Confessions of a Survivor of Stupid-Question season

Essay by Shelley Jacobs

Tourism – November 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

This portion of Central Colorado seems to have four seasons: Rafting Season, Hunting Season, Ski Season, and Mud Season. Now that the Rafting Season (subheading: Mountain biking, Hiking, Fishing, Doing-the-rustic-backwoods- mountain-thing Season) is over, and now that most of those generous vacationers have returned to their own communities to work hard so that they can make enough money for their next vacation, we can talk frankly about them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am well aware, as are most folks even remotely connected to the service industries, of the symbiotic relationship that those who live in the Arkansas valley have with those who come here to play.

If we weren’t here to serve them, they might have to find somewhere else to go, and if they didn’t come here anymore, many of us would be so financially devastated that we couldn’t stay here either. That’s how things are. I appreciate their coming here and providing myself and many others with gainful employment.

With that said, can we talk?

Did you ever in your life hear so many stupid questions? Granted, most of the questions are ignorant questions, not necessarily stupid ones. But when you are the recipient of one of these queries, and you stand open-mouthed trying to come up with a graceful reply while biting back all the disgraceful replies that fairly leap to the tongue, the word that pops into your head is not “ignorant.” It is “stupid.”

Would you like examples? I swear that these are real, actual questions asked by real, actual visitors to the area:

In a local eatery at 8:00 a.m.: “Do y’all serve breakfast?” I know for a fact that the person who heard this one wanted to reply (but didn’t) that they did not serve breakfast, but were trying to get a jump on the dinner crowd, and would you care for some ribs?

In a local bookstore: “Do you sell these books?” The inference here was that she was kind of hoping she could just borrow them for a little while and then bring them back. I believe this woman was later directed to the public library.

In a raft headed downstream: “Are those rocks real?” A buddy of the man who asked this was so embarrassed by it that he decided to draw attention away from the faux pas by asking a question of his own: “How far down do these rocks go?”

In another raft headed downstream: “How deep is the Arkansas River?” I believe the reply to this was a carefully considered and compassionate, “Varies.”

In a local rafting office: “Do we get out of the river at the same place we get in?” I am certain that the rafting industry would appreciate suggestions as to how this could be done, as it would be quite convenient.

At the ski-area rental shop: “Is there any way we can get from here to the lodge without having to go out in the snow?” Makes you want to suggest Florida for their next vacation, doesn’t it?

And then there is everybody’s favorite: “At what altitude does a deer turn into an elk?”

Well, most of those folks are back home now, bless their hearts, and won’t be back until Ski Season. Of course the hunters are with us now, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a hunter ask a stupid question. Go figure.

I hope you all enjoy this time between stupid-question seasons. For now, the dumbest thing you are likely to be asked is, “So, have you seen the new Wal-Mart yet?”

Shelley Jacobs answers questions of all sorts in Salida at the First Street Café, First Street Books, and many points in between.