Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's not me, it's you

I met my friend 'Jon' (not Jon from Colorado, though that would have been nice..) at a local cafe last Saturday. We had lots to catch up on. I was reading this book by a Mennonite woman which I was quite enjoying. I read Jon one of the lines to demonstrate that he would like this book too. This father character had just been left by his wife.. His uncle came to visit him and asked how he was doing: 'Oh, unexceptional. Living quietly with my disappointments'.
Jon and I were really taken with that line. We immediately thought of how useful a retort that would be at work. We both work in office buildings inhabited by many people that we have to greet daily, and we are both rather anti-social people. Well, that's not exactly right. We are actually very sociable, love meeting new people.. But the environment of forced sociability is rather suffocating to us.. Yeah, that's it exactly.. And in office buildings when co-workers pass you in the hall as you're silently enduring your own private hell, it's very jarring to be asked 'How are you?' and knowing there's only one correct answer.. But now Miriam Toews has given us an alternative! We can respond, 'Living quietly with my disappointments'.. Jon got that happy twinkle in his eye, like he was really eager to try out this new line.. Then it hit me full force, and I couldn't stop laughing: Jon could NEVER use this line, because he NEVER lives quietly with his disappointments! He wasn't quiet after a race he ran a few years ago when he angrily berated his performance in front of anyone who would listen.. Or who was stupid enough to claim pride in their own performance.. ''Oh, you did good in the race? That's great.. I SUCKED! Yeah, my father got all the good genes, he was fast, but I've been SCREWED!' I must admit, my embarrassment at people looking at us took precedence over feeling bad for him.. No, he wasn't quiet then.. But I'll always stand by Jon. I know where he's coming from. That's why I didn't yell at him too much when he took the entire pan of Debbie's leftover salmon home with him.
Male friends. Give me strength.


~Deb said...

May the 'force be with him'. Living quietly with the disappointment of a beautiful bartender being too busy to serve up a martini can be frightful, to say the least!

I'm not sure how well that line would work for me, because I do nothing but bitch and moan,...but I do make a mean salmon.

Whatchya' doing tonight? Dinner? Movie? Wine? Friends? Laughter?

LAWDY LAWDY I sound like a Hallmark card.

I gotta go take my meds now babe. Hope you're day is going great!

Kevin said...

Tamar: Interesting post and very thought provoking. When people ask you how you're doing, they're really trying to just say hello. They obviously don't want to hear your life story and probably aren't trying to get to know you better.

I work at a big location with many people and a lot of new hires in the past several years, many that I don't know. Most people give some response when you pass them in the hallway. What amazes me is the people that totally ignore you. I wonder if they're not social or just in the zone. I always try to say hello or good morning to people when I pass them in the hallway.

There's a number of people whose paths I cross continually but don't really know them. After several months of saying hello I sometimes get to know them a little better. We're not likely to become best of friends, but it's nice to get to know people a little and it's not hard with minimal effort.

On the other hand, if someone says hello or asks me how I'm doing, I'll sometimes tell them something random that's happening in my life, such as I'm doing a long run the next day.

Anyway, the next time I pass someone in the hallway I'll try to say hello rather than "how are you doing", but I will try to say hello to everyone I pass. Who knows, a simple hello may brighten someone's day.

Myrsurv said...

I love the ones who ask "how are you?" but walk by so fast that by the time I am getting my "fine, tha....n...k you" they are gone. But, my all time favorite is the one that people feel compelled to ask me after my serious illness: "how do you feel?", I like to answer with a "how I feel about what?" or "better than I look but that is not much to say"

Kevin, I know you would never just ask "how are you?"

Jon said...

Tamar, are you trying to make me blush? You succeeded.

My dad's favorite come back to a "How are you?" was always "I was better, but I got over it". I always loved that line.

~Deb said...

Myrsurv, no one ever wants to really know how you're doing. They should just stop using, 'how are you', and say, 'hello' instead. Or when they say 'how are you' back --without telling you how they were doing.

Ugh. My brain hurts!

Myrsurv said...

we're all posting comments here and Tamar is no where to be found!, how are you?

~Deb said...

I'm good thank you. It's so nice of Tamar to let us use her blogger living room. The sad thing is, nobody is offering any drinks in here.

I think Tamar's slacking on the writing! She's not here, we can talk about her now...


Myrsurv said...

drinks and Tamar, two perfect subjects..."Tamar, would you like an apple martini? no, that's too sweet. What about a cranberrry martini? no, too sour, maybe I'll have wine or maybe a beer or what about...let me think a little longer..."
Tamar, where are you???!!!!!!!

tamar said...

Ahhhhh.. Nice to be missed, hope no one really worried.. A friend just turned 40, so I had to whip together a scrapbook of memories.. That was fun..

~deb.. it took me a minute to wonder who the beautiful bartender was, and to ask myself if I should be concerned? haha.. yes..

~kevin & Myr.. it really is a subject worth exploring.. One thing we all need reminding of, is as much thought and emotion as we carry around with us in our own little worlds, all of our co-workers are as well.. who knows what anyone is really thinking or feeling? most of those people that are not responding to good mornings are most likely very shy and unaware that they're being addressed.. or maybe they're the next ones to go postal.. I guess for me, I'm very literal, and if someone asks point blank, how are you, I can't bare to lie and tell them I'm ok when I'm usually not, at work.. but there are very few if any people I work with that I want to share my feelings with.. I think a smile is really the best thing.. knock off all these false greetings and just smile.. that works great in public, really DOES make someone's day.. or how about this? in israel where peace is so sorely lacking, the word for hello, 'shalom', means peace.. in botswana where water is so scarce, the word for their currency is pula, meaning 'water'.. so then it follows that here in america.. where we so dearly lack.. hmmm.. I'm not sure.. I guess identity or self-worth.. as witnessed by the craze of obsessions over the rich and famous.. therefore, when we greet each other at work, instead of saying "how are you" and "hello", we could start reinforcing our own self-worth by saying "I'm somebody too".. I really don't see it catching on, but I like it..

~jon.. ah, your father was another realist.. also a sag?

~deb & myr.. drinks for all very soon!

~myr.. you're not at work? hey, GOOD LUCK!!! Kick butt and make your goals.. I'm routing for you, and want to hear all about your experience..

Kevin said...

Tamar: Instead of asking people how they are, I've taken to trying to ask people specfics. For example, I asked the attendant at the JCC how his foot was and got to hear a detailed version of his re-hab plans are in hoping not to have surgery.

I've also tried to engage in subtle conversation by dropping tidbits such as "I'm hoping for good weather this weekend, I'm doing a long run". Most people will answer, with some there will be pregnant pauses which I also enjoy.

Either way, we're not going to get to know everybody we come in incidental contact with. For the most part everybody I work with or come into contact with while working out seem like nice people so I don't mind if they ask me how I'm doing instead of just saying hello.

Myr: What's new? You know I'd never just ask how you are!

~Deb said...

Did someone say drinks???

Jon said...

I'm a Sag, He was a Cancer

Mike said...

When asked how she is (at least on bad days, my cousing Lynnie answers: "In pain."

Now THAT is a conversation ender!

DevilInside said...


Your dad's come back line is good


Going to work would be more exciting listening to people walk
past each other in the office saying " I'm somebody too"

tamar said...

devil~ wow, you found one of my favorite posts! AND you read all the comments! Sounds like you've had some office experience too? I think everyone should go through that as a sort of mandatory life training course..