Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

All right

How are you today?

No, I mean it. How are you? Really?

I find it amazing how this enquiry can fall off peoples’ lips scores of times in any day and yet rarely receives a specific or accurate response. It’s as if what should be a genuine, heartfelt enquiry as to someones well-being is so often demoted to become an empty, meaningless question.

And, the most common response that automatically issues forth? 

“All right”.

Now, here’s an oft misused phrase. If we take a step back for a moment and gaze on that statement, it’s of course made up of two words – all and right. This, literally means that everything, but everything is right, in order, going well, absolutely perfect.


I suspect that that the vast majority of the times we say we’re all right, we are in fact anything but. Things may be generally OK but is all actually right? Hmmm, I’m not convinced.

The other day I was on the phone to my bank with a query. I was anxious and a little agitated. On getting through, the bank employee enquired “how are you today”? Now, I’ve never met or even spoken to this person before and somehow to me it sounded empty and un-meant. I noticed myself starting to feel bolshy. I stifled my impulse to say “all right” through gritted teeth and decided to be specific and honest instead.

I drew breath, closed my eyes, scanned my body and proceeded to tell her:

“I have a slight headache, kind of behind my eyes, an annoying rash under one armpit – I think as a result of the anti-perspirant I’m using, I’m a tad flatulent and to top it all, I must admit I’m rather anxious due to a query I have regarding my statement. Having said that, I’m otherwise generally fit and healthy at the moment, thank goodness.  I’m also  feeling relieved because I just heard that my wife’s car only needs a one small job doing to it in order to pass it’s MOT”

The poor woman went silent – the silence was palpable, almost deafening.  It was as if she’d stopped breathing. Her VDU screen simply didn’t offer up a prompt as to what to say next – she was stumped.

Sorry, but she DID ask!

I acknowledge that asking someone how they are is part of our cultural ways, a kind of greeting ritual if you will. However, I’d like to encourage a freshening up of that ritual. Those of you who engage with me in person or by phone may have noticed that in the past year or so I’ve tried hard to avoid the “all rights”, the “fines” and other stock answers. I haven’t always succeeded as it’s so imbued into how we go about things. 

I’ve attempted to offer up different responses. I don’t do this to be clever or in order to throw or humiliate people (apart from call centre operatives or cold callers), I just want to engage with others in a slightly more individual and interesting way.

So, what are some of my responses? Well, they can differ and are often spontaneous, so I don’t think it’s about featuring them here in written form. You’ll have to ask me how I am and see what issues forth in that moment.

So, next time you are asked “how are you”, consider whether you can come up with an interesting, original response. Be careful though, about spewing out chapter and verse about your woes and ailments, as that swings things too far the other way – keep it brief, unless it’s your bank, phone company or similar that’s asking!

And, if you are told by someone that they’re all right you can declare: “That’s amazing, sounds like absolute bliss to me. How did you achieve that? I wish I could!”

Then again, perhaps not.           


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