“Since this is our first time together,” Joe said, clapping his hands together soundlessly once and smiling behind his beard, “Let’s share our names, where we come from, maybe ages—that sort of thing—and whether you’d rather be trapped in a room with a rhinoceros or a room of water with a shark.”
If I remember correctly, most people chose the rhino (or at least I did), but not before many questions were asked (“What kind of shark?” “How old is the rhino?” “Are we bleeding?” “How big is the room?” “How long are we trapped?”) and strategies were bandied about (“I’d get on the rhino’s back and take a nap!” “Sharks are easier—you just punch‘em in the gills.”). And so, a great tradition was born. For the next several weeks we still gave our names before answer The Question and pretended it was a get to know you game, until there was no pretending that we didn’t know Theresa would refuse to answer the question because of its sheer stupidity or that Joe and Jay would chose the unpopular option to even things out.
But it’s always been a get to know each other game, because there are always surprises. When Rob offered 6 inches of hair all over your body against the life of a deaf mute, all the men—with enthusiasm—declared they’d chose the Wookie option, while the women unanimously rejected it. From rocket shoes to Siberian imprisonments and from there to talking hair follicles—we’ve covered a great deal of life and learned a lot about each other’s more bizarre preferences. Even though Theresa hates it and I suspect the others are somewhat ambivalent, The Question is one of my favorites parts of the week.
This week’s Question: “You’ve been forced to spend five years of your life on a new reality t.v. show and you get to choose: would you rather be beaten up once a month or have no friends? For five years.”
There is a spontaneous moment of appreciation in which an inaudible “hmmmm” whirs through everyone’s brain. Then Alison cocks her head to side and says, “So it’s really asking if we prefer mental or physical punishment.” Everyone agrees but as the questions begin and strategies are bandied, the group responds not with the grimaces of Siberian banishment, but with the same excited anticipation as the guys had about becoming mini Yetis a few weeks back.
“Do we still work with people?” Alison asks thoughtfully.
“Can we have enemies?” Brett adds, with a sneaky grin.
His wife, Courtney: “Yeah, what about family?”
Joe (Alison’s husband): “Spouses?”
Jay: “How badly do we get beaten up?”
Me: “Can we fight back?”
Dave: “Do we know when it’s coming?”
Rob fields the questions with humor and aplomb, and when the curiosity has died away to pondering, the answers are given usually in a counter-clockwise fashion.
“No friends option. Definitely. Think how much you could get done in five years, because you have to keep busy. I’d probably have a doctorate finished...”
“I’d join a monastery. So all the stupid people who watch reality t.v. would get bored or be forced to listen to me praying for five years.”
Aside from Courtney who declared she couldn’t stand either and chose the getting beaten up option as the barely lesser of two evils, most people eagerly chose the no-friends option (many of the group’s members are introverts, like me). You can bet I loved hearing my thoughts echoed by the others—all that time to study and read!—but the other option sounded fun too. According to Rob, your bones were never broken and you never suffered permanent injury. You wouldn’t know when the attack was coming, but you could always fight back. Of course, after growing up reading YA novels about kickass heroines that option is embarrassingly appealing to me and thus my inevitable choice.
But some options aren’t really options, and I don’t think I could never chose the no friends one—even if it was between that and 6 inches of Wookie hair without rocket shoes confined to Siberia with only processed food to eat and hair follicles that couldn’t talk. But I really hope it doesn’t come to that.