my email today. One of those that is barely funny enough to make you snicker but not so resoundingly that you immediately forward it to all your reputable acquaintances. You delete it, or in my case, ponder its resemblance to something you’ve always noticed or thought of in your philosophical spare time. Which seems to be all the time, lately. This was the email:

The Talking Centipede
A single guy decided life would be more fun
if he had a pet. So he went to the pet store
and told the owner that he wanted to buy an unusual pet.

After some discussion, he finally bought a talking centipede,
(100-legged bug), which came in a little white box
to use for his house.

He took the box back home,
found a good spot for the box,
and decided he would start off
by taking his new pet to church with him.

So he asked the centipede in the box, “Would you like to go
to church with me today? We will have a good time.”

But there was no answer from his new pet.

This bothered him a bit, but he waited a few minutes and then asked again,
“How about going to church with me and receive blessings?”

But again, there was no answer from his new friend and pet.
So he waited a few minutes more, thinking about the situation.

The guy decided to invite the centipede one last time.

This time he put his face up against the centipede’s house and shouted,
“Hey, in there! Would you like to go to church with me and learn about God?”

you are going to love this…..

This time, a little voice came out of the box, “I heard you the first time! I’m putting my shoes on!”

Sorry, I need to make a point. It’s an amusing story if you disregard the loathsome Dr. Seussian motif, the moron-placating explanation of what a centipede is (are people this stupid?) and the transparently pathetic set-up of the impending punch line. Ignore all of this. Concentrate on the story. The meat of the narrative.

The damned centipede was not answering in a timely manner and the poor guy had to keep repeating his question because it wasn’t clear if the centipede heard because he is, 1) a centipede, so in which case his failure to answer makes sense, 2) asking the centipede to go to church with the putative expectation that there will be an answer forthcoming. This is the reason we ask questions with a small lilt at the end of the sentence elevated by a frolicking question mark. That means we are asking you something and we would like an answer. Your failure to answer in a decent, forthright manner just means we have to ask again, and again, and we turn into the bad guy because you are slow and dim.

After reading this vaguely funny email, I thought of all the centipedes I know in this life. By and large, most people are centipedes. They lack the sharp intelligence that enables them to answer or retort in a timely manner because they are too busy putting on their 100 shoes. As if talking were such a mentally laborious task. Talking is the most vacuous crap we can do. There are certain of us who ask questions and expect instant responses. If I am asked a question, I frequently will blurt the answer immediately, if possible. I am fast-paced this way. If I’m asked a question, the understanding is that an answer is expected, and that is what I do. I don’t dilly dally. I don’t retreat into a mental slumber that prevents me from entertaining a parallel conversation while I tie my 40th lace. But this is what people do all the time and it irritates me! I can’t stand it when I ask a question and the person I am asking doesn’t say shit. I ask again and they answer angrily, as if I was supposed to know they heard me. Like I’m the idiot. A question spoken is a normal human sign that you should cough up an answer or at least an acknowledgement.

And if this isn’t bad enough in the realm of verbal speech, now it is magnified in the modern workplace with emails and other written communication. People can’t talk and perform physical tasks simultaneously…forget writing. I answer emails with the same swiftness that I answer verbalized questions. I answer fast. If I am very busy and I see it might take a while, I will frequently reply to this effect. This human morass of questions and answers is one continuous stream of existence which we are never exempt from. I believe we owe it to others to acknowledge their question. The is common decency. Even with a grunt, if need be. Most people are so wrapped up in their little narrow world they don’t think to let the person know they heard the question. The centipede in this allegory should have simply uttered, upon first being asked about the church outing, “Sure, hold on…” How much effort would this have taken? All he had to do was open his mouth while he slipped on the first set of shoes. Is it that difficult? There is an element of sadism in this behavior. I think the centipede secretly reveled in the man’s puzzlement. It’s a power trip. People use their answer as the key to power over others. Pathetic!

I work with people who are non-answering types. They can’t take the time to answer anything and you send email after email (spaced days apart so as not to appear to much of a nudge) and still nothing. These people are so slow. Just answer the damn question. I talk fast and bark fast. Sometimes I’m sure there is something wrong with me. I’m dysfunctional or twisted. Perhaps normal human nature is to ruminate over answers and responses and one must be cool and brash when it comes to returning queries. It’s not cool to bark out an answer too quickly, as I do. Even quick email responses seem odd, dorky and socially backwards. But I do it. For me, it’s a race. I want to be able to conjure an answer quicker than anyone else.

I’m so sick of centipede people and all their damned shoes. How complicated can it possibly to tie a shoe or slip it on that the other cognitive verbal section of your brain can’t work simultaneously to formulate a simple answer. All the guy was asking of the centipede was “yes” or “no” for God’s sake. Church. Or not.

I know so many centipedes whose brains freeze if they are forced to operate on 2 planes. It’s pathetic.

I feel that all questions are obligations. As such, it is up to us as respectful humans to respond in kind. Quickly. Even centipedes.