What Do You Say When Someone Asks “Hi, How Are You?”

a funnycomic about pleasantries

The other day I was watching a standup comedy show by a famous comedian. After his usual stuff, the guy talked about how fake pleasantries are these days. And maybe have always been? 

He mentioned how ‘Hello, how are you?’ is such a superficial question and how you seldom expect any answer that is but a variation of ‘Fine, thanks, how about you?’ 

Absolutely true!

He then talked about an incident where he didn’t get the usual answer. Instead, the person he asked took the question literally and gave him a full glowing summary of how he was doing. And in painstaking detail. 

The audience laughed as he did quite an animated sketch of this episode. Then, he moved on to other bits of his routine.

I didn’t. I was stuck.

My first reaction: Oh my god! How many times have I done this? Told a person how I was actually doing? Or Have I done that? 

How many times have I been this loser that the comedian has been talking about? One is naïve enough to be pouring her heart out in front of a stranger, not knowing that they will be an infamous star from a comedy bit in the future.

Oh, the world! Oh, the people!

It took me a while to realize that all this rumination was for nothing! For the simple reason that I am incapable of doing this when asked ‘How about you’?


Because I am a prisoner of pleasantries. 

It doesn’t mean anything. It’s an ailment I invented for myself. My brain, for some reason, runs in a loop; the only answer that will come out of my mouth when someone asks me this question is, ‘Good, good, how about you?’ 

I don’t seem to be able to get anything else out of the mouth at all. 

It’s as if my brain has set a default answer for this question, and anything other than this default gets overridden nanoseconds before I open my mouth.

Me: Come on! It’s so lame; I can’t keep saying the same thing repeatedly. It looks as if I have memorized the response to such a simple question. Let me say something else!

Brain: It’s not lame; why would you think that? It’s so efficient. Like you guys say, ‘short and sweet.’

Me: No, it’s not. It’s robotic; I want to be creative in my responses.

Brain: Creativity and you? Are you sure?

Me: That’s so rude!

Brain: No, seriously! There is beauty in repetition. Didn’t you watch in a show the other day that Feynman decided to have chocolate ice cream his entire life, so he had one less decision to make?

Me: Oh yes, I did. I didn’t think you’d register stuff about scientists and all!

Brain: Oh, I register all right.

Me: You are annoying; I don’t know if I own you or you own me.

Brain: That a question?


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