Back during my old Revenue days, I was trained on our computer system to be a key user. A “key user” was trained to help other Revenue Officers in their office and other offices in using our computer system. I know some of you may be thinking, “You mean Mac was actually training other people on the computer program that handled tax collections for the state of North Carolina? No wonder the state has budget problems.”
Well, actually I was pretty good at what I was trained to do. But don’t ask me anything outside of that. I pressed the buttons I was supposed to press, and it did what it was supposed to do. Don’t ask me how.
Employees from other revenue offices would often phone me with questions on how to handle and what to do with certain situations relating to the Revenue computer program. One that would phone me often was Frank, the office manager from Elizabeth City. Frank was a good friend and I always enjoyed his calls. Many times he would start his phone call with, “Mac, I know this is a stupid question, but …”
Frank and I were always joking around with each other. One day he called and started once again with, “Mac, I know this is a stupid question…” I was ready. I interrupted him and said, “Frank, remember there are no such things as stupid questions, only stupid people asking questions.” I got him. But, of course, later on he would catch me with a zinger, but that time I got him.
Stupid questions. The truth is you don’t have to be stupid to ask them, because we all do. I remember phoning a friend at his office late in the day and asking, “Are you still at work?” Let’s see, he answered the office phone where he works. There’s probably a good chance he’s still at work.
Driving down the road you see that someone has run into the ditch. The guy is standing outside his car looking helpless. You pull over to help. What’s the first question you ask? That’s right, “Are you stuck?”
This is a stupid question that you probably have asked. You see a friend, relative, etc. who just had a serious injury, operation, etc. You know the condition is serious. They obviously look like they are in pain. But you still ask, “Does it hurt?”
Stupid questions. They may be stupid, but they have made a ton of money for comedian, Bill Engvall. Engvall is famous for his “Here’s your sign” jokes. We laugh at them because we know that we have heard someone say similar stupid questions, and that someone may be us.
But sometimes it is smart to ask questions. After you have been driving around lost for an hour in a strange town, it’s OK to stop and ask for directions. This despite being against everything we guys believe in. And when your computer crashes, it is fine to phone the help desk. That person in India is there to help. If you can understand each other, he’ll hopefully get your computer functioning again.
Sometimes we need to step back and ask a couple of important questions about our personal lives. Questions like, “Why am I in this situation?” or “Where am I heading?” I thought about these questions as I was reading a daily devotional recently by Dr. Charles Stanley. I think he gives a good answer to those questions.
In the devotional he wrote, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Maybe it’s time to get out of your rut and find a new path. God will help you change direction and accomplish new goals that align with His will. Don’t settle with the mediocrity of an unplanned life. Start living intentionally.”
Sounds like a good answer to those questions. But it also raises another question that is just as important. It is, “Well, are you and I going to do it?”
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]