A reader is surprised that a doctor would ask me, "Does your Mommy work for the university?" For some reason, I often get asked weird questions by strangers. Once, a customs officer grilled me for ten minutes about the income my father had declared for the previous year. Since I honestly had no idea, the conversation just went on and on.
"Are you trying to tell me that you don't know how much your father makes?" the customs officer asked sarcastically.
I tried explaining that I hadn't lived with my parents for over a decade, that I was completely independent financially, and that I'd been living in a different country for several years. Still, he insisted.
One thing that I still don't understand is why he never asked how much my mother was making. Why is it just the father's income that was of interest to him?
Yet another weird conversation with a different customs officer took place when I was crossing the Canada-US border to begin my job at Cornell.
"So it says here that they are going to pay you $50,000 per year," the officer said. "That can't be right."
"Why not?" I responded.
"Why would they want to pay you all that money?" he asked with derision.
I almost missed my flight that time trying to convince him that they were, indeed, going to pay me "all that money" to teach literature. The officer's main argument was that not even he got paid that much, so it was unfair that I would. Since he was armed, I didn't feel like responding to this line of reasoning with anything other than "I have no idea why this is."