23 July 2007

And have a nice day

Once a month we receive a community magazine. It's mostly a who's who of our suburb and a socialite calender. Nothing special. But occasionally something will strike me as funny, and if nothing else, it's great writing fodder (talk about your quirks). This month, I lit upon an article critiquing greetings. The writer tells a common anecdote. She steps into Starbucks and asks the barista, "How are you?" "Tired." Ooh! I suck air through my teeth ready for a good tirade on that answer, on how our stock answer "tired" is bad because we've made busyness our king and we need to learn to stop and smell the roses.
Not so much.
She writes, "They don't understand that it's merely a greeting and not really a question."
In other words, I don't care a flying leap about how you are. In fact the last thing I want to know when I ask, "How are you?" is how you are. Now this is exactly the sort of reputation I would hope a writer would cultivate in the States, in my neighborhood. Uh-huh.
"I resisted the urge to scold [the barista] for staying up so late, paid for my latte, and, after wishing her a good day, left." She claims that this greeting is "simply my attempt at being friendly." How friendly can it be when your response to anything other than "fine" is irritation?
She ends by saying, "I'm afraid my attitutde is a bit curmudgeon-ish. [Ya think?] Perhaps I'm the one who is out of step, and I need to come up with a new greeting." Like "Don't mess with Texas" or something equally as "friendly."


Erin said...

Like I tell my children, "Don't ask me a question if you don't care to take the time to hear the answer."

L.L. Barkat said...

I wonder if there was ever a time when this greeting extended a listening ear. It would be interesting to know its history.

And now, either we change the greeting, or perhaps we go back to the root of it (if there ever was such a root)... extending ourselves for just a moment, in quietude and grace.

Christianne said...

Yikes! I'm surprised she put herself out there with such honesty. On the one hand, I always find honesty refreshing. On the other hand, when it's offered ungracefully, without any remorse, it becomes ugly.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

My mom called ours "the local trash news." Is yours complete with the police blotter report??

Jenn said...

I'm having trouble sensing remorse in any of the snippets quoted. Thank you sincerely, from a Starbucks barista, Heather, for being as put out about that as I. Apart from the fact that the whole "How are you?" phenomenon (or non-phenomenon--which is fun to say), this woman clearly misunderstands the philosophy behind Starbucks. WE attempt to be friendly. So if we ask you how you are, we want to hear it (well, some of us do, anyway), and if you ask us, we'll tell you, if for no other reason than to trigger more conversation to enhance your "Starbucks experience." If you don't want the experience, for pete's sake go to Dunkin Donuts (or whatever the Texas equivalent is). Probably Howard Schultz wouldn't say that, but *I* would.

On the other hand, Heather, did you check out the Onion article I linked to in my last post? ;)

Heather said...

Does it count if someone is honest about not wanting to be honest?
Jennifer - No, ours doesn't have that, although the newspaper might.
Jenn - I did read that. Made me think of the stories you told about the men that flirted and called you "honey" or whatever.

Pete G said...

i read a letter to the editor in the austin american-statesman awhile back. the woman was upset about the prevalence of the response "no problem" to her "thank you"s. she even took the time to scold her server and inform him that the proper response was "you're welcome." i couldn't believe that one. you don't say "thank you" to hear any particular response - you say it because you are truly thankful. and what about the literal translations of appropriate responses from other languages ("de nada", "de rien"). are those rude, too? and finally, i must admit that if it weren't for ridiculous letters like that one, i probably wouldn't ever read the letters to the editor.