Monday, April 21, 2008


I may technically be "living" in my rented apartment in Queens while attending law school; however I feel like sometimes that's a misleading term. Between my early classes, long hours (supposedly) studying at the library, and weekend trips home to Jersey; there isn't really much "living" going on. I envy my undergraduate roommates' lives of idle leisure attending a class or two and then playing video games or watching "Cheaters" all night. Lately, as finals season slowly became more and more of a reality I've only managed to exchange a brief greeting as I come home at midnight, stumble to my room to sleep while they continue to play video games or watch TV.

The thing about all this is during the exchange I give out a cursory "hey" and most often then not I'll get the "hey, what's up?" in response. On the whole it happens about nine out of ten times. It's also not just confined to incidents at the home; there isn't a week of school that goes by with the hey/what's up dynamic coming up. All this leads me to my main quandary: when someone responds with a "what's up" do I actually have to answer that question? For now I'm not sure what the proper social response is: yes, no, other? To cover my bases I shoot back with a mixed bag of "nothing much", silence, another "hey", or "good" (which still doesn't answer the question and may lead to further confusion). Now to any normal, well adjusted, social individual there'd be no anxiety or hesitation over this trivial issue, but obviously I'm a social freak who comes from the Larry David school of over analyzing and obsessing over common social functions.

On one hand it is obviously a question and a question, in the abstract, needs to be answered. You haven't seen the person all day, you wonder what really is "up" with them. It also may serve as a springboard to a continued conversation. My response may give something for the other person to relate to, build on, respond against, etc. and the casual, unnoticed, volley that his everyday conversation is initiated. So me not answering it may be breaking the expected volley and in turn leading to awkwardness. It's like the verbal equivalent to a high five and a non-response is leaving the other guy "hanging" instead of a customary "up high", "down low" and concluding "too slow."

On the other hand, while it is a question, it could just be straight up rhetorical. It could just be there to accomplish the singular task of just acknowledging and responding to my initial greeting. I mean seriously, do people really want to hear a legitimate answer every time they respond with that? If that is the case then there must obviously be an implied restriction at the amount of detail in the response. The next time someone asks you that question, try to imagine what the other person might be thinking if your response when over like three sentences or if you went on for even a full minute in talking about yourself. It'd be awkward city. Talk long enough and they'll eventually run out of nods and "uh huhs" and have to actually resort to an affirmative end to communications. In extreme situations (say you're talking to Kathy Griffin after she's had two Red Bulls) I think there's enough social precedent to just walk away with no explanation.

So if it's the middle of the night or about a minute before the start of class, is there really need for an actual answer? Or am I suppose to just shoot a "nothing much" every time?

Of course all this would infinitely simpler if my "hey" was responded by another "hey." It would accomplish (albeit in a manner suited for cavemen) the final goal of a simple exchange of communication. It's basically two people saying "I'm me, I'm here, I'm not a stranger or axe murderer or something, carry on." Easy as that.

Context is important too as well as the manner of response. This issue merely deals with the hey/what's up scenario. Different responses will illicit very different responses from me. If I were to say hey and someone I knew responded with:
  • "WASSUP" - Annoyance
  • "What's Up" - Fear sprinkled with annoyance
  • "Hey Hey Hey" - A bit taken back by the excessiveness
  • "What's up, doc?" - A little confused; would wonder where the carrot came from.
  • "Ayyyy" - Just about the coolest response you can give to any question.
  • "Yahh!" - I'll immediately get out of their face.
  • "How you doin'?" - A bit disturbed or interested depending on the sex of the speaker.
  • "Hello" - A bit disturbed or interested depending on if it's Lionel Richie
My other option is to just stop talking to people on the whole, which I am totally willing to do. With the modern advances in social networking and the continuing alienation of contemporary society, we'll all just be in our own homes Facebook poking each other in the near future, so I figure I might get a head start. However, for now I figure interpersonal relationships with the people I live with and go to school with may somehow pay off somewhere in the future, so I best not limit my options.

1 comment:

  1. tell people they should mind their own fucking business. it worked for me. i haven't spoken to either parent in about 8 months.