Monday, February 23, 2009

What's Up?

Does there exist a question in the world that is more impossible to answer than "What's up?" "What's up?" is basically the third line in most friendly conversations. You know, one person says "Hi," then the other either parrots that syllable back, or changes it up a little with a adventurous "Hello." So what next? One could, of course, blurt out an insincere "How are you?" even if they don't give a care in the world, but that is most likely to lead to a "Good." Then the conversation comes to a screeching, grinding, rasping halt, and one of them has to think up something interesting to say.
But the one perk of "How are you?" is that it is a rational question with a small variety of answers. On most occasions, one will reply, "Good." Otherwise, they might say, "Fine," or even take that extra step and make an effort to string several words together to create a sentence. "I'm all right, how are you?" is usually best, as the conversation can carry on for three additional seconds when your partner answers with one of the replies listed above.
However. "What's up?" is nearly impossible to answer. You see, when one asks, "How are you?" the expected responses are "Good," "Fine," "Okay," and so on. They do not want you to reply with "Terrible. My life sucks right now. Got an hour? You can listen to me complain about school, sports, various frenemies and tyrannous teachers.” So when they ask “What’s up?” they don’t expect you to tell a story about something interesting that happens to be going on in your life at the moment. So what kind of reply are they looking for? Whenever somebody asks this frustrating question, my headvoice can’t help from screaming, “What in the world do you expect me to reply to that? Am I supposed to actually tell you what’s going on in my life?”
Following this question is the inevitable awkward silence, as I scramble through my mental calendar, racking my brain for anything at all that is going on in my uneventful little life. It takes me a few seconds to realize that they don’t really care, so I always end up replying with that safe last resort: “Nothing much.” At this point, they are staring a little, wondering why it took me so long to utter three syllables. Once I realize that my metal stability is being questioned, embarrassment cascades over me and I make up some excuse to scuttle away.
The point? “What’s up?” is a phrase that should never be used in casual conversation. Unless, of course, you are a detective interviewing your prime suspect. “What’s up?” is an incriminating question as they will realize nothing has been up except for the crimes they’ve been committing. So if they resort to that all-purpose “Nothing much,” you’ll know they are guilty. Well done, Holmes.
Conversation is an art I have yet to master. Just steer clear from that horrible, irritating, impossibly unanswerable question, and everything will be just peachy.

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