Can I ask you a question?

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“Can I ask you a question?”
I looked up and saw this lady. She had almost zero expression on her face. She looked at me as if someone forced her to do so.

I knew her, knew in the sense that I have seen her around. I have never seen her having a regular conversation with anyone. She is either flirting with the managers outside their offices or bragging about her recent purchase/experience in the staffroom.

And that’s almost everything I knew about her. I don’t know how much she knows about me, but this is irrelevant.

And now, there she was, actually saying something to me. She didn’t say hi, or excuse me–all those human greetings. She was straight to the point- plain, tasteless, “Can I ask you a question?” question.
 With her robotic voice and zero expression on her face, I couldn’t distinguish whether she was asking a favour or doing me one.

I thought of a nice and humorous way to respond.
“You just did” didn’t sound right. And I wasn’t sure she would appreciate or understand my humour either. I then decided to nod with um-hum.
“You know I have an iPad” she began and continued.
The next 25 seconds of her iPadopedia* detailed the location, cost and reasons behind the purchase. I am sure she told me what was she wearing and what type/colour of the card she used for the purchase.

Often people. Especially partners accuse men of having selective hearing. Where was mine when I needed it most?
Anyway, the bus with a flat tyre on an unpaved, puddled road finally came to a halt.

At least that’s what I thought.

But before I could take a breath of a sigh, she started again.

The one-way conversation went on and on. Thankfully, my selective hearing was there to rescue me. I stopped listening but continued a regular affirmative nodding.
“What do you think?” She finally let me speak. Hooray!!
I removed my virtual earplugs and attempted to recall the conversation I wasn’t listening to.
I had heard the words “printer” and “cable” and assumed that the question is about printing from an iPad.
“What type of cable?” I still had to know a bit more than those two words before jumping to a conclusion.

“Data cable,” she responded. 
“Okayyy,” I said, waiting for more information. She looked at me as if I was a zoo animal wetting itself. 

“So you want to plug your iPad into your printer?”  I said, after a brief pause.  It was just an assumption. But I seem to be moving in the right direction.
” yes,” she said, her expressionless death stare at my entire body.  
“I don’t think it works that way,” I asked in an attempt to harvest more information and ignore the death stare.
“I want to print from my iPad and The guy at PC World said you can,”  she said the entire sentence in one breath as if she was reading a book.
I couldn’t understand why she was barking at me for the last 5 minutes if “the guy at PC World” told her that it was possible. Perhaps the guy just said yes to avoid her.
“For a computer to recognise a printer, it needs a piece of software called ..”

” It’s a iPad, not a computer” (SIC) She interrupted before I could complete my sentence.

Her sarcasm was louder than her actual words. And this was the first expression I received from her. The death stare was gone and replaced by a “what an idiot” expression.

I ignored it and continued.
”Your iPad is a computer” 

“Is it?” More sarcasm, A brief pause, followed by more sarcasm.

” Where can I download this software, then?”

I could feel the inverted comma in the word software.
” I don’t know……” I tried to leave the conversation.
” what if you plug the cable into iTunes?” She advised.
I didn’t know what to say. If she thinks that I am an idiot, then why is she wasting her time? I began to get slightly annoyed.
“How can you plug a cable into iTunes?”  I barked.
“That’s what I am asking you,” she barked back.
I felt like pulling my hair and banging my head on the table a few times.

I was talking to a woman who wants to physically plug a piece of hardware into the software via a cable and thought that she is talking to an idiot.

The sooner I end this conversation, the better the chance of avoiding violence, I thought and sighed.

Listen, I said, I am not an Apple expert. you need to either visit the Apple store or ring them.
I said. I was surprisingly calm.

I hoped this would end the conversation and she would either leave without saying a word or surprise me with a “thank you”.

I was wrong. Again.
“Do you have the number?” She wasn’t giving up.
I was about to lose it.
“I don’t own any Apple products” I tried to get rid of her. I may have sounded angry too, but I didn’t care.

“Can you find out for me?” She was a really stubborn person.

“I don’t own any Apple product,” I repeat, this time with an even higher pitch.

I have never experienced someone being so demanding for a piece of free advice. I felt like I was being robbed at knifepoint.

Hey you, yes you. Give me some advice or prepare to die.!! I don’t care whether you know the answer or not, but you must answer the questions the way I want.

I stayed quiet, hoping she would walk away.
But she stood there, expecting me to run and dig through my papers to find the number for her.

“Look, I am sorry, but I don’t have their number and I can’t look it up now. Why don’t you look it up on your break or visit a store that sells iPads? I said, calm-ish-ly.
“yes I went to Dixons, but they said I need a cable” 
Back to square one.
I took a deep, invisible–inaudible sigh.
I don’t even know why was she there for. Did she want me to pull the cable out of a hat? I wasn’t even wearing the bloody hat.
A brief, uncomfortable pause.
“Why don’t you visit the Apple store then? they might be able to help you better,”  I said, purely to come out of the uncomfortable, awkward silence.

“Umm, that’s too far.”

I didn’t know how to respond to this.

“Listen, why don’t you go back to the guy at Dixons or the PC world and ask them to show you how it is done?” My voice was louder than normal. But either she didn’t notice or she didn’t care.
” Do you think he will charge me?” She asked calmly.
” I don’t know. Why don’t you go and ask him first?”

I pretended to be busy and began looking under the table as if I had dropped something.
“I will do that then,” I heard her say as I attempted to pick up an invisible pen from the floor.
There was silence. I looked up, holding my pen.

To my surprise, she was gone.
I took a long, deep sigh. I didn’t care that she left without thanking me or saying goodbye. I was glad that she was gone.

I thought a lot about it for the rest of the day, but still, I couldn’t conclude why was she there in the first place. It was a weird situation. It was also a big test of my patience. I praised myself.  

I will try to avoid her at all costs and I will never answer her any questions. I vowed.

A few days after that, I was rushing home after work for an appointment. As I entered the lift and pressed the button on the floor, the door reopened and then she was. Probably returning home or going out for a cigarette. My heart skipped a bit when I saw her. I hopelessly began to find a way to avoid her. But Before I could do anything, and this is not something I made up. She looked at me with the familiar death glare. And I hear those magical words one more time.
” Can I ask you a question”

*Yet another made-up word.

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