Awe shucks Opie, here is 5 cents go buy yourself a soda pop. How did you become so naïve? I am thinking mercury was in the lake Andy and you spent all that time fishing around. Perhaps Aunt Bee put some extra ‘special’ ingredients in her delicious brownies that eventually fried your brain. Maybe you started to believe all those foolish tales Barney Fife told you.
You have to understand that Mayberry is a thing of the past. The sunny streets of southeastern North Carolina are just as dangerous as the gritty sidewalks of Compton, CA. No longer do people only named Doughboy, Ricky Baker, Mad Dog, Dooky, Furious Styles, Monster and Yo-Yo have to watch their backs on the way to the convenience store. Alexis, Charles, Buffy and James are just as vulnerable when they are heading to Abercrombie & Fitch. Living in the ‘burbs provides someone the same chance of being a victim of a vicious drive-by than growing up in the hood.
Don’t believe me? What if I told you that I witnessed with my own eyes a grand total of 52 drive-bys in a single 24-hour stretch? No need to worry. The victim in every incident survived, but was obviously startled over what they just experienced. I should know because I was the one getting shot up like Swiss cheese.
It might help to explain the weapons of choice were not bullets, but a quick shot of four small words. Yesterday, I managed to endure a barrage of vicious “hey how are you?” drive-bys. This social incident occurs when someone utters this phrase without even stopping to wait for a response. Here’s an example: lets say you are having one of those days where the clock hasn’t hit 10am and all you want to do is crawl back in bed, pull the covers over your head and start over. With your eyes all glazed over, you sip your burnt Dunkin Donuts coffee as you ponder how your life reached this point. Your thoughts are interrupted when a co-worker on their way to the copy machine passes by your cube and asks, “hey how are you?” Instantly, your spirits are lifted. Someone actually cares. However, before you can utter a word the co-worker is nowhere to be found. Without realizing it, you’ve become yet another victim of the “hey how are you?” drive-by.
In our culture “hey how are you?” has replaced “hello” as the standard greeting. The question mark at the end is irrelevant because more often than not the person asking the question is long gone before a response is given. They are expecting you to follow the social protocol of responding with a “fine,” “okay,” or “can’t complain.” Since I find this ritual puzzling could serve as an insight into why I am socially stunted. I am clueless when it comes to rules of conversations and relationships.
Just for fun, I decided to carry a small notepad and mark down every time I was hit with this “hey how are you?” line of questioning. Yesterday, it was 52 and counting. I decided to be a good boy and not verge from the agreed upon rules. However, the more times I said ‘fine’ I began to imagine the reaction one would receive if they strayed off course and actually told someone who asked how they really were doing. “Well Jim, let me tell you. Life doesn’t make much sense right now. My back hurts because I spent last night on the couch. My wife and I aren’t speaking. The kids are driving me absolutely insane and are constantly bouncing off the wall. We are living paycheck to paycheck. I spend the majority of my days in a square cube doing busy work my boss is too lazy to do. While I am working all I can think about is if this is all there is to life. I’m out of shape, angry and bitter. And to top things off I have this rash that won’t seem to go away. Care to take a look?”
There would be some who would continue along their way assuming you gave the normal answer of fine. Others would be forced to stop and pick up their jaw off the floor due to being in complete shock about your honesty. A few brave souls would actually stop, take the time to listen and eventually lend a helping hand. Now, don’t be rash (sorry couldn’t help myself). I am not saying we all should verbally throw up on every single person that asks what is up. But, maybe we take steps to let a select few into our world and if someone is vulnerable enough to share what is taking place with them we put everything else in neutral, stop our drive-by and listen.