by L.S. Fisher
I was at Walmart yesterday and the lady checking my groceries asked, “How are you?”
“Fine,” I answered, “And how are you?”
Thank goodness neither of us answered the question with great thought as to how things were really going. What if she had launched into a story about her husband’s cousin’s wife’s surgery with complete gory details while the person in line behind me tried to run over me with his cart?
About 99.9 percent of the time, if I ask how someone is, they reply, “Fine.” I noticed that Jim retained this “polite” conversational tool when his dementia was so advanced he could barely speak. If someone said, “How are you?” he would answer, “Fine.” He wasn’t able to verbalize just how awful his diagnosis was even if he’d wanted to share his state of being.
Even during the dark days when I was his caregiver, I never once answered a stranger’s polite inquiry with the truth. It was always the stock, and expected, answer.
Occasionally, you will get a more personal question, “How are you holding up,” from someone that knows the circumstances of your life. In that case, we might answer something like, “Things have been better.” Even with that hint of a problem, you might still just go on your un-merry way to avoid sharing your problems.
I just saw a Wisdom Quote on Facebook that said, “The worst part about being strong is that no one ever asks if you’re okay. It is true that when someone is caring for a loved one with a serious illness, often people only ask about the person with the health problem. They don’t stop to consider that often the caregiver is often exhausted physically and drained emotionally.
Most of us don’t like to be whiners. Plain and simple. Yet, there are those among us who love to whine. I do know certain people that I’ve learned the hard way to not ask the simple “How are you” question. These are the people who suffer the woe-is-me attitude if they have a hangnail. They will go on and on and on and on…then, when they have to “run” they throw off a casual “How are you” and walk away without waiting for an answer.
Even honest people tell this little white lie. I guess if you’re having a really bad day, it’s better than bursting into tears in the middle of the grocery store. No one wants to have a complete meltdown in public. Well, almost no one. Once again, there are those who try to get sympathy, or maybe a handout, from strangers.
It isn’t easy to avoid the pleasantries either. One day at a checkout, the young woman asked, “How are you?” I replied “Fine” as I tried to get the card to swipe. “I’m fine too,” she said. “Thanks for asking.” It sounded a whole lot like a rebuke to me for not continuing a pointless exchange. Or did she simply hear what she expected?
I plan to continue with the expected pleasantries even when it’s a big fat fib—at least with strangers. With whiners, I might just say “hello” and avoid eye contact.
Copyright © October 2015 by L.S. Fisher
What a great blog post, Linda!