Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Giraffe Riddle

Did you get the Giraffe Riddle wrong?

Yes Rob, you can be wrong.
This is how stubborn I can be at times, even on a simple riddle that's meant to be nothing more than harmless fun.  I thought I might have been wrong, except certain logical inconsistencies presented themselves.  First of all, me being wrong.

Since this isn't the riddle, I feel justified in telling this story.  If you haven’t heard the riddle, and still want to answer (or face the giraffe avatar penalty), please stop reading now.

Or now.

Last chance.

I’m serious.

Ok, you’ve been warned.

A friend of mine told me the answer was "your eyes".

Don't blink!
According to this article, I had reasoned the answer correctly that it was “the door”.  Initially, though, I was taken with the seeming clever answer that my friend offered.  Your eyes would be the first thing you should open (other than your breathing passage, the alternating aortic heart valves, etc.).

But then, my skeptical side kicked in.  This is one of the hazards of being a high school debate coach.  Besides never wanting to let a teenager be right, you also end up being argumentative, sometimes for its own sake . . . which most of my friends don’t really appreciate.

It’s odd that friends don’t like to be placed in a rhetorical corner, penned in by pedantic definitions and carefully laid verbal traps that leave them frustrated and angry.

You’d think they’d enjoy that.

But I digress.

The solution my friend provided, which initially seemed clever, suddenly started to become silly to me given the information in the riddle.  First, let’s review the text of the riddle:

“It’s 3 a.m., the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors! It’s your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?”

First, the riddle says that it’s “3 a.m.”.  This was I started to take issue with the answer “your eyes”.  I’m
Wake me up before you go go!
sure there are some people who have internal clocks more accurate than the NPL-CsF2 Caesium Fountain clock, and would immediately know it’s 3 a.m.  For the rest of us mortals, this requires a garden variety alarm clock, usually next to the bed, preferably battered past the warranty for doing its job so well and consistently.

But ok, one logical inconsistency does not immediately render the answer wrong.

How about two?

The very next phrase in the riddle is “. . . the doorbell rings”.  I don’t know about you, but if it’s 3 a.m. and the doorbell rings, my eyes are open.  First, I want to know who died.  Second I want to know who I’m about to kill for ringing the doorbell so early, likely about to start pounding at the door and waking up the baby!

Well, sure, anyone can find two things wrong with a riddle that make another answer more plausible.

Shall we go for three?

You got the riddle wrong?
The third phrase in same first line says, “. . . you wake up.”  Now, you can be awake with your eyes closed.  I do this all the time when the baby cries and I think I can fake sleeping so my wife has to get up.  It doesn’t work very often, because she knows I’m doing this.  But still, most people open their eyes when they wake up.  They especially do this at 3 a.m. when the “doorbell rings” at “3 a.m.”.

Three does seem to be more than a coincidence.  But as previously mentioned, I like to put counter-arguments in a corner with that pedantic reading.  So let’s get one more nail in this coffin, shall we?

I'd like to ask you a riddle . . .
Given all the above, it’s still possible that your eyes are not yet open, except . . . how would you know it was your parents?  You weren’t expecting anyone at 3 a.m. to ring the doorbell and wake you up, otherwise, well, you wouldn’t be asleep.  You’d have battered the alarm clock’s snooze button fifteen times by this point.  So you must have already opened your eyes to look out the window, or through the peep hole, making certain that a mass-murderer polite enough to ring the doorbell before killing you isn’t standing there.  Unless you often stumble out of bed and open the door to people at 3 a.m. before you open your eyes to find out who they are.

So, there you have it.  That’s what keeps me up at night.  These viral riddles that I may or may not have gotten wrong, depending on how much time you want to spend over-analyzing the information.

Maybe my time would be better spent figuring out why I have so few friends?


  1. Rob, I said the door as well. My logic was a little different than youurs, but the line says, you wake up, then it says the door bell rang. Then it goes on to say what's the first thing you open, the order of the words and events, suggests that the question applies to events after the door bell rings, not before. I didn't change my pic to a long necked critter. As my computer crashed right after that illogical answer.

    1. That's how I did my initial reasoning to come up with my answer. But when I was told that was wrong, this was the result. :D