'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
HIYA DOON? DON’T TELL ME
I was walking down the street the other day when I saw an old acquaintance. I waved and said, “Hiya doon?” (English translation: “How are you doing?”) and then—I know you’ll find this shocking—the guy actually began to TELL ME!
He replied, “Oh, not so good. My back’s bothering me, and it’s really stressful at work, and my teenage son is getting rebellious, and…”
I stood there frozen in horror, glancing sideways to see if a city bus might be careening out of control onto the sidewalk at 60 mph to mercifully put me out of my misery. No such luck. I finally had to employ one of my surefire conversation stoppers: I asked him for money. He quickly mumbled something about running late and scooted away from me.
I can’t believe so many people are misinterpreting such a basic phrase. Although “Hiya doon?” technically has a question mark at the end, it is not really a question. It is simply the verbal accompaniment of waving your hand when you recognize another guy. For centuries men have clearly understood that “Hiya doon?” at most means, “Hi” or “Hey” or “Grunt.”
The obvious and only proper reply to “Hiya doon?” is: “Fine. Hiyoo doon?” (Etiquette books explain the first person should say “Hiya” without an accent on either syllable, while the reply should put the accent on the second syllable, “Hi-YOO doon?” which makes it clear the second person is acknowledging that he insincerely cares just as much about the other guy as the other guy insincerely cares about him, and now they’re both even so they don’t have to slow down and can continue on that day’s crucial manly mission of, say, checking to see if car batteries are on sale at the auto parts store.)
Even if you’ve just been hit by a city bus careening out of control onto the sidewalk at 60 mph, and you’re lying in the street with some of your major body parts a couple of blocks away, if a passerby says to you, “Hiya doon?” the only acceptable reply is: “Fine. Hiyoo doon?” If you start whining about such tedious topics as loss of blood or broken bones or the fact that a couple of dogs just ran off with one of your legs, it is simply not right. You are letting your emotions get the best of you.
To tell you the truth, I blame it on Oprah—and that other large woman on her show, Dr. Phil. They’re the ones who have convinced an entire nation that it’s healthy to blurt out your feelings and emotions at all times. “How do you feel about that?” “Thank you for sharing.” “C’mon, let it all out.”
Ugh! C’mon, hold it in.
It’s not that emotions and feelings are bad things. There are times when it’s perfectly appropriate for a man to show some emotion and shed a tear or two, such as at the birth of a child. There are even times when it’s OK for a man to shed a river of tears, such as when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs.
Whining and moaning about every little problem does not—contrary to the gospel according to Oprah—make people feel good. It only blows things out of proportion until a small problem finally seems insurmountable. Babbling on about feelings and emotions does two other things: it bores everyone else out of their skulls, and most importantly, it does not fix the problem. As my momma uses to say: “No sense crying over spilled milk.” And as my daddy used to say, “Start mopping up that milk, boy, or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
I sure felt a whole lot better after cleaning up the problem than I did standing there moaning about it.
So if you see me walking down the street and I say, “Hiya doon?” please don’t tell me all your troubles. Unless you want me to give you something to cry about.
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