I’m struggling yet again to get along with my fellow human beings. I have been trying for years to tip toe politely around the proverbial china shop that is society, but lately I feel more like being a bull. On a recent Saturday morning I found myself waiting in a predictably long line at Starbucks along with the usual early morning zombie crowd, bleary eyed and comatose, shuffling forward like a pig in a chute awaiting our over-priced slop. When I finally get to the counter to place my order I’m greeted by an obviously over caffeinated barista who chirps a rather insincere “How are you doing this morning?” To which I reply with my prerecorded morning voice, “I’m fine, thanks,” and then proceed to place my order.
Perhaps thinking I wasn’t paying attention, the barista responds by saying “I’m doing great, thanks for asking,” while ringing up my order. If she didn’t have my attention before she surely had it now. “Excuse me,” I respond, “I believe we have had a miscommunication. I’m quite positive I never asked you how you were doing so let start over. How are you doing? No need to respond since apparently I already have your answer.”
There are some people that would say I was being rude but the truth is I’m a victim, yet another casualty of the disingenuous practice of pretending to be sincere that has engulfed society and made daily interactions with strangers and casual acquaintances almost unbearable. Think of the time that is being wasted at food and retail establishments from the banal and often insincere, canned greetings that involve asking how the other person is doing followed by an equally insincere canned response that isn’t anywhere near the truth.
People are being forced to lie about how they are doing because no one actually wants to hear the truth which could involve anything from an itchy burning feeling in a particularly tender area to a sneaking suspicion that their spouse is cheating on them. I would much prefer a simple and efficient interaction that involves a greeting that gets right to the point of how I can be helped and not how I currently feel. My visits to places like Wal-mart or In and Out Burger are for rather mundane purposes like buying toothpaste and feeding my face, not for social interaction with geriatric greeters and teenagers in goofy white hats.
There are three types of people who ask strangers how their day is, people who are being forced to because of their jobs and really couldn’t care less, people who actually think they care but really don’t, and those rare, special people who really do care but are lumped into the first two categories because it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference. Why can’t American’s combine the ruthless efficiency of the Swiss with the obvious indifference of the French when it comes to social interactions with strangers in retail environments? Imagine how much quicker the lines at places like Starbucks and Costco would move with that type of dedication to customer service instead of all that wasted time involved with insulting customers by pretending to care how their day is going.
Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is feeling obligated to pretend to care about what’s going on in the lives of people who are firmly in the acquaintance category. Now this is a situation that I can only blame myself for, its crime of my own volition, after all I’m the one who decided to put them in the acquaintance category in the first place. My initial intentions were pure in that the people in my acquaintance category are people I genuinely like but not enough that I actually feel like getting involved in their personal lives. I enjoy having people I can call up to go play basketball or to shoot the breeze with while watching the Super Bowl, but should I really be expected to care about their financial woes or troubles in the bedroom?
Before people start thinking badly of my seemingly cruel indifference, I would ask them to go through the 510 friends they have on Facebook (which is the average amount of Facebook friends for people between 18 – 24 – years – old) and I’m willing to bet at least 410 of them are firmly in the acquaintance category and at least 350 of those acquaintances are people they haven’t spoken with in years, with the remaining being people that they can’t even remember adding as friends.
Facebook itself is the most criminal example of social insincerity among acquaintances as it’s a cesspool of digital indifference in the use of flippant “likes” to show supposed support for someone you barely know and much less care about. I always get a chuckle when I see someone post something sad or depressing that’s going on in their lives only to have it “liked” by dozens of their “friends”. Wouldn’t an actual phone call of support mean more than a thumbs up on a webpage when a Facebook friend is pouring their heart out on the internet?
It’s quite possible I’m on to something here, the beginning of a social revolution if you will, or perhaps I’m just on the wrong side of thirty and the bitterness is starting to take over. In any case one thing is for sure, I either need to start getting along with people and play the social networking game, or get used to carefully checking my precious Starbucks coffee for spit, which at the very least would be well deserved.