Saturday, May 28, 2011

Question and Answer

The first thing you need to know about my father is: If you have a question, he has an answer. The man does not know the words "I don't know." He's pretty famous for this among friends and family, which is why a few days ago as we were all in the car on the way back from my sister's girlfriend's concert, my aunt asked him why the Pigeon Hills were called the Pigeon Hills.

He immediately launched into an answer, and this is the second thing you need to know about my father: About 50% of the time, he is full of shit. If he doesn't know, he'll make it up, and he is good. On a long ago family trip, we passed a sign for a fort. Someone said "I wonder what happened at that fort." Dad launched into a five-minute lecture on the role of the fort in the Civil War and the definitive battle that was fought there, etc., etc., etc. When he was finished my mom asked "Did you see that on the History Channel?"

Dad's answer? "Nah, I just made it up."

That is the good thing-if you call him on it, he'll always admit when he's made something up. The problem is, you have to recognize that you need to call him on it-and when he's giving one of his bullshit answers, he's fairly indistinguishable from a history professor.

Years ago, when I had first started driving, I asked him why some traffic lights have those flashing lights inside the red light. He told me that it was to draw your attention, so you'd always see that the light was red. Years later, we were sitting in the car together, and Dad mused, "I wonder what those flashing lights are for." I stared at him for a moment, then gave him the same answer he'd given me. His response? "Oh, I must have been making that up. But it sounds plausible, doesn't it?" I still don't know if he was right.

So as we were in the car and Dad was giving his response to the Pigeon Hills question, I immediately challenged him. What possible reason could he have for knowing that piece of information? I was absolutely sure he was making it up. But that brings me to the final thing you need to know about my father, which is that if there is a sign or a plaque to be read, he has read it. Going to a museum with him is completely maddening, because he will read every single word that is posted anywhere. And he remembers it all. So on the one hand, when he gives an incredibly detailed answer to an obscure question, you want to think that he's making it up. Yet there's that other 50% of the time that he knows exactly what he's talking about...and he can almost always cite his source.

In this case, it was a historical plaque in Codorus State Park. Apparently passenger pigeons used to roost in the Pigeon Hills, and there were so many of them they'd block the sun when they all flew. Who knew?

My dad, apparently.


Clare said...

I love this! Jen has pointed out on a number of occasions that I possess some of Dad's bullshit tendencies.

Kate said...

Yeah, but you're a terrible liar. All someone has to do is look at you sternly and you crack.