The obligatory exchange of
"How are you?"
"Fine, how are you?"
makes me completely insane. The fact that so often my entire exchange with people I deal with is encompassed by these few words that pretty much boil down to obligation and lying makes my head hurt. Imagine how I would answer this question if I had just suffered a personal tragedy yesterday like losing my job or having someone close to me die - I would say "Fine". Then imagine how I would answer if I spent the previous night winning huge amounts of money off rubes while playing poker - I would say "Fine". There are people in my life who I wish to discuss these things with but they rarely have to ask "How are you?" because they actually have some idea of who I am and can ask something topical! They could inquire how my blog is going, what games I am playing these days or what grade Elli is in, for example. Almost universally when someone resorts to "How are you?" it is an admission that they don't know anything about me and almost certainly don't want any information beyond "Fine".
Handshakes are the same. The theory as I understand it is that a long time ago shaking hands showed that you didn't have a weapon in that hand and thus is was a gesture of mutual trust. Whether or not that is true it certainly isn't relevant now and today handshakes are just a great way to pass on germs and annoy me. There are plenty more examples that are the same way of course as my family in law demonstrates at most gatherings. They have the hilarious unspoken tradition that when someone is leaving the gathering everybody crowds to the front door of the house for goodbye handshakes and hugs. Of course because there is a mob of people trying to exist directly beside the door it takes 20 minutes for the folks leaving to just put on shoes and go while I stand there trying desperately not to order them all into the spacious living room where goodbyes could take place without causing an incredible traffic jam of people.
Ziggyny commented awhile ago that he absolutely hates mandatory gift giving. I happen to agree but I think I take it a little further than that because I hate obligatory social rituals. If I am seeing a good friend after a long time apart and I give them a hug (or a much more manly chest bump) it is an honest representation of my feelings and has some meaning. The clerk at the grocery store saying "How are you?" on the other hand is the most absurd kind of timewasting ritual - it isn't like I am suddenly fooled into thinking they want an answer. "How are you?" and the mandatory responses to it are just a way to fill space when no one has anything to say and somebody lacks the fortitude to remain silent. I assume that these things do in fact nicely grease the wheels of social interaction and that for many people they are innocuous or even enjoyable but all I want is either meaningful interaction or simple silence.
How did I ever get into sales as a career anyway?