The other day, I was asked a question that, in passing, seems simple enough for me to answer. But, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to respond. “What’s good?” she said.
I thought about it. I wondered whether she was looking for a list of things for me personally or the world in general. What else could be the intent of such a question? I stood there looking at her, trying to come up with a suitable response. But a simple “what’s up” or “hey” wouldn’t leave my lips. Of all the good things in the world, and I was going to say “sup” in a mock tough guy voice? I don’t think so.
But at the same time, nothing that was going well for me seemed to make sense either. I mean it’s a simple, emotionally detached greeting. She doesn’t care about how I watched The Bernie Mac Show for the first time in eight years, or how I scored three goals in a game of street hockey. So, I nodded at her as she walked past with her contingent of sorority girl friends in tow.
I’m not the only one that doesn’t get it. When I asked my friend how he responds to such a question, he said, “I don’t.” But now I know what to say that works and doesn’t make me sound like I have an IQ lower than a doorknob. “The usual,” I’ll say.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been thrown for a loop by a simple greeting either. When I went to a college admissions event last spring, I walked up to the front door of the building where the event was taking place. I expected the coordinator at the door to say “hello” or “good afternoon.” Instead, she asked if I was ready to register. Again, no suitable response came to mind. I was confused because I didn’t think registering would require preparation or prior knowledge, besides my name, of course. Did I need to do practice registrations beforehand? Did I need to outline a plan for registering successfully? So I kept walking. She said it louder: “Are you ready to register?”
This time I looked at her and said, “Yes. Where do I register?”
“Right this way.”
The question is, why didn’t she just ask me if I was there for the event and tell me to register? Why not say what you mean. And be clear when saying it? Don’t ask what’s good if you just want to acknowledge someone or inquire about how they’re doing. It’s just confusing.