If there is one question I face everyday in my life, it is the “How are you” question.. I have to think about that every single time! I bump into that in the office elevator, in meetings, in grocery stores, in my son’s school, at the hair cuttery, and even in a bathroom.. no, I am not kidding!! And then I have to come up with various kinds of answers! If you ask me, “How are you” is one of the most abused questions of modern times! I am not sure how many people who ask this question are really interested in the answer! Even I am not sure if I am either! I think when two people face each other, they have to say something.. just like 2 Ants..! Have you seen 2 ants bumping into each other and exchanging some words? 😉 This is similar.. and this question is one way to address that situation.. !
Everyone has his own way of dealing with this question. Some people just smile or nod.. so basically they understand the need of that other person to address them with this question, but they don’t feel the need to return the favor! Most people fall in the “I am Good, and how are you” category. I think that’s a reasonable category. Some people might say “Not too bad”, which is supposed to be “I am Ok, but not so good”.. Then there is the “Been better” category, which means “things are bad, but not so bad”!!
Of course, it depends on the relationship between the two people. But there are some who really grab the opportunity, no matter who they are talking to. So I was in my office kitchen one day, just getting my first cup of coffee.. This “distant colleague” of mine walks in, so I just threw the usual “How are you” at him hoping to get a short answer… but no, he started telling me how he spent his weekend, how he took his family to see cherry blossom and oooh, the weather was nice, it was sooo wonderful, but how the flowers did not look fresh, how they differed from the ones he saw 25 years ago, how global warming is causing all this, how my drinking coffee from that disposable cup is the culprit for ruining the planet.. and his cherry blossom!!!.. and on and on.. I was standing there, fast losing my appetite for that morning caffeine, hoping to get back to my desk, cursing myself on why I ever asked this question to him in the first place! And I was wondering, what my response could be, next time someone asks me this question that morning…! Yeah, “been better”! ?
This “How are you” can happen anywhere.. I was in AOL at that time, and one day, I was in the office bathroom.. A colleague walks in and is using the urinal next to me.. we had met in the morning, and exchanged some pleasantries already.. but still he throws this question over the privacy wall to me – “hey, how is it going”… huh? Now in the bathroom too?? Didn’t we just talk about it an hour back?! Now what am I supposed to say here? I just ended up giving him the smile+nod treatment!
Most people don’t care what you say to this question, but some do – like this incident that happened on a Monday, as I was walking in, at my workplace. The security guy says “How are you?”.. I wasn’t too happy that morning since it was a Monday.. you know, you are not supposed to feel good on a Monday, if you do, there is something terribly wrong with you! 😉 ..so I said “Not too bad”.. I thought two negations should settle the question to an acceptable degree! But no, the guy insists that I should be more positive, and say that I am feeling wonnnnderful! But I refused to say that, because that wasn’t the truth and I did not want to mislead myself into thinking that I was indeed feeling wonderful! But he wouldn’t budge and settle for anything less! Finally, I just said I will see what I can do next time.. but Mondays are Mondays buddy!! ….I must say, this was the only time when whatever I said in response to this question mattered to someone!
But overall, you get so used to this question though, that it almost becomes mechanical.. you start answering even before someone asks you this question sometimes! I have done it – so someone says “Hi” and you reply with a “Hi, I am good” and then realize – oh, he didn’t even ask me how I was doing!! And now, you are NOT doing so good after all! 😉
But we continue with our habit – ask when you don’t want to know, you tell when nobody is really listening.. ([For the Speech] And btw, sorry I did not ask you all, how you were doing this afternoon! So how are you all? ….Well, never mind! 😉