It is very common in our culture to ask people, “How are you?” or, “How’s it going?”, or (this way should be banned), “How goes it?”. “What’s up?” is used as a filler for hello and if you ever answer, “The sky.” to that question I both hate and love you. I’ve actually responded to the question before and then realized the person was already around the corner because they were actually just saying hi. Anyone else?All of this is for pure greeting purpose, not because people really care.
There are random lessons from school that have stuck with my over the years. And I mean literal lessons or class periods, not warm-and-fuzzy-reach- for-your-dreams type of lessons. For instance, the one time we sculpted tin foil animal in calculus. Or the time I had to read this part of Romeo and Juliet:
An honor! Were not I thine only nurse,
I would say thou hadst sucked wisdom from thy teat.
I purposely mispronounced that last word to avoid any (my own) immature giggles. (Adult confession, I still think it is an extremely funny-sounding word.)
As we often did in AP English class, we were doing our group reviews of one another’s work. We had such a small class we literally just sat in a circle and kumbayed our way through the class. The teacher, who wasn’t necessarily my favorite, kicked my butt into preparing for college writing. I didn’t believe her, but she was oh-so right, and I wish I could tell her that now. One day she posited, “Do you ask someone how they’re doing if you don’t really want to hear how they’re actually doing?”
My point is, we go throughout our days asking people how they are, more of a way to say hello than actually check-in with a friend, family member, or stranger. People unconsciously answer “good”, or “fine”, or, for those grammar snobs, “I am well.” (Unless you ask them how it is going and then it is good, but they are well.)
I’m a culprit of both the question and the answer — multiple times a day. While I still ask these type of questions as a way to greet people, I also am fully prepared and cannot mind when they answer honestly. Don’t ask if you don’t really want to know, to be blunt. This has come up on occasion with random people I’ve interacted with and it is always a great discussion. Most recently it was with our cashier at a Chik-Fil-A in downtown Chicago. If it weren’t for the line behind us, we could’ve gone on for 20 minutes.
When people automatically answer with, “good” or “great”, but their tone is flat and they have the enthusiasm of a 10 year-old told to clean their room, I want to follow up with, “Are you really good?”
Usually I answer these type of greeting/questions with “fine” because good and great, in my mind, are reserved for those truly good and great days. It isn’t that I’m not in a good mood or not happy, I just want good and great to mean something.
After a delicious diner breakfast with The H, I then waited a few hours before I could run without those hash browns reappearing. While out for my jog (because I’m underemployed I can go out to breakfast on a weekday and jog mid day, just another perk) and drifting in and out of attention to an episode of This American Life, I thought about if someone was going to ask how I am, or how my day/week has been, I would emphatically say, “Great!”
Truly, great. Nothing major has happened or changed. But, this week there was good news on many fronts and welcome surprises. And, who am I kidding, the Valentine goodie package of chocolate, homemade treats, and Girl Scout cookies sent by my mom (dad too!) and sister certainly help with my cheery-attitude.
Valentine’s Day aside, I sincerely hope you all have a good evening and weekend. And, the next time I see you and ask how you are, tell me for real!