No Easy Answers

No Easy1I have a friend – let’s call him ‘Jim’ – who never, ever gives a straightforward answer to any question.  Regardless of how many times and how many ways I rephrase a question posed to him, I do not get a satisfactory reply.

Now I could understand his reluctance to respond if my questions were of a sensitive nature – “Please tell me all the intimate details of your difficult sex life” – for which I would, understandably, be rebuked by being told that that is none of my business.

I could also understand his hesitancy to admit that he did not know the answer to a question:

  • Me:  “What exactly happened that caused your oven to explode?”
  • Jim:  “Well, you have to understand that ovens are complex…”

I could even understand that he might be long-winded and needs a long time to wind up before throwing the delivery pitch that answers the question:

  • Me:  “How did you end up in Malta when your vacation was supposed to go to Japan?”
  • Jim:  “First of all, let me start by describing my previous three vacations …”

But, since NO question comes with a direct answer, much less a satisfactory answer, I suspect that my friend – ‘Jim’ – is a practiced professional in the art of purposeful obfuscation.  I pose several reasons for this behavior:

  1. If ‘Jim’ answers the question directly and succinctly, he is fearful that others will not regard his life as complex and deep as he wishes it to appear, so an indirect answer gives his life much deeper and richer meaning;
  2. ‘Jim’ has found that he holds peoples’ attention longer by giving a non-straightforward answer and requiring them, through repeated questioning, to extend their conversation with him;
  3. ‘Jim’ loves the sound of his voice.  By elongating his answer, he listens to his voice longer;
  4. He doesn’t listen to your question;
  5. He doesn’t realize that he is long-winded;
  6. All of the above;
  7. All of the above except number 5.

My personal preference is number 7.  I am of the opinion that, early on, ‘Jim’ knew that he was long-winded but, enjoying the sound of his voice and desiring to hold peoples’ attention to his (imaginary) complex, rich life, he found that he could achieve his goal by not listening to your question and giving tortuous and circuitous responses to any query.  Over time, he perfected the art of purposeful obfuscation.

Now you are absolutely right that I am an idiot for attempting to get information from someone who is pathologically disposed NOT to give it.  In my defense, I point out that there are times when such information is required.  For example, I agreed to pick up ‘Jim’ and his family and friends at the airport when they arrive back from a trip that ‘Jim’ has organized.

  • Me:  “When does your plane arrive?”
  • Jim:  “We will have a great time in Patagonia.  The trip will take all week and then we have to be very careful about catching the flight back.  We may have some problems with the connecting flights…”
  • Me:  “Yes, but when is the plane scheduled to arrive at the airport?”
  • Jim:  “You know, you can wait in the cell phone waiting area with the car until we arrive.”
  • Me:  “…which is at what time?”
  • Jim:  “I don’t think that we will get the turbulence that we got on my last flight.  Did I tell you about that flight?  We were on our way from Buenos Aires when all of a sudden…”
  • Me:  (silently)  “Arrggghhh!”

Please, people, I’m not alone here.  You’ve encountered the ‘Jims’ of the world.  How do you cope with them?

24 thoughts on “No Easy Answers

  1. Sounds like Jim should be a politician. If so, he better hope I’m not running the debate. Does he give a direct answer to questions as “Do you want me to ____? (Blank being something for him, such as drive you to the airport, buy you milk at the grocery, etc.)

  2. Do you think he would be hurt if you called him a ‘bore’?

    Ah, who cares … call him a bore but tell it’s for his own good as people around him are losing the will to live.

  3. This is where SMS 140 character lengths come in handy. I have a Jim in my family. I communicate all important data like arrival times via SMS, knowing that I will have a phone call lasting the better part of 2 hours.

      • My Jim called to say that a chance in restaurant for tonight’s dinner was needed due to some complicated reason that escaped me. 30 minutes later I stil had no clue where I was supposed to go. Ten minutes ago I got in the car and called for directions. Turns out we’re still going to the same place. Picture insane woman banging her head on the steering wheel repeatedly.

  4. My husband does this on occasion.

    Me: “What time will you be home from work?”
    Him: “The traffic shouldn’t be too bad.”

    Me: “Yes, but damn it. What TIME?”

  5. Two words… Buh-Bye. haha!
    Here are 3 possibilities depending on your mood.
    A. Every time he starts talking and going off course, fake sneezing, coughing or excuse yourself to use the bathroom. Find some sort of distraction. He’ll get the idea. (Passive)
    B. Tell him he’s a long winded, in-coherent, self-centered, Jackhole that can’t answer a simple question!! Use your outdoor voice. (Aggressive)
    C. Tell him you really enjoy talking with him but you have a hard time following his circuitous responses – you find it difficult to stay focused. Ask him if he wouldn’t mind keeping his answers brief so you can follow along. (Assertive)

  6. Arrggghhh! “Jim, just call me when you land. Any time of the day or night, I’ll be right there… as soon as I grab something to eat, get dressed, start my car… hey, did I tell you about the time my car wouldn’t start…?”

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