How are you today?

by Jon Sullivan - 2020-01-09

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I hate that question. 1st, because it's culturally obligatory, and 2nd because people usually become annoyed if you actually answer it, and 3rd because if your life is a disaster you are expected to lie and not bring everyone down.

I'm sure it's different in other places, but in the US (or at least in San Diego) you are more or less obligated to say "how are you today" to everyone. If I get groceries the checkout person will ask me, and then the person bagging my groceries will immediately ask me again. The response is always some positive affirmation on the theme that everything is good. Even if it's not.

It's not a real question. It's more of an extension of "hello". Which I guess is too brief and thus slightly rude? So, since hello is not optional, somehow "Hello. How are you today" is required. And since I'm one of those personality types that doesn't play well with cultural norms, I feel the need to actually answer, which no one likes.

How am I today? Well, I'm more than a little cranky about how Excel converts some CSV file text to scientific notation for no apparent reason, so accounting thinks my export is crap and why can't I just give them the correct data, even though obviously I did and they broke it when they converted to an xls file. So someone needs to go show them the insane workaround to manually import it, which makes no sense and is impossible to remember. And now we look like idiots for making their job harder for no reason, so now they're cranky, which wouldn't happen if we built or bought a real report engine to deliver on-demand reports, but I won't be holding my breath for that. And having worked with off the shelf BA tools like that in the past, I'd even more cranky about having to support it. So we can't have nice things, boo hoo. That's how I am today. But while we're talking about it, why would Excel convert csv columns at all, since it's obviously a text data model, and people can easily format columns how they want once it's in Excel, and maybe Microsoft should have gotten a clue with Clippy about how good they are at silently automating what they think people want.

Meanwhile the checkout line is backing up and people are making non-helpful "move along" gestures. But how is it my fault? THEY ASKED ME!!! I didn't start this. I didn't even want to talk about it.

Very often, the real answer would be, "I'm a bit busy right now. Maybe we can discuss this later." Which is also inappropriate. Or, "I'm deeply worried about the future of our Democracy." Which is also inappropriate. Or, "Please mind your own business." Inappropriate. Or, "Whatever you are selling, I don't want it." Inappropriate. And hell..... I'm an affluent white guy. I'm guessing people with real actual problems could be even more inappropriate.

So just being polite = strangers asking questions they don't want answers to, and me lying.

Maybe how I am today is just cranky over the devaluing of real politeness.

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Marilee Harrison
2020-01-09 09:37:38 : Cranky or old or tired or stressed OR happy, or relaxed or a combination, I think you are awesome!

Jon Sullivan
2020-01-09 09:47:13 : Thank you Marilee. Honestly I'm happy and relaxed. But that makes a crappy blog post.

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