22 How You Doin’?
When you ask people how they are, do you really mean it? Do you genuinely care how they are? Or are you saying it for the sake of saying it? Would it be more impossible if you were to ask this ‘how are you?’ question to a total stranger?
Once there was a discussion between me and a friend. I brought up a story of how I often asked my customers at a cafe, where I used to work at, how they were doing — on a daily basis. According to him, I was being too nice to even care how they felt. These people used to go there almost every single day. There was even an old lady who would go there just to say ‘hi’ to me. So, yes, I did care how they were. Although it might seem foolish of me to care for them because they were, after all, strangers to me.
In college, I knew a classmate who asked me how I felt in the morning, in the afternoon and before the class ended. I used to feel disturbed by her ‘how are you?’s. It perplexed me how she kept asking me the same old question, when it was only 5 minutes ago that she asked me that. Now I realize why she did that.
People ask others ‘how are you?’ for several reasons. When you want to start a conversation with someone (whether s/he is a stranger or not), first you might want to ask how the person feels then continue with your main question. When you have not seen somebody for a period of time, you might want to ask that question, too. There are other reasons.
Between the period of college and then, it never mattered to me to ask how people around me were doing. I always thought that I could catch up later on and see them again. Until it struck me one day. A phone call from my friend to tell me that Franz, an acquaintance of mine, had just passed away. A few times that I met him, I had neither asked how he was nor cared how he felt.
The same regret I feel whenever I remember friends from the past whom I have not gotten a chance to meet up with for quite a long time. If only I knew how they were doing and up to, I would be contented. Believe me, it feels good to know how others are, especially those you care for. Because nobody knows what tomorrow holds and it does not hurt to be ‘nice’.
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