Do not ask, “How are you?”, unless you really want to know

by Ken Carpenter

There are many salutations you can use when greeting a person. Hi, hello, howdy, good to see you and a host of others. Most depend on the individual you meet, for if you choose the wrong words they may take you literally and inform you about every physical ailment they have had in the last six months.
“Well, I’m not one to complain (yeah right!), but my hemorrhoids have been enflamed for three weeks. I can hardly sit down, and all that standing up has my bunions doing cartwheels. To top it all off, my bowels have been in an uproar and I don’t dare get farther than 20 feet from a bathroom. That’s OK though, because I never know when the dry heaves are gonna hit me. Well, have a nice day.”
You stagger off, your cheeks a pale shade of green, and then you round the corner and bump into Great Aunt Mabel! You know her intestinal afflictions, real or imagined, could fill a medical journal. So instead of asking how she is you say, “Why Aunt Ethel, you look 20 years younger today!”
“What’s that you say boy? Why, your eyes must be as bad as my colon. I had to go to the doctor last week and he crammed 52 inches of one-inch hose up my behind, and that was just the warm-up. Does that sound like I am 20 years younger?”
Your pasty complexion then progresses three darker shades of green, your stagger becomes more pronounced, and you head for the nearest bar before you run into any other hypochondriacs.
Big mistake. There are as many complainers in bars as there are anywhere, and alcohol often makes their problems appear worse.
Complaining has been a top ten human pastime since man could use nothing but grunts and gestures to communicate his ailments and bad luck. Thank goodness that Mabel didn’t have to do so!
What is it about the human condition that makes so many of us want to assault others with our tales of woe? Or tails of woe, whatever they may be.
I think it is a combination of several things. Number one, if you are miserable you want others to share your misery in hopes that it will make you feel better. Quite often it does, but that is no excuse to go around describing your latest attack of explosive diarrhea. Save it for your enemies, not your friends.
Number two, a great many folks don’t figure they get enough sympathy in their day-to-day life. Telling a casual acquaintance every detail about how you sat on a claw hammer and had to have it surgically removed probably seems like a good way to get some pity tossed their way.
It is not; they don’t want to hear it and once they do they will tell everyone they know about it, like it is the best joke they ever heard. Before they are done telling and re-telling it, you will have had a 45-pound jackhammer removed from your ass after carrying it around for three hours at the shopping mall.
Exaggerating is another top ten human pastime, and a devilishly delightful one it is, too.
Now we get to Number three, the craving for attention. Many of us are perfectly content to be wallflowers. We don’t want attention paid to us, and if it is we find a way to deflect it toward others.
A lot of those others spend most of their life wanting more consideration paid to them, and by golly if the only way they can get it is to tell their acquaintances all about last week’s stool sample, they will. They love to think that they are the center of the known universe.
All of this is well and good, but how on earth do us acquaintances put a stop to it?
You can keep your greetings simple, but that may not be enough to save you. If somebody who obviously has a ten-minute rectal exam description in store for you traps you on the sidewalk, take a nice deep breath before saying or doing anything.
After you release the breath, grimace like you have never grimaced before, grab your stomach with both hands, and in your best panic-stricken voice belt out “Irritable Bowel Syndrome!” and take off running down the street.
It works every time.