welcome to Bolivia
(originally posted 10/8/2012)
Here is the danger of asking someone if they are ok. Sometimes they say no. Talk about a single word that brings everything to a screeching halt. Or it should anyway. Being a veteran of this answer I might screech a little but I know not to halt. Halting is a very bad idea. In fact, you might say that the utterance of that reply often brings me to a screeching gallop.
Can you blame me? Is there anything worse than having a quick superficial question answered in such a way that you’re expected to clear your social calendar for the next hour and listen to the problems of some nutjob as if you can actually do anything to help? “Sure Charlie, tell me all about your dead Aunt and I’m sure I’ll have her up and walking about in no time!” you want to exclaim. No matter what you offer up they are going to immediately counter that they already thought of that and it is completely not going to help in any way at all.
Instead of scrambling to come up with another solution my brain usually immediately wants to pass along the following opinion; “Well then you’re fucked aren’t you?” And the whole time you can feel the minutes of your life draining away as they go on and on about whatever ill it is that has befallen them.
Here is the thing. If you ask anyone if they are ok, and they answer truthfully, they are going to say no. Nobody is ok. That’s why we don’t want to hear it! No matter what their circumstance, if we look closely enough into their eyes we can see a reflection of ourselves. Maybe that explains why I always messed up that quote “the eyes are the windows to the soul” in my head. I swear I thought it was “the eyes are the mirror to the soul.” Reading that back I can’t help but feel stupid. Obviously that makes no sense whatsoever. Well, no sense outside the point that I was originally trying to make. In that context it suddenly seems brilliant.
If we spend enough time with the hapless creature that was rude enough to answer our innocent question honestly, then we realize that the only thing separating us from whatever malady that is inflicting this poor bastard is timing. Clint Eastwood has that great line in Unforgiven: “We all have it coming kid.”
And we all know it.
So why not answer their reply with sympathy, you might ask. Now before I immediately become guilty of the very same gainsay that I complained about at the end of the second paragraph, let me look at it a bit from your angle. I’m assuming that you realize that sympathy won’t actually help, but does that fact actually make the offering up of said sympathy that much more meaningful? Sort of like the emotional equivalent of Butch and Sundance running out to meet the Bolivian army.
Hmmmm. Interesting point. But what is the end result other than investing a few minutes of your life that you’re not going to get back? In fact, wasted time is soon to become everybody’s biggest reason to say they’re not ok, so is it selfish to want a little bang for your buck? Bottom line is it didn’t seem to work out so well for Butch and Sundance.
We all know the correct answer to the question of “are you ok?” is “yes.” It’s part of the social contract we conscious entities have managed to hammer out amongst ourselves. So next time someone asks you and you want to fall to your knees with your hands outstretched and wail “No!” with all the angst you can muster take a minute and think it over.
Nothing they are going to say will help. Keep a tight grip on the wheel lest you remind them or yourself that we all have it coming.