Newspaper Article Archive of
This simple story begins with a person who upon meeting another on the street becomes drawn into inquiring eagerly, “How are you?”
The answer is a swift and casual: “Fine--and you?” To which
a reply (to self, since the other person is already moving away quickly) produces a response of “Me?” “Well, it’s like this…my back hurts (every time I stand up); my head aches (migraines, you know); my legs wobble all the time (nerves are shot); my stomach churns (food gets stuck); and the doctors say I need some serious work done to my ‘lateral sphincter’, whatever that is.”
(The story continues.)
“I probably should look that up sometime to see what it means; but I’m almost afraid to because it sounds pretty serious. I haven’t want to ask anybody because it might be more than I need to hear, you know, and that’d be a real problem because I don’t have much money-- you know, I mean-- with times being so bad right now, everywhere, and we’re all having to make do the best we can?”
“I want to tell you it has been a real struggle keeping a good hold on life, you know how it is; and --I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been fighting against for so long to happen to my worst enemy if I had one, mind you I don’t have a worst one, but if I did I’d feel real sorry for him because I want to tell you it’s been tough, really tough…”
(The story winds down…)
“I heard you say you’re ‘fine’, good for you, me too some of the time; but then, we never know what’s coming at us--up ahead do we, and we have to keep a sharp look out don’t we?”
(Yes, indeed, we do.)
We have these sorts of ordinary greeting exchanges every day. We say “How are you (today, this morning, this evening …)?” systematically –robotically; over and over -- to anyone, everyone, or no one, in particular. What do we expect in return: a quick nod (?) an “I’m fine”? That’s it? Sometimes we get more than we want or need.
While we are engaged in the basic provenance of a formal greeting we often want to deliver it ‘to’—, not ‘for exchange with’-- the person we’ve just met. That is the likely reason for the formality we cling to. Is it we don’t care or do we just don’t care ‘right now’?
Was it ‘me’ to whom you spoke today? You were asked: “How are you”? It might’ve been me; you didn’t linger long enough to answer with more than with a quick: “Fine.” Maybe I wanted to talk with you about something important. (You were ‘really busy’). You say you’re sorry if I needed to speak with you. (I am a bit boring, at times, I know.)
By the way the term: ‘lateral sphincter’ suggests a possible problem near the lower face area (the mouth) and the sometimes ‘excessive’ motion there. But, you already knew that, of course, didn’t you? Before we met? “Catch me later?”