Someone: How are you?
Someone: Oh. I am sorry to hear that.
Me: No, that’s OK. I am studying philosophy.
When I first went to Israel on a youth exchange programme, I was staying with a really cool family in a small village in the centre of the country, somewhere in the district of Modi’in. One morning I was sitting in the large yard in front of the house, enjoying fabulous, fresh mint tea and some cookies for breakfast. It was me and two ladies, both somehow part of or associated with my host family.
A car came up, stopped and a guy yelled something out of the car window. It was in Hebrew, so I didn’t understand it. One of the ladies replied, which I didn’t understand either. The other lady helpfully translated her reply to me: “She said ‘That’s none of your business.’ ” I was perplexed, but tried to look as if this was a perfectly normal statement to start a bright and beautiful morning with. My face must have given away that I had been wondering what the question had been, because she added with a smile: “The question was ‘How are you?’ ”
When I get asked this question, I sometimes just say “yes” or “6 feet tall” in order to sow confusion. At other times, I venture into detailed explanations of how I am, including descriptions of my workload, my studies, my medical situation and that I am really hungry or tired. I go on and on, until the questioner has to admit that his/her question was not inspired by genuine care, but was merely a thoughtless repetition of the ever same phrase. From now on, I can also direct people to this blog instead of providing a full answer. That should save everybody some time.