Upon meeting someone, how often do people begin with, “What’s new?” (a phrase unapologetically American given our pre-occupation with what is current, fashionable or “the next big thing”.) Not intended is an in-depth inquiry, it represents standard verbal boilerplate that precedes more substantive conversation. In fact, few people actually address this question and instead simply respond with “same old same old.”
My problem is that in such instances I’m often too literal minded. In response to “What’s new? “, I somehow feel obligated to reply as if it were a serious query. And I have but a split second in which to react. How many of you could meet such a challenge? But I usually try, summoning whatever I can from my memory bank – family matters, friends, vacation, travel, illness, movies. Somewhere there must be something worth mentioning. If one of my daughters has just given birth, that’s fine. If I’ve recently returned from a trip – easy enough. Even a pronouncement such as “the world’s coming to an end” can suffice.
People often seem surprised that I actually attempt to answer what they regard as nothing more than a throwaway line. And having expected the conversation to move on they may not have even paid attention.
So I’m seriously considering a change of strategy, opting for the easy way out. “How you feeling?” – “Fine.” “What’s up?” – “Not much.”