Straight Answers to Some More
Popular Rhetorical Riddles

Why are cigarettes sold in gas stations when smoking is prohibited there?

The availability of an item for purchase does not imply the legality or propriety of its use in the place where it is sold. Smoking is prohibited at gas stations because of the presence of extremely flammable automobile fuels, of course. And even though the proper use, as it were, of a cigarette involves necessarily the introduction of a flame, that same flame could wind up setting the entire location on fire. Similarly, though, one can not legally use many of the products sold at, say, a hardware or home improvement store at that store. You can’t buy a can of paint at Home Depot and paint the walls there. You can’t buy a JÖMNA mattress at IKEA and then sleep on it there. (For that matter, you can’t legally smoke in most places where you can legally buy cigarettes.)

Why are there locks on the doors to the convenience store that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?

Every four years, the Gregorian calendar has an extra—or “leap”—day, and on this additional day, February 29, even the convenience store that’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year is closed, and the owner locks the doors so that no one will come in, steal cigarettes, and smoke them at the nearest gas station.

Why do you need a driver’s license to buy liquor when you cannot drink and drive?

The possession of a driver’s license does not require one to be driving constantly; it is a license to drive, after all, not an executive order. So you might very well walk to a liquor store, where you then might show the salesperson your state-issued driver’s license as proof of your age, as a prerequisite to being sold alcohol. That said, it is not a fact that you need a driver’s license to buy liquor. Just as you are not required to drive if you have a driver’s license, so are you not under any legal obligation to obtain a driver’s license (if you have no intention of operating a motor vehicle, that is). Because of this, commercial establishments that require proof of age to complete transactions will accept alternative government-issued photo identification that establishes the owner’s age.

And why do bars have parking lots?

Besides the fact that not everyone who patronizes a bar drinks—consider the noble designated driver, for instance—even those who do drink do not necessarily drink to excess. But other than the patrons of a bar, there is the staff of the bar—the manager, the bartender, the waitresses, the shot girl, and/or the busboy—all of whom might drive to work and need a place to park, except probably the busboy, who takes the bus.

Why is it so hard to remember how to spell MNEMONIC?

Is it? How do you usually misspell it... without the silent M? Try this: When you catch yourself spelling the word, “N-E-M-O-N-I-C,” think about your faulty memory. “Memory” begins with M. So does “mistake.” Add that M and you’ll get MNEMONIC.

Why are there Interstate Highways in Hawaii?

Routes H-1, H-2, and H-3 (and auxiliary route H-201)—the freeways of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways of the United States of America indeed located in Hawai’i—were built in 1839, when Oahu (the only island of the Aloha State with federally-funded roads) was still physically connected to California.

Why are there flotation devices under airplane seats, instead of parachutes?

Any idiot can put on a personal flotation device—such as the kind provided for passengers of commercial airlines—but proper operation of a parachute requires some training, which most commercial airline passengers do not have. If your plane was going down, chances are very good that if you had a parachute and managed to get out of your doomed aircraft while it was still in the air, you wouldn’t be able to get far enough away from the vehicle to avoid being sucked into one of its jet engines. On the other hand, if your airplane crashes in a body of water and you manage to survive the impact, a flotation device might actually help you get rescued (whereas a parachute would be useless). That’s why.

Who decided what order to put the alphabet in?

This is hardly a rhetorical riddle. Much serious scholarship has been devoted to chronicling the evolution of the alphabet—indeed, all of the extant alphabets and several that have been lost to time—and the answer is rather too long to be reduced to a flip response here.

Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.

Read more humor here. Or read some fiction here.