Section: Opinion

I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello — or not

By Griffin Burrough

I get a lot of flak from the guys on frisbee for not saying “hi” when I see them. It’s become so much of a problem that I now drop everything that I’m doing to make an obscenely loud display of greeting some of them. I don’t say hi to people on the street because I’ve never seen the point of it. Why do we say “hi” to people? I know who you are and you know who I am so we acknowledge each other? Is it really that important?

There’s that awkward moment when someone says “hi” to you and you just make a stupid sound in reply. If you read my column, you know that I constantly say I’m socially awkward. I mostly do this for laughs but there is some truth to it. So I will now explain some of this to my numerous beloved readers… OK, maybe just my mother.

Normally, I would be fine with being recognized, because anything that massages my ego is nice. The problem when people say “hi” to me on the street is that they do it when we pass by each other. People don’t wait until I’m within a range to properly respond, either. They greet me when they are two feet away. By the time that I’ve registered that someone is speaking to me, I’m now four feet behind them. When someone greets me on the street and says “hi,” I usually make a sound that consists of fear, surprise and stupidity, like what Scooby Doo might say if he just found out that his entire life is a TV show.

This ritual of greeting gets worse when people say phrases as greetings. My roommate Alec will (without fail) greet me with: “What’s going on, Griff?” Again this is done when he is two feet from me. What am I supposed to say? Should I sit back in my metaphorical chair sipping my glass of red wine and tell him how my stocks are doing? Does he actually expect me to answer or just to nod and keep walking? His friends on the baseball team also enjoy saying “What’s going on?” instead of “hello,” but with the same intention. Is there some memo that I missed where “hello” got replaced by this phrase?

Equivalent to my lack of understanding of greetings is my complete befuddlement over goodbyes. Never in my life has a goodbye meant all that it should. What I mean is that we say goodbye all the time. But most of the time we see the people we said goodbye to right afterwards. When someone leaves the Peirce dinner table they say goodbye to all of their friends. However, they are going to see all of their friends tomorrow, if not sooner. Why are they saying goodbye, then? Can they truly not stand the agonizing pain of being away from their crew for such a long period of time? Why do we as a people need to announce that we are leaving? Perhaps we need one last bit of recognition before we depart.

I suppose some goodbyes mean so much that just saying “goodbye” doesn’t really cut it. Every year I see my relatives in Chicago, and every year I have to leave them for another year. Saying goodbye to them doesn’t do justice to how much I will miss them. (I know this took a very heartfelt turn and I’m sorry to throw you for a loop.) Maybe in both cases, the words used don’t sum up how we actually feel; only actions can get at that.

Perhaps we could all just say “hello” a little beforehand so we each have time to react. We could also say “see you later” instead of “goodbye” because it more accurately reflects what we truly mean. We could stop saying interrogative sentences to mean “hello” or we could stop, ask said question, get an answer, and then keep moving. Or you could do none of these things. Just don’t act weirdly when I grunt at you.

Griffin Burrough ’18 is undeclared from Summit, N.J. Contact him at burroughe@kenyon.edu.

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