“How ya doin’?”
“What’s goin’ on?”
I’m a little tired of the impersonal greetings most of us use when we see each other. Often when we meet acquaintances and coworkers our casual greetings and inquiries seem disingenuous. This evening I saw someone I knew only casually. It was nice to see him, but he fired off, “Howzitgoin’?” and before I even had the chance to answer he said, “Oh, fine, fine, thanks.” I don’t even think he realized I hadn’t asked yet.
I’m guilty too, both on the giving as well as the receiving end of the exchange. After my mom died, when I saw someone who didn’t know that I’d lost my best friend, the one who held me to the ground – even though I was as hollow a I had ever been- when someone asked, “How are you?” my reflex response was, “Fine, thanks. You?” It was like jerking my leg after the doc hit my sweet spot with the triangular rubber hammer.
Sometimes I’d catch myself after the auto-pilot response and retrofit a sincere response. “No, not really. I’m hurting… I miss my mom.”
This morning as I was considering writing a piece about how shallow our meet-and-greet responses are, a teacher bud walked into the work area. “Howzitgoin’?” “Fine, you?” “Fine.” Then I stopped myself from walking away from that meaningless exchange. I saw that she was running off some really interesting math work for her kids. I asked how her math instruction was coming. We had two or three minutes to share ideas about math for the rest of the year. It went from a rather bland ‘good morning’ to a fun and interesting few minutes for us to reconnect. Simple but effective.
I thought of that old show CHEERS from years ago. One of my favorites. For a few years it came on right next to Sienfeld. Great stuff. Anyway, whenever big old Norm Peterson would come in for a beer, the crowd would say his name in unison – “NORM!” That was usually followed by a bland – howzitgoin’- question from one of the barkeeps. The one that came into my mind was this – Woody, innocent and gullible, country (well, Indiana country) and sincere, says, “Hi, Mr. Peterson. What’s up?”
And Norm says something like, “My nipples. It’s freezing outside. Get me a beer, Woody.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could come up with something besides, “finehowareyou?”
So I googled around and found some Normisms, some interesting responses to some mundane greetings. I don’t laugh aloud all that often. I did with these. Enjoy this first installment!
1. "What's shaking Norm?" "All four cheeks and a couple of chins."
2. "What's new Normie?" "Terrorists, Sam. They've taken over my stomach and they're demanding beer."
3. "What'd you like Normie?" "A reason to live. Give me another beer."
4. "What'll you have Normie?" "Well, I'm in a gambling mood Sammy. I'll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap." "Looks like beer, Norm." "Call me Mister Lucky."
5. "Hey Norm, how's the world been treating you?" "Like a baby treats a diaper."
6. "What's the story Mr. Peterson?" "The Bobbsey twins go to the brewery. Let's cut to the happy ending."
7. "Hey Mr. Peterson, there's a cold one waiting for you." "I know, if she calls, I'm not here."
8. "Beer, Norm?" "Have I gotten that predictable? Good."
9. "What's going on Mr. Peterson?" "A flashing sign in my gut that says, 'Insert beer here.'"
10. "Whatcha up to Norm?" "My ideal weight if I were eleven feet tall."
11. "How's it going Mr. Peterson?" "Poor." "I'm sorry to hear that." "No, I mean pour."
12. "How's life treating you Norm?" "Like it caught me sleeping with its wife."
13. "Women. Can't live with 'em...... pass the beer nuts."
14. "What's going down, Normie?" "My butt cheeks on that bar stool."
15. "Pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson?" "Alright, but stop me at one... make that one-thirty."
16. "How's it going Mr. Peterson?" "It's a dog eat dog world, Woody and I'm wearing Milk Bone underwear."
17. "What's the story Norm?" "Boy meets beer. Boy drinks beer. Boy meets another beer."
18. "Can I pour you a beer Mr. Peterson?" "A little early isn't it, Woody?" "For a beer?" "No, for stupid questions."