Chapter 21: Questions

April 27, 2009

When we last left off, I had had an enjoyable trip to New York City, in which the Big Apple failed to woo me back to the East Coast.  After a pleasant stay at my Dad’s in Upstate New York,  I went down to Florida for Christmas-in-February.

One evening my oldest brother and I were given the task of getting the drinks for dinner.  It seemed as though Margaritas were going to be a must-have, and some sort of beer to go along with that. 

“Can it make a frozen margarita?”

“Will it be cheaper next door?”

“Will the mix have the Tequila in it?”

“Do we have to buy limes for this beer?”

“Will we need this much?”

“Won’t we need more?”

This is just a sampling of the questions posited by my brother, whose thorough line of questioning struck me as rather odd.  It’s not like he has never asked a question before in his life, but we’re talking about the guy that used to get annoyed by the four year old Christian Malanga for asking the question “Why” so much.  Granted, Christian was only four years old, but it drove my brother nuts that the kid needed need a reason for everything.

“Hey Christian, we’re going to go to the playground.”


“Because it’s fun!”


“Because we get to play on the monkey bars”


“Because we, as humans, have an innate desire to swing from our arms, just like our closest evolutionary relative, the Chimpanzee.”


“Because I said so!”


“Because…damn you, kid!  Quit it with the questions!”


Christian has since graduated from Law School.

It’s been about eleven years since I’ve experienced day-to-day life with my brother, so every time we get together there are new habits or quirks about ourselves that strikes the other as very strange.  I remember my brother asking me why I was stretching so much during the first holiday after I had started to get into yoga.  It was with the same befuddlement that I pointed out to my brother that he was asking a lot of questions.

“Oh.  Yeah.  Thing is, I have twelve people that work for me, so if I don’t ask a ton of questions, most of which sound really stupid, then I’ll be the one that ends up looking dumb.”

All his questioning seems to have paid off.  Amidst this financial crisis, my brother was actually promoted to a brand new position his company invented to adapt to the times.  Shortly after our Christmas he was made Vice President, head of Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning.  I was super stoked when I found out he got this position, as it has always seemed to be a passion of his.  He has been working in accounting for years, which is keeping track of what someone else has already spent.  He would now be focused more on the future, determining what his company should be spending money on (the job is much more complicated than that, this is the “Jesse” version).

To illustrate my brother’s love of budgeting, forecasting and planning, I have a few examples from this very trip.  My brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids drove down to Southern Florida from Atlanta, Georgia.  Including a night in a hotel each way, the trip would be cheaper driving than flying.  During the trip, my sister-in-law was taking lots of pictures with what looked like a pretty high-end camera.  I was a bit thrown off, as my brother had always been the type to go for the least expensive model.

“We were paying for professional photos for Christmas cards and family portraits” my sister-in-law explained.  “They never did a good job, and the kids were never happy about them, so we figured ‘why waste all this money when we can get a professional camera and do it ourselves?’  It turns out we actually save money doing it this way, and we get way better pictures.”

Christian Malanga would be proud.

The final and most indicative example of my brother’s qualification for this job occurred right before the trip was over.  Sitting at his computer, entering data from receipts into Quicken, my other brother asked what he was doing, in a sense asking him why he couldn’t wait to enter this data in until after he got home. 

“The hotel we’ll get on the way home will be dependent on how much we’ve spent so far.  If we were careless, I guess it’ll be Motel Six.  If we stayed on budget, we should be able to get a place with a pool and a decent Continental Breakfast.”

And there you have the new Vice President in charge of Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning.

If there’s one thing I took away from this holiday with my brother, it’s the importance of asking questions.  If you ask a ton of stupid questions, you dramatically decrease the chance that you might look dumb later on.

The question now was what questions should I ask myself?

Well let’s start off with an obvious one, what if my car dies?

My car wouldn’t turn on for the two days before I left for the trip.  Having grown accustomed to the Los Angeles weather, or rather having become a big pansy in regard to the weather, I assumed it must have been that rain storm we had.

“There was like a lot of rain, so it makes sense that my car wouldn’t start for two days.”

I may as well have added “hellah” to this statement.  What kind of nonsense is that…it’s a car for crying out loud.  Having regained my East Coast sensibilities, I figured it would be wise to ask myself what I would do in the case that my car was dead and beyond repair.  I’m at the point where buying a new car is not an option, so that would mean I’d be taking the Metro.

Ah, the Metro.  A system with so much potential and so little success.  You may remember me unknowingly ranting about my issues with the Metro to an actual member of the Governing Council.  My qualms came out of very little actual Riding, so I was sure that if it became my primary mode of transportation that I would have way more.  Given all the wacky things that tend to happen to and around me, I’d even have some crazy stories.  Hell, it’d make a good blog.

Christian Malanga, you saved the day again.

By asking myself what it would be like if my car decided to die on me, I discovered that what could seem like a terrible occurrence in such a car-centric city could in fact be a wondrous opportunity.  There was a part of me that kind of hoped my car wouldn’t start when I got home.

I started asking myself questions in all sorts of ways.  What if all my stuff got stolen?  What if my computer was destroyed?  What if I met Sam Rockwell?  (I know that last one seems random, but he’s the only celebrity I would be worried that I would make an ass of myself if I were to meet).

Questions necessitate answers, and answers tend to decrease the unknown.  I got on a plane after a delightful and refreshing trip with my family, and headed back to see if I’d be embarking on an adventure of public transportation.  “Jesse Rides the Metro (so you don’t have to)”

It starts.

Damn you, 96 Volkswagen Jetta!  I was so pissed at my car for starting that I almost forgot that that was what I was hoping for all along.  It’s been several months now since Christmas-in-February, and my car continues to work, although every now and then it reminds me that it won’t last forever by spontaneously turning off while I’m in traffic. I find these little reminders to be endearing; my little car, reminding me of its mortality.

It thinks it’s being threatening, but little does it know…