NOTE: Sorry for the delay guys. Posts will be more regular from here on.
(Cashier) Hi! I’m Brady: Hello! I can ring you up over here, Sir! How are you doing today?
Nazran: Hi. Good. You?
Hi! I’m Brady: Great, thank you!
Nazran: You know, not really. Hmm. To be honest I actually feel like shit, Brady! Burnt my fingers trying to serve crab cakes in a smoldering Pyrex dish yesterday and they still hurt! Look at that. You see that, it’s a blister now. I really don’t need this crap you know. I’ve got like a final presentation in class tomorrow and now this fried-up thumb. You know how hard it is to focus with these finger fries! Like why me. I tried putting water and butter on it right, but that just seemed to make it worse. Actually think it might be swelling now. That’s not even the start of it Brady, so last night I even…
Hi! I’m Brady: Sir! You’re kind of holding up the entire line! That’s $39.58, now will that be debit or credit? Thank you; you have a great day now!
Nazran:(thought): F$#k you!
Nazran: (actual): You too!
“When two people are first introduced, the dialogue normally goes something like: “How do you do?” “Fine, thank you. How are you?” “Fine, thanks.” After the first meeting, there are two kinds of greetings. The more formal is “Good Morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good Evening.” The less formal is simply “Hello” or just “Hi.” Any of these greetings may be followed by “How are you?” To this one should answer “Fine, thank you,” whether you are fine or not! (WTF?) These ritual greetings are much shorter than those to which people from many other countries are accustomed (NO SHIT). The American casual parting remark “See you later,” means “goodbye,” and does not mean that the person saying it has a specific intention to see you later”
University of Florida – Guide for International Students
Aren’t we all just individuals trying to speedily get by with our own lives, and happy to do so with as little care as we can about strangers? Don’t you feel it at times? That machine in you which suddenly clicks on, signaling you to display a fake smile and utter some well practiced timeless phrase which will help you instantly get by without the need for real a conversation? So we say that biggest lie of all, that four lettered, one syllable word—“fine”.
There’s nothing wrong about that, it’s just being human. No wait, it isn’t. It’s just about absent-mindedly conforming to a society’s norms. Isn’t it?
You feel like crap because you just broke up and you tell the Domino’s Pizza guy delivering you a Large deep dished Philly Cheese Steak Pizza and Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes, everything is just “fine, thank you.” You’re rushing to class and the last thing you need to do is talk to dear Nancy who tries to be a certified therapist at the reception desk by asking about your day, so you shout, “fine!” You feel like punching your friend who just ditched you for some random excuse, and you “abort conversation” with that jobless stranger on the road who purposely eyed, and bumped into you, to convey what a beautiful day it is for him, by just mindlessly agreeing that it is a “fine” day. A smile. A nod. You walk along.
So do we really need to pretend like we care about all these mannerisms when we don’t? Of course, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some people actually do take that extra effort out of genuine sincerity. That’s just them, the 0.016% of the world’s population. Not you (or me).
So it’s almost a year since I’ve started living in the U.S, and I find myself becoming this robot saying all these mindless courtesies. In previous visits to the US I only observed the concept, but when it comes to actually living here, it gets you. Unfortunately, I’m anything but a robot because I keep on mechanically blundering by saying “fine, thank you” and “great” to random people before they even bother to ask me how the hell I am. What! Awkward. Anyway, apart from ill timing, I find my self repeatedly snapping the wrong phrase like “you too!” when people ask “how are you doing today?”
But I think all these courtesies are positive, in that coming from Sri Lanka where strangers (note, I mean strangers) don’t stop to give a thought about your day or you. It’s nice to engage in some form of conversation with random faces. All that needs to be put into the script is sincerity. Otherwise, we might as well just shut up, and move along without the effort of acting like stage dummies. But still, I’m guilty as charged. Aren’t you? Adieu.