DEAR ABBY: Like "Fine, Thank You in Gastonia, N.C.," I, too, was annoyed when people greeted me with the mindless, "How are you?" "How ya doin'?" etc., which required me to respond to someone who clearly had no interest in a real response. (I understand their feigned interest is more automatic than rude.)
So, I make a game of it. Unlike the greeter who blurts out the salutation without thinking, I listen and am prepared with several responses. For "How ya doin'?" I answer, "Not so good. My wife and oldest son and I just got out of three months in rehab for peanut butter addiction. I was a two-jar-a-day man myself. My boy had it even worse -- three jars of the hard stuff, crunchy!"
When asked, "What's up?" I'm inclined to respond, "My blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index!" -- DAVE IN MARSHALL, WIS.
DEAR DAVE: Many readers who wrote to comment on that letter said they were perplexed at how "How are you?" has essentially replaced the greeting "Hello." And they were eager to share the quips they use to answer that rhetorical question. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have an alternative to the answer you gave to "Fine, Thank You" that I often use.
I'm a recovering alcoholic. When someone who knows I'm in AA asks me how I'm doing, my favorite reply is, "I'm walking, breathing and sober -- anything beyond that is gravy."
Another favorite I often use with people who don't know I'm in AA is, "Well, I woke up on this side of the grass, so I must be doing pretty well!" -- SHIRLEY IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR ABBY: I have been having a lot of fun with this response to the "How are you?" question. I say, "I can't answer that." Expecting the worst, most people ask me why. That's when I say, "Because of the Medical Privacy Act!" Everyone has a good laugh and is relieved not to have had to listen to a list of my ailments. -- HAPPY BOB IN KIMBOLTON, OHIO
DEAR ABBY: I learned some years ago the power of a positive attitude. When an acquaintance asks how I am, I set the tone for my own day by answering, "I'm fabulous, thanks! How are you?"
You know the old "fake it 'til you feel it" philosophy? That's why I originally started doing it, but it has paid off for me because I receive positive energy in return. Not only do I actually feel happier after the interaction, but it's difficult for someone else to respond negatively to your smile. -- COLLEEN IN PORT COQUITLAM, BRITISH COLUMBIA
DEAR ABBY: My reply? "I'm better on the inside than I look on the outside!" -- JOYCE IN CONVERSE, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: I once heard this response: "Vertical and ventilating!" I still laugh when I think of it. -- DOC IN CHARLESTON, S.C.
DEAR ABBY: My favorite response is one I get from a friend: "All monitored systems are functional." -- ED IN SAN JOSE
DEAR ABBY: My husband's grandfather, a Lutheran minister for more than 70 years, always used to say, "I'm answering the roll call." (He lived to be 102.) -- FAITHFUL READER IN MISSOURI