How often has this happened to you?
It’s Tuesday, 7:50 am, and you’re strolling into work with through the warehouse entrance, your backpack casually slung over the shoulder as your left hand holds the strap and your right hand guides your bike. Way off, by the big double doors that lead to the plant, is one of your co-workers, let’s say it’s Cal, the 40-something accounts-payable guy, and he’s walking toward you.
Since he’s too far away for you to properly greet, you probably gaze at the floor or look around a bit or, if you’re like the author, you’ve trained yourself to involuntarily yawn whenever you’re in this situation so that by the time you’re finished yawning, you’re at a reasonable-enough distance to say something.
Now if he were a closer work-friend, like Nina, the feisty 50-something mother of four in the adjoining cubicle who keeps that little tin on her desk full of dark-chocolate Hershey Kisses, or Marvin, the 60-ish designer who’s just given up on life but who still has some great stories, you’d stop and chat, because you know them, and you like talking with them.
But it’s Cal.
And the only time you really had a conversation with Cal was at the company Christmas party when he’d had about seven Tanqueray-and-Tabs and kept going on about all the horrible things he wanted to do to Trish in receivables (“I got a receivable for you, Trish, you hear me?”) and how his wife has some ills and, “Yeah, I got that ointment like she told me,” and, yeah, that’s kind of why you never really talk to Cal.
So when you pass by him, you just say, “Morning, Cal.”
And his response?
He hits you with a drive-by HIG.
You know what I’m talking about: Where he says, “How’s it going?” and without even a courtesy pause to hear your answer, he just keeps on walking. Doesn’t even make eye contact.
When did this become an acceptable greeting?
Now I was raised in the Midwest, and I may not run the gamut of niceties; in describing our relationship, the words “socially retarded” are never far from a girl’s lips, but I do know that when I ask someone a question It’s polite to wait for a response.
Where I went to college, it was customary to greet everyone—everyone—with a, ”Hello” and a nod. You made eye contact, said your piece, and went on—but you would never, never ask a question without waiting for a response.
And that’s not something I learned in college; that’s something I and the whole of human decency is born knowing. It’s innate, like breathing or staying the Hell away from anyone who wears army fatigues and insists you call him “Uncle.”
So, again, I ask, “When did this become an acceptable greeting?”
I don’t think we’ll ever answer that question, so we should be asking ourselves, “How can we stop it?” And to that, if you’ll be kind enough to hear me out, I believe I have an answer.
Even if they don’t expect a response, you should give them one anyway—and one that’ll POW: hit ‘em broadside.
The next time someone gives you the drive-by HIG, just coolly reply,
“Well, I’ve coughed up worse things.”
For the non-sequitorial,
“The doctor said I’m Buddhist?”
Or my personal favorite,
“One day closer to suicide.”
That should turn some heads.
And please, tell me how it went.
Nat is a new contributor for Frothygirlz.