It is 12:44 AM, and I need to be up at 6 AM to beat rush hour to my 8 AM class.
Wisdom is calling me to bed, but something (and just a little caffeine) has been consuming my mind of late, and until I cannot rest comfortably until I come to some conclusion.
Last week sometime, I was walking across campus when I looked up to find myself being approached by an older lady. This did not cause undue discomfort, and I looked up to smile politely as we passed, only to find myself flummoxed when she smiled and asked, “And how are you?”
At this point, we were side by side, passing each other, so the word, “Good,” barely had time to pass my lips before gravity pulled us both forward in our respective trajectories. I felt quite rude, as I had not been able to reciprocate in asking her to assess her general level of happiness for the sake of an inane greeting.
Shortly thereafter, I passed a guy I had previously met at the gym; more accurately, I had accidentally stolen a machine from under him, so we have essentially exchanged staph infections, which I believe makes us brethren of a sort. Anyway, he, too, asked me how I was in passing, and once more, I barely had time to respond, let alone ask him how he was, before we had passed each other.
Finally, that same day as I walked to my car, I crossed paths with a bleached blonde surfer-looking dude who, with a voice like melted honey, inquired as to how I was. Yet again, I had hardly murmured, “Fine,” before the chance for any reciprocal inquiries had passed by and I was left pondering whether I am an actively rude greeting-exchanger or if I had just run into a slew of people who lacked a sense of conversational rhythm.
So please, dear friends, prepare me for my next such encounter. When you pass someone who asks you how you are, are you supposed to actually answer? Will a “hello” suffice, as he or she is probably not actually concerned with your overall health and happiness? Must you attempt to blurt out, “I’mdoingwellthankyouandhowareyoutoday?”, which will essentially leave you talking to the person’s retreating back? Any insights you have would be very useful. I am baffled and beginning to develop some social phobia as a result of this conundrum. Please help me be a functional social creature once more!