The other day I was introduced to an older man. Everything appeared normal, I was new, he was new, we knew someone in common, I was relaxed and at ease with the whole, natural process. That all changed as we began to shake hands. He looked me square in the eye, and boldly asked, “How do you do?” Suddenly I snapped into focus and was forced to pay attention to what was going on. Whaa? Was that a question? What did that mean? I had a mere second to decide. Without realizing what I was doing I released several responses, slurring together odd fragments,”Good. I do good. How you? Nice to meet you.” Then I wiped the saliva from the corners of my mouth and looked down in shame.
Looking back I’ve realized the proper response is practically no response at all. A reciprocal, “How do you do” is all that is expected.
Bob:How do you do?
John: How do you do?
Me: Sorry John. But I believe you just answered Bob’s question with the same question. So…?
By the end of the dialogue no one has learned anything. In fact, no one is really looking to know how you do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But let’s stop asking questions we don’t want the answer to. Besides why would I want to tell a complete stranger how I’m doing? We haven’t even met. We are literally in the process of meeting. Asking about my well-being upfront is a little personal, don’t you think? Imagine if we actually did answer the question.
Bob: How do you do?
John: Thank you for asking. You see I’m feeling a little conflicted…The thing is I really didn’t want to come to this party; I feel uncomfortable making small chat with complete strangers, and not to mention I’ve been having problems at home, and the more time I spend away from my kids, the more my wife resents me. And since we haven’t been sleeping in the same bed for the last 5 months, I’m feeling sort of stressed about the whole thing. How do you do..uh, sorry what did you say your name was again?
Why don’t we just shake hands, smile a little, and leave it at that for now? We’ve got plenty of time once we actually know each other to do a deep, personal dive. Just give it some time.
The real question is who did this old guy think we was. I swear he knew what he was doing, speaking like Shakespeare just to see me crack. I wish I had just told him I was feeling sort of gassy. Check mate.