“Would you do me a favor?”
Uh-oh. This is trouble.
My wife asks things of me all the time but she rarely casts them as favors. Usually she presents them as a question that is not really a question.
“Would you fix my leaky toilet?”
Next comes a question that doesn’t even sound like a question.
Finally comes the question that there is no question about.
“Or will you forget about it, like you did the other twenty times I asked you?”
There is only one possible answer to all these questions, one that will leave open the option to either do what she asks or forget about it.
These things I can handle because they are just the typical tug of war that pulls at the fabric of every relationship.
But favors are different.
Asking a favor is taking a bold leap into forbidden territory. It is usually asking for something we know we shouldn’t, but we ask anyway in hope that not only will we get what we want but by the steady erosion of asking, we will no longer have to ask.
The only honest and practical answer to such a question is NO!
Instead I ask, “What?”
This is the worst thing she can do.
She doesn’t hesitate because she is reluctant to tell me what she wants. She doesn’t hesitate because she is uncertain how to word what she wants. She hesitates so I can prepare myself for the worst.
“What?” I ask again.
This is my signal that I am done preparing myself for the worst.
“Would you help me weed my flower garden?”
This is my signal that I did not sufficiently prepare myself for the worst.
“It’s no big deal,” she says.
“It is a big deal,” I say. “it is your gardens, it is your job.”
“But it is a mess,” she says. “With all the cold and heat and rain, I let it go too long.”
I can tell by the way she hesitates that this time her hesitation is genuine.
“There might be snakes in there.”
She is terrified of snakes, terrified to the point of phobia. So much so that whenever she sees a snake, even on television, she flees. Yet she loves to garden.
“I can’t help you weed your garden because I can’t tell a flower from a weed.”
“That’s just plain silly,” she says. “The flowers are the pretty ones. So will you help me, pleeease!”
“Sure,” I say.
A pleeease shuts down all my options and seals off any opportunity to conveniently forget that I promised to help.
A few minutes later…..
“Is that a flower?”
“No, that’s itch weed.”
“Now you tell me.”
“Careful, that’s thistle.”
“I warned you…”
“Hey, watch it, those are my Irises.”
“Here is the hoe, you weed for a while.”
“I think I just hoed something I shouldn’t have.”
“Would you do me a favor?”
“The next time I try to plant a flower garden this big, stop me.”
“Gladly, but do you really want me to do that?”
It is a question that is not really a question.”