In my line of work I run across two types of questions. Open-ended and closed-ended questions. Now you may question what is the difference between these two types of questions? ??? I’ll tell you.
Closed-ended questions are questions that answer the question in usually one word. It’s “yes” or “no”, “black” or “white”, “Demo-jack-ass” (hee haw!) or “Republi-bendyouoverandfuckyouwithabigwoodenspoon.” (Hey, they are in crisis people! Extreme Makeover: Political Party Edition)
Answered closed-ended questions usually lead to open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are questions that answer the question as to make you question why you asked the question to begin with. Do you have a question about any of that? Good, now on to the point!
Hospital waiting rooms. Typical venue where both types of questions are asked and asked frequently. “Do you have asthma?” (closed); “Is my [friend/family label] going to be alright?” (open); “Why did that person get to see the doctor before me?” (mos def an open!).
The reason these hospital waiting room questions interest us is that thru these questions and answers, we get to peak inside another family’s life story. How to tell the difference between open and closed-ended questions being asked is by watching the mass reactions of loved ones from said questions being answered. The reactions to answers display the emotion or concern for the loved one being waited on by their friends and family members—whether good or bad, open or closed. But, they also shed light into the functionality (or dysfunctionality) of said family.
Let’s say you, the observer, happen to be in a hospital waiting room and you see a doctor sitting down, amidst many family/friends—conglomerating around; close enough to the doctor as to allow them to hear answers to questions being asked, but far enough away as to brace for impact from the answers being given. High anxiety, loving arms wrapped around other loved ones, tears/crying. This happens to also be a typical scene in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ episodes, but let’s say for argument’s sake that this particular family is a real, living, tangible one. Open-ended questions… closed-ended questions… many types of reactions.
Now imagine that same waiting room. Different chairs in a round, different conglomerate of family members, no friends, no doctor, waiting room television tuned into a ‘Green Acres’ marathon on TV Land. As you glimpse into their story, you observe a young, good-looking lad, college educated, wearing a Chicago Cubs cap, facing the blob of family members who are waiting with him. To his left a late 40’s, college drop-out, married mother of 2 (one college educated in pre-med and the other a freshman in a 4 year Univ) has a copy of the latest edition of the ‘Twilight’ series books in her lap. Starving for a distraction of your own, you eavesdrop in on the questions and answers of this family script. You would expect the typical questions to be thrown about for such a waiting room situation—“Do you want anymore peanut M&M’s from the vending machine?” (closed). (Not ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ worthy, I know!)
However, you deduce that the questions being asked in this waiting room melodrama are not ordinary, not about concern for the loved one being waited on, nor is there any “bracing for impact” body language present. Never the less, these questions and answers are just as revealing, relevant, and entertaining to watch unfold against any other waiting room mass reaction scenario playing out across the room.
Your craving for gossip has led you to dial in onto a conversation already in progress… The young lad asks of his ‘Twilight’ yielding loved one: “Do you believe in evolution?” (closed). Your hearing astutely tuned for a “yes”… or, a “no”… Awkward pause, uncomfortable body-shifts, internal wheels ‘a turning, all eyes on ‘Twilight’.
You prepare yourself for the long anticipated answer: “I believe in Adam and Eve.” (WTF?)