NEW CASTLE —
Why do we humans feel a compulsion to acknowledge other humans who happen across our path? Why do we feel it necessary to greet a total stranger if his or her eyes accidentally meet with ours?
There must be some uncontrollable part of our psyche that implores us to recognize the existence of others from our species. Something deep down in our primal nature that at one time protected us and the human herd.
There are so many ways to achieve this socially acceptable recognition. There is the simple head nod, that quick, yet non-committal, acknowledgment of the other person. It tells the other person, “Yes, I see you, but keep moving because I really don't have anything to say.”
For this reason it is, perhaps, my favorite non-greeting greeting.
Another favorite seems to be the cliché, “How are you doing?” Though we really don’t care, we feel compelled to ask how this person is doing. In addition, we don’t expect a real answer. If someone were to answer this question with anything other than the familiar “fine” or “good,” we would be taken aback by his or her answer.
I have had a little fun with this concept over the years. When the anticipated question comes, I try to answer with something unusual that deviates from the expected response. If I answer with “terrible,” the interrogator tends to raise an eyebrow. If I reply with “tired,” they always tend to agree and add some antidote about how tired they are or how they were kept awake until the wee hours last night.
In an effort to maintain some type of social norm, I tend to stray away from the answers like “itchy” or “suspicious.” Those just tend to draw odd stares from my unwitting test subjects.
Another example of this forced scenario is the large chain stores that feel it necessary to have somebody shout hello as soon as you walk through the door.
Moe’s is perhaps the worst offender with the “Welcome to Moe’s” shout. That is just down right startling. There are also the big-box-stores with their “greeters” or the office supply superstore that makes its employees say hello to every person who walks in the door. This does not lend itself to an aura of friendliness or harken back to the good ol’ days of personal attention that you receive from a neighborhood store. What great, corporate mega-mind thought that a cookie cutter greeting to every person who walks through the door would enhance the feeling of community?
I just want to get my groceries, burritos, or office supplies, and get out of here. I don’t want or need some teenager or senior citizen asking how I am doing because they are forced to do so in exchange for a paycheck.
Sometimes I wish these situations had a mute button or that I was able to ignore them like unwanted calls on my cell phone. But, if you are a friend, relative, co-worker, or even a complete stranger, and are able to engage with meaningful conversation, please do. I cherish the enlightenment that your point of view can offer.
And with that I say, “Later, dude.”
NEW CASTLE —
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