The Question. I hate The Question. Someone you know introduces you to someone you don't know. I'm not a fan of meeting new people, but I'll go with it. After exchanging names, The Question always pops up.

So, what do you do?

Do not ask this question. I hate it, and let me tell you why.

My first reaction to The Question is to ask questions of my own.

"Why do you care what I do? Will it make you think of my differently? If I say I'm a doctor, will you think better of me? If I say I'm a janitor, will you think less of me?"

"Oh I clean shit for a living."

Uncomfortable silence follows.

Well OK then; nice to meet you. BYE!

It's a good way to weed out people who you don't want to talk to. It's not a good way to meet people, though. No one wants to talk about shit.

Everyone wants to talk about being a doctor. Doctors save people's lives for crying out loud. Who wouldn't want to talk about that?

Hopefully you see my point. Within seconds of meeting me, this shiny new person has already decided that I am what I do. If I clean shit, I am shit. If I save lives, I'm the greatest person in the world.

This shiny new person doesn't know me, yet he has already formed a very strong opinion about me.

As for what I actually do, it's difficult to answer in a sentence. I like it, but it's complicated. It also sounds boring. I prefer not to answer The Question honestly because it's hard. It's also usually met with a blank stare.

I'm left with three choices.

  1. Tell the truth and deal with the pain involved.
  2. Tell people I'm a janitor to weed out the judgmental people who I don't want to know.
  3. Make up something awesome.

Option 1 is out. I've been answering The Question honestly for too long, and I'm tired of it. Option 2 would be great, except the Person I Know is usually my wife, who I like. She's introducing me to people she knows, and I'm sure she doesn't want them to think she's married to a janitor.1

Option 3 is the only reasonable choice. So here's my new answer to The Question:

I'm an assassin.

That's my new answer. When someone I just met asks me what I do, I say that I murder human beings for a living. That's an easier answer than the actual answer. It will also be interesting to see how people react. Disbelief? Repulsion? Interest?

  1. There's nothing wrong with being a janitor, of course. But the perception issue is a real one.