Thursday, October 4, 2007

Meaningless Questions

"How are you?"

How many times do you hear that question. Probably hundreds of times a year. It's usually said with a handshake or in passing in a public place. How are you? "How are you" has become the "Hi." of this generation. And it's another of my pet peeves. But I do have a solution. Yes, it's true...I've been giving this one waaaaaaay to much think-time. And I've come up with a solution.

The next time someone asks you how you are, be honest. That's all you have to do. The scene would look something like this;

Susan: (in passing) How are you?

Kathy: I'm terrible. (runs to catch up with Susan who is trying to make her get-away) It all started when I got up this morning and discovered my dog had experienced intestinal problems during the night. Then we didn't have milk for breakfast so I had to send Junior to school with no breakfast, which prompted an investigation of our family life. Well later that night, as I was driving to the store for more milk, I got pulled over and the policewoman happened to be a former classmate, one that I accidentally locked in her locker years ago. So I ended up in jail and with only one phone call to make. I called my husband of course, and when he answered, he started telling me about his horrible day at work. I keep trying to get a word in and he finally says "You always interrupt when I'm trying to talk to you" and hangs up. And then...

Susan: (slowly backs away)

So you see...problem solved. You can bet that Susan won't be asking Kathy how she is anymore. Mission accomplished.

Tomorrow: Another meaningless question



DB said...

 funny you say this. I’m in Russia working as an ESL teacher. About a month after I got here, one of the other teachers (she’s Russian) took me aside and asked me why I was always asking “How are you?” when I walked into the school but then never waited for her to give me an answer. It never occurred to me before then that people could actually answer with anything other than “ok.”

Karen L. Alaniz said...

db-That is SO interesting! I'm sure there are lots of strange things we Americans say. It's a good lesson isn't it? We should say what we mean, and mean what we say.

Thanks for the comment.


benbradley said...

I had a hard time with idioms (there's actually a NAME for these things! Who knew?) growing up, as well as other nonsensical but "social" sayings. After decades of excruciatingly painful social interactions, I stumbled onto answering with "Fine, how are you?" and the asker or the original question responds with "Fine" and then goes on to say what they (oops, he or she) really intended to say in the first place. Most people really don't give a darn how I am and would rather talk about themselves anyway.

I just read John Robison's "Look Me In The Eye" in which he goes into this sort of thing, taking what people say literally rather than knowing the idioms.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Oh Ben, I'm glad you reminded me. I want that book. Yes I'm sure John has a lot to say about that. I've worked with children with Autism and much of what we say is very confusing to them.

It just feels like such an impersonal society sometimes, like we really don't want to know how the other person is and as you said, we just want to blab about ourselves. (like I just did right now)