By DON WALKER/Designated Contributor

Along the lines of asking someone, “How are you?” in passing, or asking the spouse, “How was your day?” when she gets home from work, our days are ripe with meaningless small talk banter.

“It’s hot!” someone said to me in the parking lot at work.

“Yes it is,” I said, but in my head I was thinking, “Nothing I can do to fix that!”

“Looks like rain,” someone said later as they looked out my office window.

“Yes it does,” I said, though again in my head, I thought, “No one ever says, ‘It looks sunny!’”

(Like the TV weather forecaster – err, meteorologist — always says it’s partly cloudy. Doesn’t that mean it’s also partly sunny? Yet you rarely, if ever, hear the weather man say, “Tomorrow’s going to be partly sunny.”)

Even friendly salutations like the “Good morning!” or the “Have a nice day!” I hear frequently as I’m getting on and off the elevator at work are common throughout the day. I’m not a curmudgeon. I do reply in a like manner with, “You too!” or a “Same to you.”

“Have a good weekend!” is common on Fridays.

“Ugh, it’s Monday,” someone will say at the beginning of the work week, as if recognizing I’m in a shirt and pants instead of the T-shirt and shorts I wear on weekends.

“Have a nice lunch!” Chew on that one for a moment.

Some banter is simply an acknowledgement. Someone will say, “Don” as they pass my office.

“Bill!” I’ll say in return.

“What’s up?” When that’s asked just in passing I have a hard time coming up with an on-the-spot answer. “Not much,” I’ll say. But something’s definitely up because I’m going one way and they’re going another. I suspect at least one of us is up to something.

At the grocery store checkout line cashiers routinely ask, “Did you find everything OK?” And I automatically say, “Yes,” but in my head I want to say, “Um, yeah, just OK.”

Last night at dinner, my wife was enjoying roast beef and French fries.

“How’s the roast,” I asked.

She said, “Tender.”

I thought about that for a second and I said, “That’s pretty much the benchmark on roast, isn’t it?”

She said, “Why do you say that?”

I said, “Well, if I asked you how’s the roast and you said ‘crispy,’ that would generate quite the conversation. Who wants crispy roast beef? But when you say, ‘tender,’ what else is there to say about it. I’m having fish. If you asked me how’s my fish and I said, ‘flaky,’ well all right then. But if I replied, ‘moist,’ then we’ve got a situation going on.”

“By the way, how is your fish?” she said.

“It’s flaky,” I said.

That hung in the air for several seconds.

“How are the fries?” I said to her.


We finished our meals in silence.