P.J. O’Rourke said, “Don’t send funny greeting cards on birthdays or at Christmas. Save them for funerals, when their cheery effect is needed.”
Instead of “Hello,” or “How are you?” why not ask this question instead: “Are you happy?” If someone calls you out for it, tell them you recently adjusted your medications. Only brave souls and people who would be awesome at parties will linger after that justification.
The obvious “is happiness the goal of life” nonsense aside, anything that catches a person’s ear beats the usual boring salutation. (Even yodeling, if you like that sort of thing. Just don’t take lessons if the instructor accepts coupons for his tutelage.)
Those who know me hear me say “Terrible!” frequently when someone asks, “How are you?” I often get a genuine laugh from it, especially if I ham it up in tone or volume. Hell, to be honest, I usually laugh first. It’s a spoiler alert at that point. Indeed, many people don’t notice the content of my response. That’s okay. It’s unreasonable to expect most people to notice anything unusual in the scope of an otherwise fill-in-the-blank moment. There’s probably a generalized indictment of society in there somewhere – but you won’t see me making it. (And not just because I detest the word “indictment.” Put the ‘dite’ in there, already.) We’re busy people, on the way to do essential things and argue on the internet about things that don’t affect us in any meaningful way.
By way of experiment, you should try it for yourself. “Terrible!” should be your response. Make it exaggerated. Enough people will laugh for you to be able to say, “I made you laugh.”
Only a real asshole resents a laugh.
Lucky for us, most of them work retail.
(I wrote the above quote as a marketing ploy. It seems to be accurate, much in the same way that no matter how many times you nibble on someone’s ear, it is always one time too few.)
Also, if my day, year, or life is temporarily or permanently terrible, it’s unwise to unload that fact onto others needlessly. You’re supposed to save those moments to inflict on your close personal friends and family. That’s what they get for staying inside your orbit. If you read that without realizing it was peckishly funny, you need to switch to decaffeinated coffee.
If you’re feeling adventurous, use “Not hello” in place of “Goodbye” and “Not goodbye” for “Hello.” Other languages have words that mean both “goodbye” and “hello.” If you’re a fan of the phrase, “Good day” can mean both in modern English, even if no one will immediately understand it in both contexts.
If none of those methods suit you, I propose that all your salutations use ONLY consonants. (Sorry, Finland.) If you think that would be hard to do, imagine the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, which has 820 living languages.
If you don’t believe words can work magic and light your mind with fire, consider this: “The problem with sex in the movies is that the popcorn usually spills.”
Since I always work this joke into these conversations, you can also adopt one I stole from a comedian. He says, “DiGiorno,” like the pizza brand, to say both “hello” and “goodbye.” Though the joke is old now, I still laugh most of the time when I use it. I said “DiGiorno” to a doctor this morning, much to my amusement. I’m not sure what he thought I said, but he replied, “Same to you!” with a grin. I’m hoping that it worked itself into his subconscious, and he later opted for pizza for lunch.
One of the things on my bucket list is to be on a ship that’s sinking. I’m going to run up to the Captain and ask him which lifeboat is the non-smoking one.
Back to the “Are you happy?” premise.
I think if you make eye contact and use it enough, you’ll eventually get an answer that is so honest that it surprises you. You might learn something about another person. For example, you might also learn that the person is nuts. But that’s something.
So, I ask you: Are you happy?
I’ll stop and listen either way. I’m hoping you are, and that ridiculous things like the one you’re reading can trigger a smile in your heart. That’s where you spend most of your day, anyway, listening to the narrative of your internal voice. Say “Not hello” to that voice and say something creative and ridiculous to those around you.
It’s 2020. Normal was evicted and displaced by whatever we choose to put there.
P.S. “The last thing I want to do is insult you. But it IS on the list.” – Anonymous