How Ya Doin’

Boyleing Points

I remember somebody told me that he took the subway to work every day and he’d see the same woman. Every day. For years. He didn’t know her at all. On one day, no different than any other day, he said hi to her. And what happened?  She freaked out. From that day on, she would never ride in the same car with him.

He wasn’t making a move. His hello was just common courtesy. You see the same person every day for years, isn’t it a bit odd NOT to say hello? It’s not like he went overboard and asked, how are you? He just said, hi.

How are you? or the more common, how ya doin’?, is a standard enough greeting; you’re not surprised if someone getting on an elevator or sitting next to you on a plane says that to you. This being New York, you just have to ready if you’re the one saying hello or asking, how ya doin’?  Some comedian had a bit that had to be real. He said he was new to the City and was just trying to be a New Yorker so he said to a guy he was passing in the street, how ya doin?

The guy scowled at him and barked, “Who are you, my effin’ doctor?”

I was reminded of this last week when I was giving somebody a quick tour of Rockaway. I made the mistake of introducing my guest to a Rockaway character —the type you try to avoid, the type that makes you fake a call on your phone. You’ve done that, haven’t you? We have safe words in the tiny Rockaway Times office. If I ask Pat McVeigh if she’s remembered to buy the cauliflower her family wants, she knows she’s got to make an emergency phone call to me so I can escape being cornered. Of course, there’s only so many times you can say cauliflower without people thinking Pat’s got a cauliflower problem and it’s weird how it coincides with a phone call to me.   

But I had no cauliflower safe word, no shorthand, escape plan for the visitor I was showing around. He made the mistake of offering more than hello to this Rockaway character and asked, innocently enough, how ya doin’? The answer, how much time you got?

He would’ve been trapped but I jumped in. I said, “Sorry, we gotta go pick up some cauliflower.” The visitor looked puzzled. He blew it. The Rockaway character looked at me with disappointment. Really? I was making a joke, he said, and you go right to cauliflower. That’s like calling the cops on me.

No really, I tried. Keyfood’s got it for like two bucks a head.

The Rockaway character walked away, shaking his head. My visitor noticed I was unsettled and said, how ya doin?

I looked at him for a full three seconds. I’m dying, how about you?

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