I have a riddle for you.
“You say me at the Deece. In the bathroom. In class. To a professor. To your roommate. To everyone you vaguely-actually-don’t-really-know that you see.
As soon as you say me, you regret it. You’ve said me almost 100 times over the past week. When teachers say, ‘There is no such thing as a dumb question,’ they were forgetting about me.
Preceding asking me you run through all worst case scenarios in your head. ‘Do they even know my name still? Will they recognize me? Are we going to hug? Wave? Shake hands? No, absolutely not, go for the hug.’
I leave you scrambling for words. In a state of panic. With a blank mind. The only response you have ever heard from asking me is, ‘Good.’ All you can think of when I am in your midst is, ‘This is so awkward.’
What am I?”
Have you figured it out? Did you cringe your way through this riddle knowing you would have to read the four abominable words written on a page?
Of course you have. So here is an unnecessary reminder of how these interactions go down. Every. Single. Time.
“Hey Jamie, didn’t see you there!” (When of course you had, you pretended you didn’t see them so when they did the work and caught your eye and you could act fake surprised.)
“Oh hi Alex, how was your break?”
How was your break? That’s right: the detestable, cruel and revolting torture of this question.
Why is this even asked? Are you somehow expecting that the next time you ask someone this, instead of saying “good” they might go off onto some beautiful, captivating and enlightening answer of, “It was fine?” I mean, what a game changer!
Furthermore, do you actually care what the person has to say? Of course not. The whole point of this question is to start up some form of conversation. The problem is, this question starts no conversation. However, maybe there is some satisfaction out of hearing the word “good.” At least you now know that your friend had an equally average five weeks that you did.
And it makes sense why “how was your break” seems like your only good option. Your repertoire of conversation starters looks something like this:
How was your break?
What classes are you taking this semester?
Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only ten I see.
(Well, maybe not that last one.)
The point is, our conversation-starting skills have declined in recent years. I mean, think back to how easy it was in 2003! All you had to do was ask, “Do you want to be my friend” and BOOM instant friendship for life.
In this tumultuous time of strained face-to-face interactions I have come to a conclusion. This question is not just a silly question or a dumb question or even a are-you-sure-you-graduated-kindergarten question, but a plague on our society! “How was your break” is the new “like” and “literally.” People will spend their days counting on their fingers how many times they hear their friends say it. Somehow we have been infected with a lie that we need to fake politeness when we haven’t seen someone for an extended period of time.
In response to the overwhelming outcry for change I have heard far and wide across our Vassar lands, I propose a question-asking revolution! 90 percent of the trove of good questions lie with the top one percent of our population!
Think about how many more interesting conversations you could have if you started off by asking, “Hey Jordan, when’s the last time you pooped? Give me hug!”
“Oh my gosh, Ray, did you also cry for 17 hours straight last week? Wow, I missed you so much!”
“What’s up Sky!? Did you find that rat I put in the third floor bathroom? It’s been so long!”
I know these may seem a bit much. But I’ve been conducting some real research here and I’m confident these are sure to get some kind of conversation started, even if it’s not the one you initially intended.
And even if this drastic revolution is not possible, we can at least take small steps. Emails will no longer read, “How was your break,” but instead, “Hope you had a great break!” See, that is true progress.