Going into a full analysis of why this happens would demand another entry independent of this one. I find it amusing to break the trend of this minimized sociality with the daily masses. For example, at the outset of the three hundred yard eye contact, throw out a hearty wave. You can even cheese it up with a "greetings and salutations, fine sir!" That's always fun. In other attempts, I have held eye contact, voiced a greeting along with the person's name, only to be met with another staccato nod. Worse yet, there was no verbal message returned. The culprit: the i-pod. In these moments, the fruits of my minimal social effort gets munched by digitized media packed into debilitating ear buds. At least take one out and give me a holler. As a bonus, this would allow you to hear the sweetness of the breeze. Mind you, there are plenty of breezes in Rexburg!
When I do get a reply, other phenomenons occur. Perhaps you have participated in exchanges such as this one:
" Hey John, how are you?"
"Good, Travis. How are you?"
"Good. How are you?"
Can you feel the power of the programmed response coupled with awkward redundancy? It makes me laugh. Putting further spin on the above, I love the slang phrases of these times (can you sense sarcasm?). For example, I'll pass by John who quickly says "What's up, man?" I usually mechanically reply, "Not much."
Honestly, to this day, I do not have the slightest ability to answer this question naturally. In reality my response could go many directions:
"Well, the sky is way up," or "Not the stock market," or "hopefully your cholesterol isn't." You could have a lot of fun with this one. However boring and two-dimensional it sounds, though, I'm sticking with "How are you" and "Great to see you."
As a finale, tonight as I was leaving the campus gym it came time to turn in my rental clothes and equipment. At the counter, I realized I had forgotten to bring the back the basketball I had borrowed. The student at the counter--who lacked every customer skill attainable by a rational human--curtly told me that I need to go and get it. He misheard a previous statement I made telling him that I, indeed, would go and get it. So, with the meekness of a frightened child I went to get the ball. I came back and all was well. The short-fused guy at the counter said, with all the kindness in his locker room heart, "Thanks, bud." I then journeyed home in the freshly canned memories of being twelve again waiting for puberty to strike. I felt as fulfilled as a youthful boy scout who just received the thirteen merit badges he earned at camp. Maybe, dad would buy me an ice cream cone for my achievements--especially that astronomy merit badge I earned amidst permanent scout camp rain clouds.
So, to that much bigger young man at the locker room counter I reply, "What's up, man?"