Sunday, September 18, 2005

on People Who Respond to the Question "How Are You?" Literally

I'm a pretty freakin' nice person. I'm not one of those big-eyed, big-toothed, salesperson types who offers a chirpy "How ARE you?" that sounds like it should be served on top of waffles when they really mean, "I happen to be walking by you and can't very well just IGNORE you, can I?"

No, I'm pretty freakin' sincere. Right? I care. If you're my friend, and you call me and I say, "how are you?", I want to know. If you're a friend of a friend that I met once at some random place and I thought your name started with a P instead of a B, and you call me and I say, "how are you?", I want to know. If you're reading my blog, and you somehow get my number and you call me and I say, "how are you?", I'm simultaneously calling the police on my cell, but that's beside the point.

But there are times when "how are you?" does not warrant much of a response. When you're at work and you're walking by a colleague and you say, "Hi John, how are you?" The correct response is any of the following:

"Good, Red, how are you?"
"Good thanks, and you?"
"Fine, you?"
"Doing OK, thanks."

The correct response does NOT begin with "well..." It especially does NOT begin with a big sigh and then a "well..." It also does not begin with "actually...," "let's put it this way...," or "to be honest..."

You get my point. But there's a guy at the Place I Work who does not understand the rules. The first time I experienced his rambling and apparent lack of social cues, it was only the second time I ever met him. We were passing briefly in the hall and I quickly said, "Hi, What's-His-Name, how are you?" The encounter lasted just long enough for a "good," "fine," or an "OK." Maybe even an opportunity for him to inquire the same of me and for me to reply quickly. But no. I got the "well..." And not just the "well," but the "well, Red..." He welled me AND named me, and I immediately knew I was in it for the long haul.

You can imagine my horror when he walked into my office the other day and started talking. What the hell could I do? I could've been stuck there all day. I wished for Supergirl to breeze in, thinking the two of them might be a match made in heaven: He loves to talk, and she LOVES EVERYTHING! What could be better?

But no, I was alone. For the most part, if you wander into my office and I'm not busy and your overall presence doesn't make me want to die, I'm all for seeing you. But it's just not that simple with this guy. So eventually I did that mostly-stare-at-my-laptop-screen-and-say-"uh-huh"-a-lot until he went away. Yes, it's shitty. But what can you do? I hate ramblers, especially when they make you feel like you don't even need to be there. They just want to talk, and talking to oneself is still considered socially unacceptable in most circles. I'm casting my vote for making it A-OK, if only to help unload people like this from my life.

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